Algerian human rights lawyer faces prison time for Facebook post

Algerian human rights lawyer faces prison time for Facebook post

Omar Boussag is a member of the collective defending the Hirak detainees and of a local section of the now dissolved Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights. He is currently being prosecuted for “insulting an official body” and “inciting an unarmed gathering”, under articles 100 and 146 of the Criminal Code, for having published a Facebook post on May 7, 2021 about a social movement. On February 26, 2024, Boussag was sentenced in absentia to six months' imprisonment.

Omar Boussag is a human rights defender and lawyer at the Oran Bar since 2015. He was also a member of the now dissolved Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (Ligue Algérienne pour la Défense des Droits Humains or LADDH) since 2010 and joined the organisation’s national board in 2013. Additionally, he has been a member of the Collective for the Defence of Prisoners of Conscience (Collectif de défense des détenus d’opinion) since 2019 and an active member of the political party of the Front des Forces Socialistes (FFS).

Boussag currently provides legal defense to many prisoners of conscience in different wilayas (districts) across Algeria. His presence and commitment to such prisoners were particularly remarkable during the repression of the Hirak movement.

On Friday February 26, 2021, during a Hirak protest in Oran, demonstrators were violently repressed by the riot control services of the Oran wilaya security forces. Boussag, being a lawyer at the Oran Bar, tried to protect the demonstrators alongside his colleagues, stressing the peaceful nature of the demonstration. However, he was violently beaten and repressed by the police, sustaining several injuries as a result.

On March 15, 2021, Boussag filed a complaint with the Oran court against the Oran wilaya police force. This action followed the violent repression and physical attacks to which he was subjected by the police. In his complaint, Boussag highlighted the serious abuses committed by the security forces, despite the peaceful nature of the protest in Oran. He strongly denounced the human rights violations and the attacks on the physical integrity of the demonstrators, pointing out that his intervention was aimed solely at protecting the rights of citizens and ensuring compliance with the law.

On December 22, 2021, eight months after Boussag filed the complaint, the cybercrime department of the Oran judicial police opened an investigation against him. The investigation looked into a post on Boussag’s Facebook page from May 7, 2021, in which he explores the possibility that the extension of a social movement from civil protection to security bodies such as the police and gendarmerie could lead to the end of the system. Earlier that month, hundreds of members of the civil protection services had gathered to demand an improvement in their working conditions before their movement was repressed.

On June 13, 2022, the public prosecutor at the Essania court transferred the case to the examining judge, requesting that an investigation be opened against Boussag for the offences of “inciting an unarmed gathering” and “insulting a constituted body ”pursuant to articles 100.1 and 146 of the Algerian Penal Code.

On June 15, 2022, Boussag was notified of the charges against him. He promptly informed the Oran Bar Association and the members of the Oran Bar Council about this serious violation affecting his professional duties. This situation underscores a significant failure to uphold the duty to assist and protect lawyers in the performance of their duties.

On May 31, 2023, Boussag appeared for the first time before the investigating judge of the Essania court. He categorically refused to accept the charges brought against him and took responsibility for his statement on social media, which were the basis of the accusations.

On September 20, 2023, the case was transferred to the Criminal Court, where the charges against Boussag were confirmed.

On February 26, 2024, the trial proceeded without Boussag being present. The public prosecutor requested one year's imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 Algerian dinars. After examining the case, the judge decided to sentence Boussag in absentia to six months’ imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 Algerian dinars.

As Boussag did not attend the initial trial, he objected the first instance judgment. His application was accepted. He was retried on July 8, 2024. During the hearing, the prosecutor requested three months' imprisonment. The verdict is due on July 15, 2024.

Affirming that the proceedings brought against Boussag contravene his right to freedom of expression as recognised in article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Algeria, MENA Rights Group submitted an urgent appeal to several special procedures mandate holders, including the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, on July 4, 2024.


July 4, 2024: MENA Rights Group sends an urgent appeal to several UN special procedures mandate holders regarding the situation of Omar Boussag.
February 26, 2024: The Essania court sentences Boussag to six months in prison in absentia.
June 13, 2022: Boussag is charged with “inciting an unarmed gathering” and “insulting a constituted body”.
May 7, 2021: Boussag publishes a Facebook post about a peaceful assembly of civil defence personnel.