JOINT PRESS RELEASE
ALGERIA: Harassment against those who struggle for human rights must stop!
Paris - Geneva, April 25, 2012. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) are deeply concerned about the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of human rights defender Abdelkader Kherba and, more generally, denounce the climate of judicial and administrative repression targeting human rights defenders' activities in Algeria in the midst of the ongoing electoral campaign for parliamentary election.
On April 26, 2012, Abdelkader Kherba, member of the National Committee for the Defence of the Rights of the Unemployed (Comité national pour la défense des droits des chômeurs - CNDDC) and the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (Ligue algérienne pour la défense des droits de l'Homme - LADDH), will be tried by Sidi Mohamed Court for “direct incitement to a gathering” under Article 100 of the Algerian Criminal Code. Mr. Kherba is held in detention since April 18 after he participated in and filmed a sit-in organised within the framework of a social protest movement of clerks regarding working conditions in the judiciary.
By decision of the Prosecutor, Mr. Kherba was indicted, on April 19, in the framework of a particular criminal proceeding for those who were caught red handed. Procedural conditions are all the more severe that the length of his pre-trial detention seems to have been voluntarily extended. This abusive extension illustrates the willingness of judicial authorities to hinder Mr. Kherba's human rights activities. Furthermore, his lawyers were not granted access to his criminal case.
Besides, on April 24, several participants in the same protest movement were violently repressed while attempting to stage a sit-in before the presidency of the Republic, causing several activists to be wounded, in particular women. More than 100 individuals were arrested and held in custody until the evening of the same day.
These events occur, more generally, in a climate of judicial and administrative harassment against women and men who strive for the respect human rights in Algeria. The freedom of assembly is regularly hindered, especially in Algiers, where the police-force dispatched is considerable due to the ongoing electoral campaign. Participating in a gathering or distributing flyers automatically costs Algerian activists a day of custody in a police station.
For instance, Hadj Aïssa Abbas and Mohamed Bouamer, representatives of CNDDC branch in Laghouat, were subjected to a two-month judicial harassment before being eventually discharged on March 28, 2012. Malika Fallil, Chairwoman of the National Workers’ Committee on Pre-employment and the Social Net (Comité des travailleurs du pré-emploi et filet social), and Tahar Belabès, CNDDC Spokesperson, were arrested several times between January to February during peaceful protests. Recently, on April 14, Abdou Bendjoudi, one of the leaders of the Independent Youth Movement for Change (Mouvement des jeunes indépendants pour le changement - MJIC), was assaulted by a police agent before being detained in the police station of Cavaignac street, along with 24 activists from other organisations, notably SOS-Disappeared (SOS - Disparus), including Fatima Yous, Djedjigua Cherguit, Hacene Ferhati and Slimane Hamitouche, on the occasion of a rally organised to call for the boycott of elections due to the governmental practices opposed to democratic principles and social justice. On April 20, five members of the association Rally for Action and Youth (Rassemblement action jeunesse - RAJ), including its President, Abdelouahab Fersaoui, were arrested and taken to the police station for questioning as they were walking on the Grande Poste Square in Algiers to discuss with a journalist on the social and economic situation of the youth in Algeria, 50 years after the independence.
“More than a year after an ordinance lifted the State of Emergency on February 24, 2011, repression against social and economical rights defenders increases, sign of the authorities' fear to face a social protest movement such as the ones which affected several North African countries during 2011”, affirmed Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President.
“The ordinance which lifted the State of Emergency is a smokescreen concealing that hindrances to freedoms of association and assembly along with defenders' rights violations have gone worse”, added Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General. Indeed, the new Law on Associations No.12-06 of January 12, 2012 is extremely repressive, notably providing mandatory administrative authorisation for registration and important restrictions to the life of associations, especially regarding funding and cooperation with international organisations.
The Observatory and EMHRN strongly denounce the judicial harassment of Mr. Abdelkader Kherba and call for his immediate and unconditional release. Besides, the Observatory and EMHRN urge the Algerian authorities to bring the repressive judicial and administrative environment faced by human rights defenders to an end.
“Our organisations recall that Algerian authorities must comply in every respect with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and with the international and regional instruments for the protection of human rights that have been ratified by Algeria”, concluded Kamel Jendoubi, EMHRN President.
Our organisations urge the international organisations which dispatched electoral observers within the country, notably the League of Arab States, the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations, to call on the Algerian authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment against human rights defenders and to violations of freedoms of expression, peaceful demonstration and association.
FIDH: Karine Appy / Arthur Manet: +33 1 43 55 25 18