ALGIERS: Kidnapped, raped and then burned, this is the sad story of the young Chaima Sadou, 19, whose charred body was found on Oct. 2 in an abandoned gas station in Thenia, a town located about sixty kilometers east of the Algerian capital.
His murderer, identified as Rayan, was a young offender already known to the authorities following a complaint filed by the victim’s family against him in 2016.
In a press conference, the public prosecutor revealed more details about the murder. It was learned that the alleged killer had presented himself to local authorities “to inform that his friend was burned at an abandoned gas station.”
According to the statement of the culprit, the facts date back to Oct. 1, around 3p.m., at the scene of the crime. The prosecutor reported that the criminal said he stayed with the victim for only seven minutes before she asked him to bring her food because she was hungry. Once at a distance of five meters from where he left her, he saw smoke rising from the place in question.
“An investigation was immediately launched, and the victim’s body examined. Several bruises, as well as large wounds on the back of her skull and on the top of her left thigh were found,” said the prosecutor.
Following his appearance before the attorney general, the murderer ended up confessing that he lured the victim to the abandoned place, where he raped, beat and burned her after he doused her with gasoline.
The alleged perpetrator was subsequently charged with rape and premeditated murder with the use of torture and barbaric methods. The investigating judge ordered that the suspect be remanded in prison.
Indignation and the death penalty
The gruesome murder sparked great indignation and consternation throughout Algeria. The affair quickly caused a stir across the country, even in France and on social networks where the hashtag #JeSuisChaima was one of the most shared on Twitter on Monday.
The family of the victim has called for the imposition of death sentence against the suspect.
“My daughter was murdered and burnt. I call for the application of the death penalty! That’s all I ask,” the victim’s mother said, who also sought the intervention of Algerian president Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
Tebboune recently ordered the application of maximum sentences, after pressure from large sections of society calling for the reimposition of the death penalty, without possible relief or pardon against those convicted of kidnapping.
‘Not a modern sanction’
In an interview with Arabnews.fr, Mustapha Khiati, the president of the National Foundation for the Promotion of Health and the Development of Research (FOREM), said he was in favor of Algeria’s application of the death penalty against those convicted for rape and the murder.
He said that over the past 20 years, Algeria has recorded an average of one to two kidnappings per year.
“Countries are free to choose the laws which suit them ... there is a strong movement in public opinion which is in favor of an exemption to apply the death penalty against criminals responsible for three crimes in one (kidnap, followed by rape, then murder),” Khiati explained.
On the other hand, jurists and human rights activists believe that the death penalty was not a modern sanction and pointed at statistics to show it was not deterrent against committing crimes.
This was the opinion of lawyer Zakaria Benlahrech, who pointed out that the Algerian government has imposed a moratorium on the death penalty since 1993. No death penalty has been carried out since that date.
On the contrary, “as a defender of human rights, I am categorically against the death penalty, regardless of the situation or the crime committed,” he said.
Benlahrech also said that Algeria has ratified the international conventions relating to human rights, in particular the international pact relating to civil and political rights in 1989 which enshrined the right to life, the ban on torture and inhuman treatment and degrading.
“The death penalty violates one of the most fundamental rights, the right to life. This is the cruelest, most inhuman and degrading punishment there is. The death penalty is discriminatory,” he said.
To support his point of view, Benlahrech cited international statistics which indicate that crimes did not increase in countries that have abolished the death penalty, and countries that kept the death penalty and executed those death row did not result to a reduction in crime rates.
“On the contrary, in certain non-abolitionist countries, it has even increased”, he affirmed.
Algeria continues to impose the death penalty to dozens of cases each year, especially in terrorism cases, but this penalty has not carried out since 1993.