ALGERIA: Human Rights still under Threat

Algeria, Algeria, Draft revision of the Algerian Constitution, Economic & Social Rights, Individual and fundamental freedoms, Justice and the Rule of Law, Press Release, Rule of law, Shrinking Space for Civil Society, Women’s rights and gender justice

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Brussels, 2/02/2016

From 25 to 27 January 2016, EuroMed Rights welcomed an Algerian delegation of human rights defenders to call the European authorities’ attention to the ongoing repression of dissident voices speaking against the Algerian regime and the weakening of the rule of law in Algeria. This visit took place at a time when Algerian society is discussing the decline of individual and fundamental freedoms, following the publication of the draft revision of the Constitution on 5 January.

In a note published today, EuroMed Rights, in collaboration with its Algerian members – the Collective of the Families of the Disappeared in Algeria (Collectif des familles des disparu(e)s en Algérie – CFDA), the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (Ligue algérienne pour la défense des droits de l’Homme – LADDH) and the National Autonomous Union of Public Administration Staff (Syndicat national autonome des personnels de l’administration publique – SNAPAP) – calls on the European Union (EU) and the Member States to relay to the Algerian authorities information regarding the severe harassment experienced by human rights defenders and the weakening of the rule of law.

Against the backdrop of social and economic crisis, everything is a pretext in Algeria for the smothering of dissident voices to better control ongoing changes and suppressing social protest. In its note, EuroMed Rights provides detailed information on the increasing pressure placed on economic and social rights activists over the past years. Criminal proceedings brought against the activists and successive prison sentences are proof of this. A particularly striking episode of this repression was the violent intercommunity clashes that took place in Ghardaia in July 2015 leaving 30 dead, and during which the authorities imprisoned a dozen activists. Solidarity rallies are being criminalised and, more broadly, restrictions are being placed on the freedoms of assembly and association. Trade union rights are constantly violated, and independent trade unionists continue to be harassed, despite the recommendations issued by international bodies such as the European Parliament and the International Labour Organisation.

Moreover, a deep decline of the rule of law is feared due to the instrumentalisation of the judiciary with the strengthening of the judiciary’s dependence on the executive branch. The draft revision of the Constitution consolidates the presidential powers at the expense of the Parliament. We must also highlight the entrenchment of impunity with the establishment in the Constitution of the principles established in the “Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation”. This permanently removes the requirements of truth and justice for the crimes and enforced disappearances of the 1990s. EuroMed Rights reaffirms that respect for the right to truth and the fight against impunity are key elements for ensuring the non-repetition of the crimes, democratic renewal and guaranteeing rights and freedoms in Algeria.

Finally, the Network highlights in its note the limited progress as regards women’s rights and the fight against violence against women, although the Act amending the Penal Code as regards violence against women was adopted by the authorities. Women remain clearly disadvantaged in matters of marriage, divorce, guardianship and custody of children according to the Families Code currently in force. EuroMed Rights calls for better protection for women.

Now more than ever, the Algerian civil society needs the clear support of the European authorities, in particular for defending human rights defenders and the rule of law, the only guarantors of a democratic transition that will bring more stability for the country and the region.

According to EuroMed Rights, if the reform of the Constitution is adopted in its current state, it will be in line with the changes started in 2012 which constituted a step backwards in terms of the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms.