Algeria: Government should stop targeting human rights defenders and amend laws to comply with its international obligations

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Program by CIHRS

On 31 August 2022, UPR Info organized a pre-session in Geneva in preparation for the Universal Periodic Review of Algeria in November 2022 with the participation of the Algerian government, the Algerian National Council, representatives of dozens of United Nations member states, and a number of representatives from Algerian and regional civil society organizations, including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS).   During the session, representatives of the Algerian government ignored interventions regarding the deteriorating human rights situation in Algeria, in particular severe violations committed by the Algerian government across the country, mainly in relation to systematic targeting of human rights defenders, journalists and activists of the pro-democracy movement.

The systematic targeting of journalists has been recently exemplified by  Djamila Loukil, a retired journalist and member of the Algerian League for Human Rights (LADDH), who was prevented from attending in person due to her husband’s detention and the arbitrary travel ban imposed when traveling to the session. She noted that she has “been on bail for 17 months on false terrorism charges while my husband Kaddour Chouicha  is under judicial control.” With Chouicha at the airport and facing the same charges is trade unionist and journalist Said Boudour , a member of the same association.

Since the last UPR cycle on Algeria, the situation of human rights and freedoms has greatly deteriorated. Regarding freedom of assembly, the penal code has undergone extensive amendments (extension of the scope of charges, harsher criminal penalties and above all, expansion of the definition of terrorism to include any activity or position critical of the state) with the instrumentalization of the judicial institution. This leads to the criminalization of civil society actors, human rights defenders, and journalists.

Karim Salem from the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) said: “There is an alarming scale of repression in Algeria with the intensive use of physical violence along with an increasing number of peaceful civil actors arrested. Furthermore, the new repressive legal framework (Article 87 of the Penal Code) was tailored to qualify all peaceful critical voices as terrorist. The was done unilaterally by the executive authorities without any judicial procedure.  Salem added: “The government dissolved peaceful groups working on promoting democratic transition, such as RAJ. These practices show how the administration is taking arbitrary abusive decisions against civil actors, and the new law on association contains, in Article 8, an open door to suppressing  freedom of association in practice.

Farida Bouattoura, from Advocating for Democratic Values And Need of Civil Engagement, called on the Algerian government to “repeal or review the provisions of Article 95 bis, Articles 97 and 100 of the Penal Code, which limit freedom of association and assembly and the right to foreign funding, and criminalize the Activities related to them are considered terrorist activities.” she also called on the  Algerian government should release all human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers and protesters, who are currently detained for their human rights activities, and drop all charges against them.”

In this context, CIHRS, in partnership with Advocating for Democratic Values And Need of Civil Engagement, the International Federation for Human Rights, Front Line Defenders and Shuaa, called on the Algerian government to repeal Law 1206/2012 on associations, Law 1204 on political parties, and Law 9119 on gatherings . The organizations also underscore need to adopt new legislation that relies on a simple notification process, and is in full compliance with Articles 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

This post is also available in: العربية

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