Algerian authorities must end reprisals against human rights defenders!
Read in: French
Brussels, 31 August 2022
On 24 August 2022, Kaddour Chouicha, a prominent human rights defender, was detained at Oran airport with his wife and interrogated by the police for two hours about the reason for his travel, his destination and his links with UN human rights mechanisms.
Mr Chouicha was prevented from boarding his flight at the airport without being informed in advance by the authorities that his name was on a travel ban list. Blocking his travel was a reprisal for Mr Chouicha’s active engagement with the UN Universal Periodic Review on Algeria scheduled for November 2022, and a punishment for his participation in a joint submission that shed light on the shrinking of civic space and harsh repression against human rights defenders and activists from the Hirak movement by the Algerian authorities.
This increasing repression includes physical aggression, arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment and torture during detention, and judicial harassment against peaceful demonstrators, members of the human rights movement, trade unionists and journalists. Mr Chouicha was planning to participate in several advocacy meetings in Europe on the ongoing deterioration of the human rights situation in Algeria.
This incident came on the same day as the French President’s visit to Algeria. The undersigned organisations fear that European leaders continue to overlook continuous human rights violations in Algeria in exchange for securing Europe’s energy needs. Such inconsistency in upholding international human rights standards, and compromises with authoritarian regimes such as in Algeria is not a reliable strategy to support democratic change on the shores of southern Mediterranean. Such inconsistency feeds instability, increases the migratory flux of hopeless youth and creates conditions in which violent extremist radical groups flourish while independent, peaceful human rights activists, members of political parties, trade unionists and non-violent protesters are arrested or under judicial harassment.
Algerian authorities have a long record of harassment against Mr Chouicha. On 12 March 2021, he and his son were violently beaten by police forces in Oran (one of the police officers tried to strangle him). On 29 April 2021, human rights defenders Kaddour Chouicha, Jamila Loukil and Said Boudour, and 12 other peaceful activists, were prosecuted on terrorism-related charges. On 29 April 2021, the Public Prosecutor of Oran charged human rights defenders Said Boudour, Kaddour Chouicha, and Jamila Loukil with: “conspiracy against state security to incite citizens to take up arms against state authority or to undermine the integrity of the national territory”; “propaganda likely to harm the national interest, of foreign origin or inspiration”, and “enrolment in a terrorist or subversive organization active abroad or in Algeria‘”(based on articles 77, 78, 87bis, 87bis 3, 87bis 6, 87bis 12 and 96 of the Penal Code). The last charge is particularly concerning, as the authorities are linking the peaceful and legitimate activism of human rights defenders to alleged terrorism. If convicted of these charges, the human rights defenders face a prison sentence of up to twenty years.
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
- Euro-Mediterranean Network for Human Rights
- Algerian League for Human Rights
- Action Détenus
- Riposte Internationale
- FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
- OMCT (World Organization Against Torture), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders