HRW said that its Middle East communications and advocacy director was in Algeria to monitor human rights in Algiers amid protests against the government.
On August 9, Algerian security services arrested the Middle East communications and advocacy director at HRW at 2 p.m. The security services held him captive for ten hours.
Authorities also seized his passport. The passport was not returned to him for ten days. Algerian authorities deported him on August 19, according to HRW.
The organization condemned his arbitrary arrest. They also denounced the treatment of Benchemsi by the Algerian security services who prevented him from contacting anyone.
“They held him without allowing him to contact anyone, confiscated his cellphone and laptop computer, and ordered him to provide his passwords to unlock both devices, which he refused to do.”
Kenneth Rooth, executive director of HRW said that Benchemsi was in Algiers “simply doing his job observing human rights conditions.”
HRW commented that Benchemsi’s arbitrary arrest “and mistreatment send the message that authorities don’t want the world to know about the mass protests for more democracy in Algeria.”
HRW said that Benchemsi entered Algeria legally, disclosing his professional affiliation when asked.
“He had visited Algeria three times previously since 2017 for Human Rights Watch.”
The organization said that it did not make any public announcement in order to end “Benchemsi’s ordeal as quickly as possible.”
When released at midnight on August 9, the security services asked Benchemsi to report to a police station. The police then asked for the passwords of his electronic devices.
“When he refused, they gave him a summons to return the next day.”
“Algerian authorities returned his passports and electronic devices before he boarded the plane. He entered Morocco without incident,” HRW reported.
HRW also condemned Algerian authorities for not notifying Benchemsi of any charges against him, and for arresting him and seizing his electronic devices and passports.
HRW also claimed that Algerian police did threaten him with physical violence, “but did not physically mistreat him.”