Algeria: Alkarama Expresses Concerns about the Country's Human Rights Record and Issues Recommendations to UN Member States
On 22 September 2016, Alkarama submitted its report on Algeria's human rights situation to the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) in view of the State's third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) which will be held in May 2017.
The main concerns raised by Alkarama include the ongoing serious violations of the detainees' most basic rights, the State's clear lack of cooperation with the UN human rights protection mechanisms, particularly in cases of enforced disappearances, the continued restriction on fundamental freedoms inherited from the 19-year-long state of emergency, and the human rights abuses committed in the context of the fight against terrorism. In its report, Alkarama suggests 18 recommendations to be addressed to Algeria in order to strengthen the authorities' respect for human rights.
The UPR is a unique process which involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States by the HRC every four years. The reviews take the form of a discussion/dialogue between the reviewed State and other UN Member States, during which the latter make recommendations with the aim of improving the human rights situation on the ground.
Lack of respect for the fundamental rights of persons in custody
Alkarama noted with concern that the procedural safeguards on detention are rarely observed. Among others, persons held in custody cannot speak to their lawyers for more than 30 minutes, and always in the presence of judicial officers. Moreover, the State's efforts to prevent torture are inadequate as detainees have no access to independent doctors.
The issue of the disappeared still unresolved
The 2006 Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation instituted an amnesty for perpetrators of serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed during the civil war, and makes impossible any prosecution against them. Systematically invoked before the HRC to justify the Algerian authorities' refusal to cooperate in cases of enforced disappearances, the Charter continues to silence the families of the disappeared.
Continued restrictions on the freedoms of expression, of peaceful assembly and of association despite the lifting of the state of emergency in 2011
Although the Algerian Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of assembly, the provisions inherited from the state of emergency remain effectively in force, prohibiting demonstrations and public reunions in Algiers and submitting the creation of political parties to the approval of the Executive.
The freedom of opinion and expression is also subjected to significant obstacles. In the wake of the 2014 presidential elections, peaceful protests were violently repressed, independent media censored and their locals closed down. Article 144 bis of the Criminal Code, which punishes the offence of "defamation against the President", is used to prevent any criticism of the authorities.
Moreover, since 2012, the Executive can exercise its discretion to refuse to register associations which it considers contrary to public order or good morals, to national values or to the laws in force. As a result, the number of officially registered associations saw a three-fold drop.
Human rights violations in the context of the fight against terrorism
Finally, Algeria still has not adopted a clear, precise and foreseeable definition of acts of terrorism, as required by international law, when the scarce procedural safeguards provided in matters of terrorism are never observed. In fact, the length of custody for terrorism suspects remains at 12 days, while international standards generally require that it does not exceed 48 hours.
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For more information on the issue of the denial of the right to truth and justice for the families of disappeared, you can also download our 30 August 2016 public report.