Panafrican News Agency

Amnesty International asks Algeria to end 'unrelenting crackdown' on dissent

Algiers, Algeria (PANA) - Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has asked Algeria to end its unrelenting crackdown on all forms of dissent. 

It said in a statement on Wednesday that in the past month alone, the Algerian authorities have suspended one political party and threatened two additional ones with a similar fate.

They have also sentenced one leader of a political party to two years in prison for expressing his opinions against repression in the country, bringing the total number of those currently detained as of 25 January for the exercise of their rights to peaceful protest and freedom of expression to at least 251.

The Algerian government claimed the three parties had breached the law by organising “unauthorised gatherings” and holding their congresses later than expected. 

All three parties are vocal critics of the government, have boycotted presidential, legislative and local elections and have played an active role in the Hirak, a mass protest movement calling for political change in the country since 2019. 

“The Algerian authorities remain hellbent on maintaining power and are seeking to crush their opponents by trampling on their rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression. There is absolutely no justification for the prosecution of political activists and shuttering of opposition political parties,” said Amna Guellali, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“Algeria must end its unrelenting crackdown on all forms of dissent. Both international human rights law and the Algerian constitution guarantee the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly for political parties. The authorities must immediately cease their attacks on Algerians’ fundamental freedoms.”

Amnesty International said on 20 January 2022, Algeria’s State Council ordered the “temporary” suspension of the Socialist Workers’ Party (Parti Socialiste des Travailleurs), forcing it to cease all activities and close its premises.

If it refuses to comply with the order, the Ministry of Interior can submit a request for dissolution to the State Council.

Amnesty International said the decision was based on Law No. 12-04 on Political Parties, which gives overbroad powers to the Ministry of Interior by allowing them to request that the state dissolve political parties that violate their legal obligations. 

The statement said on the same day, the State Council dismissed another request from the Ministry of Interior to suspend the Union for Change and Progress (Union pour le Changement et le Progrès). The party is awaiting a judgment on the merits of the case.

In April 2021, the Ministry of Interior requested both parties to ensure that they followed Law No. 12-04 by asking them to hold their congresses. Both parties submitted the required documents and notified the ministry but received no response. Despite this, the authorities proceeded with the request for suspension, Amnesty International said.

Since the start of the Hirak, the authorities have arrested, prosecuted and detained hundreds of peaceful protesters and activists who expressed their views either online or offline. 

On 13 October 2021, the authorities shut down a well-known civil society organisation, the Youth Action Rally (Rassemblement Actions Jeunesse), on bogus accusations of carrying out activities that do not match its status.

-0- PANA MA 10Feb2022