Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso announced they are withdrawing from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Jan. 28, issuing a joint statement saying they had taken a "sovereign decision" to abandon the regional bloc of which they were founding members in 1975. The three countries accused the bloc of failing to support their fight against "terrorism and insecurity," and imposing "llegal, illegitimate, inhumane and irresponsible sanctions." The statement also charged that ECOWAS has "drifted from the ideals of its founding fathers and the spirit of Pan-Africanism," and is now "under the influence of foreign powers." (BBC News, Al Jazeera) This appears to be largely a veiled reference to France, with which all three countries have reduced or severed ties, although de facto bloc leader Nigeria is closer to the Anglo-American camp.
Switzerland's Office of the Attorney General (OAG) announced Aug. 29 that it has formally charged former Algerian defense minister Khaled Nezzar in relation to war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during Algeria's civil war. In the indictment submitted to Switzerland's Federal Criminal Court, prosecutors said "Nezzar is accused of violating the laws of armed conflicts in accordance with the Geneva Conventions between 1992 and 1994 in connection with the civil war in Algeria and of committing crimes against humanity." The OAG alleges that Nezzar "condoned, coordinated or ordered" acts of torture committed by his subordinates.
The UN migration agency reported June 13 that 2022 was the deadliest year yet for migrants crossing from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) into Europe. According to the report from the International Organization for Migration's Missing Migrants Project, a record number of 3,800 people died along these migratory routes last year. The report underscored the urgent need for action to improve the safety and protection of migrants. The data, though recognized as undercounted due to the challenges in collecting information, sheds light on the magnitude of the problem. The recorded deaths in 2022 represent an 11% increase from the previous year.
Amnesty International on Jan. 9 condemned the death sentences of 54 individuals linked by Algerian prosecutors to the lynching of activist Djamel Ben Ismail amid wildfires in the Kabylie region in August 2021. Amnesty alleged that numerous fair trial violations occurred during the mass proceedings in November 2022. Amnesty also raised alarm about claims of torture, and prosecution of individuals due to their political affiliations.
The US Department of Defense on June 24 announced the release of Asadullah Haroon Gul, an Afghan national, who had been held for 15 years without charge at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp. Gul was incarcerated at Guantánamo in 2007 on accusations of being a member of al-Qaeda and Hezb-e-Islami (HIA), an insurgent group that fought against the US in Afghanistan. HIA signed a peace agreement with the US-backed Afghan government in 2016.
A group of United Nations experts have condemned the US Guantánamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, calling it a site of "unparalleled notoriety." The statement came on the eve of Jan. 11, which marks the twentieth anniversary of the arrival of the first terrorism suspects at Guantánamo.
Five international rights groups are urging Algerian authorities to drop their effort to dissolve a prominent civil society group over alleged violation of the "law on associations." The five groups—Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies, the International Federation of Human Rights, and the MENA Rights Group—say the government's move "threatens freedom of association." On Sept. 29, a court in Algiers heard a petition to dissolve the Rassemblement Action Jeunesse (Youth Action Rally, or RAJ). The petition claimed that the group's political activities violated the purposes set forth in its own bylaws. Leaders of RAJ denied the charge and said that authorities targeted the association due to its support of the Hirak pro-democracy movement.
At least 90 people have been killed in wildfires that have swept through northern Algeria over the past weeks. The blazes have consumed some 100,000 acres, mostly in the northeastern Kabylia region and its central province of Tizi Ouzou. While remaining silent on the role of climate change, the Algerian government seems to be exploiting the disaster for political purposes. President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Aug. 18 said most of the fires were "criminal" in origin, and blamed them on regional rival Morocco. The two countries were already in a diplomatic tiff before the new accusations. "The incessant hostile acts carried out by Morocco against Algeria have necessitated the review of relations between the two countries," the presidency said in a statement, adding that there will be an "intensification of security controls on the western borders." Algeria's western border with Morocco has already been sealed and heavily militarized since 1994.