A few days before her visit to Algeria (November 26 to December 5), the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, has been contacted by the Amazigh World Congress (CMA), which has sent her an information note on the serious human rights situation in the country

World Amazigh Congress contacts UN rapporteur on human rights violations in Algeria

Kamira Naït Sid
photo_camera Kamira Naït Sid

According to its website, this international NGO for the protection and promotion of Amazigh rights, whose members hail from all over North Africa, drew the Special Rapporteur's attention in particular to the activities of human rights activists and the subordination of the judiciary to military power.

"Executive power is clearly and visibly exercised by the army, which in recent years has created conditions that have never been so unfavorable to freedoms and human rights. The activities of defenders of freedoms and human rights are criminalized. Judges are clearly dependent on military power, and lawyers cannot freely exercise their functions because they are directly threatened with reprisals. 

As a result, the laws and procedures of justice are violated and trials are not fair", we read. This sad observation is shared by many human rights associations around the world. These violations have become common practice, and the powers that be ignore the criticisms expressed by these associations. As President Tebboune recently made clear, "Go and complain wherever you like. No one will be able to make us bend.

The second point raised in the information note concerns the new amendments to the penal code, whose tightening tends to restrict individual and associative freedoms. "In 2021, the government adopted reforms to the penal code that are highly restrictive to freedoms, which it justifies by the need to "criminalize acts that threaten the security and stability of the country. Severe penalties are envisaged for any person or civil society organization receiving financial aid from abroad (article 2) or disseminating "fake news" (article 3). 

With regard to terrorism, article 87 bis provides such a broad and imprecise definition that anyone exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly is liable to be prosecuted for "apologie du terrorisme".

It was on the basis of this article 87 bis that a list of journalists, activists and social networkers classified as terrorists was published in the March 2021 issue of the Journal Officiel. Two pacifist organizations, the Mouvement RACHAD and the Mouvement pour l'Autod茅termination de la Kabylie (MAK), led by poet, writer and singer Ferhat Mehenni, were included on the list of terrorist organizations.

Ferhat Mehenni pr茅sident du MAK
Ferhat Mehenni pr茅sident du MAK

The CMA also noted the coercive and iniquitous measures taken by the authorities against Amazigh cultural associations and associations defending freedoms. "On January 30, 2023, the authorities ordered the closure of the Maison des droits de l'homme et du citoyen in Tizi-Wezzu (Tizi-Ouzou), which included a library and documentation center, and hosted human rights awareness seminars and conferences. On January 23, 2023, the authorities also proceeded with the administrative closure of the Human Rights Documentation Centre in the town of Vgayet (B茅jaia), in Kabylia, by order of the Wali (Prefect of the Province)", he wrote in his information note to Mrs Mary Lawlor.

He did not fail to raise the illegal detention of his president Kamira Na茂t Sid, "who lives in Tizi-Wezzu (Tizi-Ouzou) in Kabylia, has been subjected to administrative, police and judicial harassment for many years. She has been arrested then released countless times, and her professional activity as manager of a cyber-caf茅 in Tizi-Wezzu was arbitrarily closed by administrative decision in 2016. On August 21, 2021, Kamira Nait Sid was kidnapped and held by the Algerian police, then tried for terrorism and sentenced to 3 years in prison. She is currently being held in Kol茅a prison, near Algiers. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued an opinion on 1/04/2022 in which it declared Kamira Nait Sid's detention to be arbitrary (Opinion n潞 15/2022 of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, concerning Kamira Nait Sid (Algeria) - A/HRC/WGAD/2022/15." The CMA adds: "Other members of the World Amazigh Congress have been forced by the Algerian police to resign and cut all ties with our organization. The CMA currently has no members left in Algeria. It's a ban on activity that doesn't say its name.

It should be recalled that several human rights organizations have contacted Mary Lawlor to draw her attention to the serious violations of human rights in a country run by men who do not even respect their own laws, including the constitution, which was recently violated by the appointment of a new prime minister, Mr. Larbaoui Nadir, without his program being presented to parliament for approval, and without belonging to the parliamentary majority as set out in the constitution amended on November 1, 2020.

It's a safe bet that the authorities in Algiers will take no notice of the observations, let alone the recommendations, of the UN Human Rights Rapporteur or any other party.

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