Algeria: Appeal hearing an opportunity to reinstate leading independent rights organization dissolved amid intensifying crackdown

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Program by CIHRS

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) calls on the authorities to overturn the decision to dissolve the oldest and most prominent human rights organization in Algeria, the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH), ahead of the appeal hearing in its case before the administrative tribunal, on 29 January 2024.

“The dissolution of LADDH is a fatal blow to independent civil society in Algeria. With total impunity, the state is systematically decimating any independent and critical voice, leaving no space for dissent. These attacks come, in part, as reprisals for LADDH’s engagement with the UN and should be strongly condemned by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN officials,” said Ziad Abdeltawab, Deputy Director at the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

On 20 January 2023, LADDH learned of its dissolution through social media channels. LADDH was entirely excluded from the procedure initiated on 4 May 2022, when the Ministry of the Interior submitted an introductory request for the dissolution of LADDH to the administrative court of Algiers. The court’s ruling on 29 June 2022, in favor of dissolution, was made public in September 2022 without any prior communication to the affected party – a clear violation of basic principles of transparency and fairness. In the appeal request, LADDH’s lawyer argued for the reversal of this ruling, citing crucial problems in the initial decision, most importantly its misinterpretation of LADDH’s legitimate cooperation with international organizations as interference. LADDH’s lawyer added that the decision was not officially served to LADDH as required by Article 408 of the Algerian Civil and Administrative Procedure Code, which mandates legal decisions effective on any person or legal entity must be personally delivered to that person or a designated representative.

The hearing comes amid an escalating crackdown in Algeria. Leading civil society organizations have been dissolved, opposition political parties suspended, and independent media outlets shut down. Restrictive legislation has been employed to prosecute human rights defenders, activists, journalists, and lawyers. This includes instances such as the arbitrary dissolution in May 2021 of another leading civil society organization, the Youth Action Rally (Rassemblement Actions Jeunesse (RAJ)), which played a prominent role in the Hirak protest movement.

Established in 1985 and formally recognized in 1989, the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH) is Algeria’s longest-standing independent human rights organization. Throughout its history, the League has consistently held a prominent position in championing human rights and fostering democratic principles. Since 2019, it has actively spoken out against the suppression of the Hirak protest movement, further solidifying its commitment to advocating for justice and civil liberties.

Algeria’s legal framework concerning associations and political parties is overly restrictive and inconsistent with international standards on freedom of association.  Law 12-06, which governs associations, grants authorities extensive discretionary powers, allowing them to withhold legal recognition from non-governmental associations and mandating a receipt of registration for legal operation. Furthermore, this law prohibits associations from receiving foreign funding or collaborating with foreign organizations without government approval. It also authorizes the suspension of associations deemed to interfere with the ‘internal affairs of the state’ or to violate ‘national sovereignty.’

The Administrative Court of Algiers’ judgment, based on a 4 May 2022 petition by the Ministry of the Interior, argued that the existence of “several branches claiming its [LADDH’s] name and legal legitimacy” contravened Article 48 of Law 90-31 on Associations (1990) governing association bylaws. The court’s justification for dissolving LADDH rested on alleged violations of the 2012 Law 12-06 on Associations. Specifically, it cited articles 18, 19, and 23. Articles 18 and 19 require associations to notify authorities of internal changes and submit annual reports. Article 23 mandates prior approval for international cooperation and adherence to ‘national constants and values.’ The allegations leveled against the organization encompass collaborating with groups ‘hostile to Algeria.’ These include ‘engaging with entities in Libya and Tunisia,’ transmitting ‘reports containing inaccurate information to UN entities,’ and holding meetings with the International Federation for Human Rights, Euromed Rights, and the Maghreb Coordination of Human Rights Organizations. Such arguments used to dissolve LADDH contravene international standards on freedom of association, which protects the right of organizations to cooperate with international bodies and institutions, and prohibits states from interfering with their work through onerous administrative requirements.

CIHRS calls on Algerian authorities to immediately reinstate LADDH as a human rights organization and to review and amend Law 12-06 on Associations to comply with international human rights standards on freedom of association, expression, and assembly.

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