Algeria: Journalist and Board Member of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights on Hunger Strike to Protest Arbitrary Detention

حسن بوراس

On 5 October 2015, Alkarama sent an urgent appeal to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (HRD), Michel Forst, calling on him to intervene in the case of journalist and human rights defender, Hassan Bouras, arrested without judicial warrant in early October 2015 and currently detained in El Bayadh prison.

A freelance journalist living in El Bayadh, president of the Office of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH) for the southern regions of Algeria, and board member of the directing committee of the LADDH and the Federation of human rights centres in the Arab world, 48-year-old Hassan Bouras was arrested without a warrant at his home on 2 October 2015 by officers from the Research and Intervention Brigade (BRI) who inspected his home without a search warrant and confiscated computer equipment belonging both to the victim and to other family members.

Referred to the Tribunal of El Bayadh on 4 October 2015, the journalist was accused of "insult to a constituent body" and "incitement to bear arms against the State." He is currently incarcerated at the El Bayadh prison where he began a hunger strike to protest against his arrest, which he considers as politically motivated, and against the irregular procedure to which he is subjected. He denounces particularly the fact that it is the President of the Tribunal of El Bayadh himself who acted as investigating judge in his case, even though a magistrate cannot legally carry out both functions in the same jurisdiction; he also expresses doubts about the impartiality of the magistrate, who also happens to be the wife of the director of the prison.

According to his sisters who visited him in prison on 5th October, Hassan Bouras started his fifth day of indefinite hunger strike and is starting to be very weak; a bottle of mineral water and sugar brought by his family were prohibited by the prison officers.

For more than a decade, Hassan Bouras has continuously been subject to persecution and legal harassment due to his engagement and activities as a human rights defender, including for having denounced corruption and power struggles in the management of local government. Amongst others, Hassan Bouras was sentenced to two years in prison in 2003 for "defamation", "offence" and "insult" to State institutions. In 2011, following new persecutions against him, Alkarama brought his case to the attention of the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (FREEDEX).

The proceedings carried out against this human rights defender as well as the persecutions to which he is a victim continue to bear witness to the willingness of the Algerian authorities to silence all dissenting voices. In 2015, several civil society members were arrested, including other member of the LADDH, Ali Attar, arbitrarily detained since his arrest without judicial warrant in February 2015, tortured and detained incommunicado for the first 12 days of his detention.

This latest arrest comes within a particularly difficult context for human rights defenders. Since the disputed presidential elections in 2014, that saw the mandate of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika renewed for the fourth consecutive time, the authorities have shown its willingness to increase repression of media in support of the political opposition. Note that Algeria ranks as number 119 out of 180 countries on the 2015 ranking of press freedom established by the NGO Reporters Without Borders.

Alkarama is concerned about the repeated attacks against Hassan Bouras in serious violation of the guarantees of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the systematic persecution carried out against human rights activists in Algeria.

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