March 08, 2022
49th session of the UN Human Rights Council, Item 2: General Debate
Delivered by: Farida Bouattoura
Madam High Commissioner,
In the last few months, Algerian authorities have escalated their tactics to silence peaceful dissent and suffocate independent civil society.
As one illustration of this escalation, authorities on 18 February arrested human rights defender Zaki Hannache, who has been documenting arrests and trials of people imprisoned for their peaceful speech or activism since 2019. He is now in pretrial detention for a potential long duration for allegedly “justifying terrorism” and four other unfounded charges.
Peaceful civil and political activism and independent journalism are now criminalised in Algeria as never before in recent years. Before his arrest, Zaki Hannache estimated that the number of Algerians imprisoned for the peaceful exercise of their freedom of expression, assembly and association had reached a new record since 2019 (340 as of 9 February 2022).
Algerian courts ruled in favour of government petitions to suspend a political party in January and to dissolve a prominent rights group in October 2021. In the last two months, Faleh Hammoudi, member of the executive bureaus of union organisations SNAPAP and CGATA and president of the section of the Algerian League for Human Rights (LADDH) in Tlemcen, was sentenced to 3 years in prison, including for “running an unregistered organisation”, while Fethi Ghares, national coordinator of the Democratic and Social Movement (MDS), was sentenced to 2 years of prison.
An increasing number of individuals have been prosecuted under broadly worded terrorism charges - among them journalists Hassan Bouras, Mohamed Mouloudj and Abdelkrim Zeghileche, human rights defenders Zaki Hannache and Kamira Nait Sid, lawyer Abderraouf Arslane, and Slimane Bouhafs, an Algerian UN-recognized refugee forcibly returned from Tunis.
UN Special Procedures have consistently and increasingly raised concern about arbitrary arrests and unlawful use of force, unfair trials, the misuse of terrorism charges and the vague wording in counter terrorism legislation. The situation in Algeria warrants urgent action from the HRC.
The Council should not abandon Algerians struggling for their fundamental rights.
Joint oral intervention by AfricanDefenders (Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network), Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH), Amnesty International, Autonomous General Confederation of Workers in Algeria (CGATA), Autonomous Union of Public Administration Personnel (SNAPAP), Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Collective of the Families of the Disappeared in Algeria (CFDA), EuroMed Rights, Free Algeria, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), Justitia Centre for Legal Protection of Human Rights in Algeria, MENA Rights Group, SHOAA for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, and World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).