"We call on the High Representative to take the necessary diplomatic measures to hold Algeria accountable for these human rights violations and to ensure that the human rights clause of the Agreements is applied in force," reads the letter signed by 13 MEPs from various parties and addressed to the High Representative Josep Borrell.
It refers to the persecution by the Algerian state of demonstrators of the so-called Hirak movement from 2019, when the streets of Algeria were flooded with protests for an improvement in the quality of life and the end of a political system considered corrupt and outdated.
MEPs expressed concern about the situation of at least 266 members of the Hirak movement who remain imprisoned, including several women's rights activists. The protest to High Representative Borrell comes a few weeks after the visit of EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson to the Algerian city of Oran. During her visit to Algeria, Simson held meetings with Algerian energy officials, after which she declared that the European Union counts on Algeria as a major and reliable partner in the supply of gas and hydrocarbons.
Simson's visit sought to secure new supply routes for Europe's ailing energy economy, which is going through its most difficult times in the wake of the war in Ukraine and is relentlessly seeking alternatives to Russia. Member states such as Italy and France have already expanded their relations with Algeria over the gas dossier. In the meantime, the state governed by the Tebboune-Chengriha duo has seen its revenues grow by leaps and bounds thanks to the situation on the energy market.
The first demand of the signatory MEPs is the application of the human rights clause contained in the EU-Algeria Association Agreement, the main treaty that has been the backbone of relations between the EU-27 and Algeria since 2005. Indeed, article 2 of the treaty states that 'respect for democratic principles and fundamental human rights as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights shall underpin the domestic and international policies of the Parties and constitute an essential element of this Agreement'.
In November 2020, the European Union adopted a resolution expressing its concern about the lack of respect for human rights in Algeria by the authorities and in particular in relation to the Hirak dossier. According to Amnesty International reports quoted by the undersigned MEPs, the Hirak protesters were arbitrarily arrested while participating in peaceful demonstrations. The NGO also claims that a number of individuals associated with the movement have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment in police stations and Algerian government facilities, as well as being subjected to disproportionate investigations and intrusions into their private lives.
Most of the undersigned MEPs are members of the Human Rights and Foreign Affairs Committees. Among them is the former Secretary of State for International Cooperation in the last Zapatero government, María Soraya Rodríguez, a former MEP for Ciudadanos/Renew Europe. The President of the Human Rights Commission, Belgian Socialist María Arena, and the Vice-President of the Renew Europe Group, Frédérique Ries, also signed.