Algeria: Joint Letter – Algerian Authorities’ Alarming Crackdown On Pro-Democracy Forces During HRC 47


SUB:

As the 47th session of the Human Rights Council began in Geneva on June 21, 2021, Human Rights Watch, together with 81 domestic and international civil society groups, called on states to address the worsening human rights situation in Algeria, which has involved cracking down on peaceful Algerian protesters, journalists, civil society groups, human rights defenders, trade unionists, lawyers, and even political parties. Countries participating in the 47th Human Rights Council session should condemn the effective criminalization of freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression in Algeria.

We, the undersigned Algerian, regional and international non-governmental organizations, urge your government, individually and jointly with other states, to address the alarming crackdown on peaceful Algerian protesters, journalists, civil society members and organizations, human rights defenders and trade unionists during the 47th United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) session.

Repression has increased drastically and a more assertive public position from states is crucial to protecting Algerians peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

We urge you, in relevant agenda items such as in the interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner under Item 2 or in the Interactive Debates with the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of expression and freedom of association and peaceful assembly under Item 3, to:

Condemn the escalating crackdown on peaceful protesters, journalists and human rights defenders, including the excessive use of force, the forced dispersal and intimidation of protesters and the continued arbitrary prosecutions, including on bogus terrorism-related charges;

Urge authorities to cease all arbitrary arrests and prosecutions and release all individuals arbitrarily detained;

Demand prompt, independent, impartial and effective investigations into allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, including allegations of physical, sexual and psychological abuse in detention and physical assault during protests – to ensure that suspected perpetrators are held accountable in fair, civilian trials;

Urge authorities to amend or repeal overly broad provisions of the Penal Code[1] and other legislation used to repress fundamental rights and freedoms, notably law 12-06 on civil society organizations and law 91-19 on public meetings and demonstrations, in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).

Following the resumption of peaceful grassroots protests calling for democratic reform (the “Hirak”) in February 2021[2], the government launched a renewed campaign of arrests and harassment through the criminal justice system. According to local activists monitoring the situation on the ground, as of 26 May, at least 183 individuals are detained for expressing their views online or for protesting peacefully. 86 of them were sentenced to prison terms between 16 and 24 May. Videos also showed police beating protesters.

Despite the announcement of a presidential pardon for thirty Hirak detainees on 18 February 2021, no presidential pardon decree has been issued to date.

In the past two months, Algerian and international organizations have condemned the unlawful use of force and intimidation against protesters, the harassment and ill-treatment of human rights defenders, the continued arbitrary detention and targeting of journalists, the criminalization of debate on religious matters and the lack of investigation into allegations of physical and sexual abuse in detention, including against a minor separated from his parents.

Terrorism charges brought against fifteen human rights defenders, journalists and peaceful protesters on 29 April constitute a dangerous escalation. If pursued by the court, it could establish a worrying precedent of targeting Algerians calling for reform.

Over the past year, there has been increasing recognition of the worsening human rights situation in Algeria, including by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in March and in May 2021, the European Parliament and the Canadian House of Commons. During HRC 45, Belgium condemned judicial harassment against journalists and called on the authorities to guarantee freedom of expression. During the HRC 46, Iceland expressed concern about forced closures of Protestant churches and arbitrary application of COVID-19 restrictions.

The time is now for UN member states to address the increasing criminalization of freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression in Algeria. We believe this intensifying crackdown meets the criteria for the UN HRC to take urgent action, as set forth by Ireland in 2016.

We therefore call on you to raise these developments in your national capacity and jointly with other states at the upcoming 47th HRC session, to protect peaceful protesters, human rights defenders and journalists struggling for democracy.

We thank you for considering our request and look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Algerian signatories:

Action for Change and Democracy (ACDA)

Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH)

Autonomous Union of Public Administration Personnel (SNAPAP)

Assirem N’Yellis N’Djerdjer

Collective of the Families of the Disappeared in Algeria (CFDA)

Canadian Committee for Human Rights in Algeria

Coordination FreeAlgeria

General Autonomous Confederation of Workers in Algeria (CGATA)

Feminicides-DZ

National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD)

Riposte Internationale

SHOAA for Human Rights

Tharwa N’Fadhma N’Soumer

International signatories:

Abductees’ Mothers Association – Yemen

Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT) – France

Adil Soz

Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC)

AfricanDefenders (Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network)

Al Haq human rights foundation – Iraq

Aman organisation against Racial Discrimination – Libya

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

Amnesty International

Article 19

Association Arts et Culture des Deux Rives

Association Citoyenneté, Développement, Cultures et Migration des Deux Rives

Association Le Pont Genève

Association of Civil Solidarity – Tunisia

Beity organisation – Tunisia

Belaady Organization for Human Rights – Libya

Bytes for All, Pakistan

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME)

Cartoonist Rights Network (CRNI)

Center for Media Freedom & Responsibility (CMFR)

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Dhameer for Rights and freedom – Yemen

Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR)

Euromed Rights

Front Line Defenders

Global voices

Globe International Center

Growth foundation for development & improvement – Iraq

Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)

Hadramout Foundation For Legal Support and Training- Yemen

Hassan Saadaoui Foundation for Democracy and Equality – Tunisia

Human Rights Watch

Index on Censorship

Initiative for Freedom of Expression- Turkey

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

International Service For Human Rights (ISHR)

IPYS Venezuela

Justice without Chains – Libya