An expert on UN rights is urging Algeria to grant pardon to protesters who have been convicted.
According to Clément Voule, the Special Rapporteur on the right to assembly, the Government needs to relax strict limitations on gatherings and organizations in order to align with the national Constitution and international human rights standards. This statement was made at the conclusion of a 10-day official trip to Algeria.
He attended a meeting where the nation is considering making changes to align laws with the 2020 Constitution and the goals of the “Hirak protests.” These protests involved hundreds of thousands of people gathering in Algeria’s main cities every week for over a year in 2019 and 2020.
The Hirak, which means “movement” in Arabic, is a widespread demonstration movement that began in Algeria in February 2019. It was sparked by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s declaration of his plan to run for a fifth term in spite of his failing health and twenty years of leadership.
The protest called for changes in both the political and economic systems, as well as the ousting of the established political leaders.
Voule praised the Hirak protesters for their impressive demonstration of civic duty, serving as a model for the rest of the world on how to peacefully protest.
Since it began, the movement has encountered several obstacles, such as the detainment of supporters, limitations on demonstrations, and efforts by the authorities to manipulate and oversee it.
The Special Rapporteur expressed concern over the fear instilled by numerous criminal charges brought against individuals, associations, trade unions, and political parties using overly strict laws, including anti-terrorism legislation that goes against Algeria’s human rights commitments. The government should take action to address this issue.
The demonstrations initially sought to stop Bouteflika from being re-elected, but they soon transformed into wider requests for democratic reform and the dismantling of the long-standing political structure.
Push for recognition
The UN expert stated that during the peaceful Hirak demonstrations, the common message shared by all civil society members was the desire to be acknowledged by public authorities as reliable partners in their country’s development.
The surge was primarily instigated by individuals from Algeria, particularly young people, students, activists, and professionals, who united through various social media channels.
The speaker called for the Government to forgive and release individuals who were imprisoned for participating in the Hirak, as a step towards progress and acknowledgment of the movement’s significance in shaping Algeria’s future.
According to Mr. Voule, although he witnessed attempts to enhance the financial state of the people, Algeria was still facing challenges in allowing room for civic organizations.
“The fulfillment of the constitution’s guarantee”
“According to Voule, in order to uphold the commitments outlined in the Constitution and the Hirak movement, as well as fulfill its duties under international human rights agreements, Algeria must ensure that its people have the legal and practical ability to gather and form associations, express their opinions and ideas, and advocate for their individual interests, both domestically and with external partners.”
The Human Rights Council will receive a detailed report from the Special Rapporteur regarding his trip to Algeria in June 2024.
The individuals in positions of Special Rapporteurs and other UN experts are not considered official UN employees and operate independently from any government or organization. They fulfill their roles as individuals and do not receive payment for their services.