Algerian civil rights movement counterattacks against mounting repression

Accountability, Justice and Space for Civil Society, Algeria, Newsletter

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Early 2022 in Algeria: in a country which has witnessed a wave of sweeping protests in the past three years, human rights and public freedoms are increasingly deteriorating. Individuals, political parties and non-profit organisations engaging in acts of opposition to the regime keep being threatened with arbitrary arrest, detention or dissolution.  

The application of Article 87 bis of the Penal Code has led to the infringement of individual and collective freedoms, targeting in particular those involved in the Hirak, the street protest movement that began in February 2019.  

The repression by the authorities targets individuals and organisations alike. Several members of organisations as well as political parties have been arrested and detained in the past few months as an attempt to paralyse these institutions. Nasreddine Hamitouche, one of the leaders of the political organisation Rassemblement des Jeunes pour l’Algérie (RJPA), has been in custody since 2 January 2022. The President of the political party Mouvement Démocratique et Social (MDS) Fethi Ghares, has been incarcerated for the past six months.  

A petition against injustice 

Beyond Hamitouche and Ghares, 245 Algerians have also been arrested for expressing their solidarity and support with the detainees on social media. To add insult to injury, the authorities go so far as to threaten renown parties and organisations with dissolution because of their activities. On 13 October 2021, the civil society organisation Rassemblement Actions Jeunesse (RAJ) was officially dissolved for conducting “political” activities which were deemed to violate its statutes. 

On 8 January 2022, in an act of denunciation of the growing repression perpetrated against the civil rights movement in Algeria, more than 300 civil society representatives signed a petition to protest the increasingly coercive measures enforced by the authorities. This collective action is an outcry against a list of injustices that have become a daily occurrence in the country.  

Among their demands: the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience; the nullification of the legal procedures against national parties and organisations exercising their constitutional rights; the abolishment of the legal framework by which the repression is enforced and justified. The signatories upheld the freedom of assembly as an inalienable and fundamental right and stressed that its demise jeopardises the whole society.  

This initiative, along with several others, bodes well for a resilient and united Algerian civil society.