The UN calls on Algeria to relax legal restrictions and criminal prosecution of individuals and associations
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The UN calls on Algeria to relax legal restrictions and criminal prosecution of individuals and associations

A UN expert recently expressed serious concern about the current situation of legal restrictions and prosecution of individuals and associations in Algeria. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and association, called for urgent attention to be given to this situation.

In a statement to the United Nations Conference on Human Rights, Voule stressed that the government must relax strict restrictions on meetings and associations, in order to bring laws and practices into line with the national Constitution and international human rights law.

The declaration comes as the ruling regime claims it is launching reforms to align the legislation with the 2020 Constitution and the aspirations of the Hirak protests. The Hirak protests brought hundreds of thousands of Algerians to the streets every week for more than a year, from 2019 to 2020, and symbolized calls for political and social change in Algeria.

Voule praised the extraordinary civic spirit demonstrated by the Hirak protesters and confirmed that the government must now face the climate of fear created by criminal proceedings against individuals, associations, unions and political parties, under restrictive laws, including anti-terrorism laws. He emphasized that this law contradicts Algeria’s international obligations regarding human rights.

The UN expert also called on the government to drop the charges and pardon those found guilty of their involvement in Hirak. He emphasized that the civil society actors he met during his visit wanted the authorities to recognize them as reliable partners in the development of the country, in the spirit of the peaceful Hirak demonstrations.

Voule emphasized that Algeria faces difficulties in providing space for civil society and affirmed that enabling civil space, including critical voices, is key to improving governance, policy formulation and building a sustainable and inclusive participatory democracy.

He concluded by stating that Algeria, in order to keep its promises from the Constitution and Hirak, and to fulfill its obligations regarding human rights, must guarantee the right of its population to freely assemble and associate, to exchange views and ideas and to defend specific interests in cooperation with partners inside and outside the country.

Before visiting Algeria, Voule received reports from fourteen human rights organizations, all of which condemned the restrictions on freedoms imposed by the Algerian authorities. These organizations, including Human Rights Watch, called on the Algerian military regime to end human rights abuses, respect universal civil and political rights, and allow independent non-governmental organizations to operate in the country without harassment.

Human rights watchdogs say Algerian authorities have dismantled the country’s independent civil society, hindering political pluralism. They said that since the end of the pro-democracy Hirak protest movement, Algerian authorities have intensified their crackdown on peaceful dissent, targeting independent civil society organizations, opposition political parties, activists, human rights defenders and journalists. They also introduced restrictive legislative reforms aimed at suppressing any form of organized protest.

The Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association will submit a full report to the Human Rights Council in June 2024 on his visit to Algeria, which has been postponed several times by the Algerian authorities in recent years.

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