Algeria: International Condemnation of Escalating Crackdown on Civil Society and Human Rights Defenders
A UN expert has expressed concern over an escalating crackdown against civil society by Algerian authorities after the dissolutions of la Ligue Algérienne pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (LADDH) and le Rassemblement Actions Jeunesse (RAJ), two of the most important human rights associations in Algeria.
“Acts of intimidation, silencing and repression against the human rights movement must end,” said Mary Lawlor, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. She added that the decision to dissolve the two associations seriously undermines the space for human rights defenders to associate, express themselves freely, and carry out their legitimate human rights activities and called for these decisions to be reversed.
In turn, the League denounced the repression practiced against it for years until its dissolution, adding that it "will work hard and by all available legal means to recover its legitimate rights". In a statement the Ligue stated: "More surprisingly, the LADDH is reproached for working on the issue of human rights with other internationally recognized bodies and organizations. It is reproached to the league to do in human rights, according to its motto: "Human rights are universal and indivisible". Even more, some of its real members are reproached for having opinions, for being in contact with the citizens".
The UN expert stated that the proceedings against the LADDH did not respect the principles of the right to a fair trial and that "LADDH was not provided the opportunity to consider the charges brought against it and to present a defense".
In the same context, the RAJ was also the subject of a dissolution decision by the Administrative Court in October 2021, pending the outcome of the appeal hearing, which is to be held before the Administrative Court on February 23, 2023 at the State Council.
These developments coincide with the fourth anniversary of the beginning of the peaceful movement in Algeria, which calls for the transfer of power to an elected democratic civilian regime, an end to policies of repression and respect for human rights.
In its recently published annual report, Alkarama discussed the human rights situation in Algeria and expressed its main concerns as the authorities continue to increasingly use counter-terrorism legislation to repress peaceful dissent, prosecuting peaceful demonstrators and political opponents for non-violent acts such as obstructing traffic, occupying public property or criticizing the army.
With the increasing repression of peaceful protesters, activists and political opponents involved in the Hirak, Alkarama has documented an alarming return to the practice of enforced disappearances by state security forces, and has submitted numerous cases to the relevant UN special procedures.
During Algeria's universal periodic review before the Human Rights Council on 11 November, several important recommendations were made to the Algerian delegation. The head of the delegation affirmed that political opponents in exile incite the exploitation of free space through, in his words, "human rights facades" allegedly used for "terrorist" purposes.
Alkarama has repeatedly warned against the Algerian regime's use of the term "terrorism" to stigmatize and attempt to alter any human rights activity or peaceful political opposition, which was emphasized by delegations from many countries around the world during the deliberations.
In addition to individual complaints submitted to UN human rights mechanisms, Alkarama called for the repeal of articles of the Algerian Penal Code that criminalize freedom of expression and association to end these practices. Following the amendments made to the Penal Code following the adoption of Law No. 20-06 of 28 April 2020, Alkarama commissioned a number of independent experts to conduct a joint study on the situation of fundamental rights and freedoms in Algeria, which has continued to deteriorate since the beginning of the popular movement in February 2019.
Alkarama recalls that violations of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association are systematic in Algeria, where many political opponents, journalists and other peaceful activists have been tried and sentenced to prison or unfair sentences for acts described by the judicial authorities as "undermining the morale of the army" or "the integrity of the national territory".