Will Bouteflika Return to Algeria From Geneva?

Published March 10th, 2019 - 01:51 GMT
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algiers. (AFP/ File Photo)
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in Algiers. (AFP/ File Photo)

Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has witnessed widespread outrage in recent weeks over his plans to for a fifth term in office, is expected to return to the country on Sunday, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The Algerian government plane that took Bouteflika to Geneva for medical treatment last month left Algerian airspace and headed north earlier on Sunday, flight radar applications showed, indicating the embattled president’s return.

Tens of thousands of people have been protesting in Algeria against the 82-year-old ailing leader's bid to secure a fifth term in the country's April 18 elections.

Bouteflika, in power since 1999, has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013.

A lawyer acting on behalf of an unnamed Algerian citizen filed a petition with a Swiss court requesting that Bouteflika, in Switzerland for medical treatment, be placed under a trusteeship for his own protection.

The petition also asks the court to lift the medical secrecy around his condition to determine whether he is fit or not for office.

It was unclear whether the court would admit the case, or whether the petition, received Friday, had any chance of garnering support.

Saskia Ditisheim, who is president of the Swiss division of Lawyers without Borders but did not file the petition in the organisation's name, said in the document that Bouteflika's "fragile health" left him vulnerable to "exploitation" by those around him.

The TPAE court she sent the document to specialises in the protection of vulnerable adults and children.

"It is obvious that the Algerian president is today incapable of discernment, with a very precarious health condition and that all of his actions ... have not been carried out by him but by his political and familial entourage," said the document.

It was therefore clear that the Algerian leader had not himself decided to submit his candidacy for a fifth term.

He could also not have himself issued a statement this week that warned protestors in Algeria that troublemakers may try to infiltrate the demonstrations and create "chaos", according to the petition.

Urgency

Under the Hague Convention, it would usually fall to Algerian legal authorities to determine if a citizen should be placed under trusteeship, according to Nicolas Jeandin, a Swiss lawyer and law professor at the University of Geneva.

But if the Swiss court deems there is an urgent need to protect a vulnerable individual, it could choose to weigh in, he told AFP, stressing that "the question is if there is urgency".

If so, in theory at least, "the Swiss judge should disregard the political backdrop ... and determine if this person needs assistance."

Bouteflika's campaign manager Abdelghani Zaalane insisted Thursday that the president's health raised "no worries".

Ditisheim said her client had already requested that the University Hospitals of Geneva (HUG) release Bouteflika's medical records to determine his actual condition, maintaining it was of public interest to Algerians.

While the medical records remain closed, the petition points to press reports indicating that Bouteflika's condition was "very precarious" and "life-threatening", and also questioned his mental capacities.

This article has been adapted from its original source.


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