Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice
Geneva: 28 June 2021
UN human rights experts have raised concerns about allegations of arrests, bans on demonstrations, and excessive use of force by Algerian security forces against Hirak protesters.
Preliminary arrests and internet cuts:
According to a UN memorandum sent to the Algerian government on April 29, 2021, which has not yet been responded to, on February 13 and 16, 2021, thousands of people were said to have gathered in the city of Kherrata in eastern Algeria, to commemorate the outbreak of the Hirak protests that began in 2019, the security forces preempted these demonstrations by arresting people who posted messages calling for participation in the demonstrations, and access to the internet on mobile phones was cut off for several hours, especially during the weekly demonstrations on Tuesday and Friday.
The experts added that on February 22, 2021, security forces reportedly arrested at least 90 people during the Hirak protests in several states, including Algiers, Tiaret, Tebessa, Msila and Oran, and on the following day security forces used tear gas and batons to disperse students, 40 of them were arrested.
The capital and several states witnessed protests on March 5 and 12, 2021, and on April 3 and 6, 2021, when more than 500 people were arrested, bringing the number of detainees who have been documented since the protests began, to 2500 detainees.
Prosecution and multiple charges:
The experts noted in their memo that although the vast majority of protesters were released on the same night after their arrest, a number of protesters were reported to have appeared before a court of law, charged with the crimes of “attack on national unity”, “spreading false information”, and “attack on the national interest,” “weakening the morale of the army,” “direct provocation of an unarmed crowd,” “insulting officials,” “insulting the president of the republic,” and “insulting Islam.”
The experts raised concerns about allegations of arbitrary arrests of protesters, excessive use of force against peaceful assemblies, and allegations of torture of detainees.
UN demands from Algeria:
The experts called on the Algerian government to provide information on the factual and legal grounds for the arrests, the use of force, including tear gas and batons, and explain how these grounds comply with international human rights norms and standards.
The experts also called on Algeria to clarify to what extent arrests of people apparently only sympathetic to the Hirak comply with the state’s international obligations to it, as well as to provide detailed information on the basic safeguards afforded to individuals subject to criminal prosecution, including the right to contact their families, to have a lawyer, to have a medical examination, and to bring them to a judicial authority as soon as possible.
The experts asked the Algerian government to describe the measures that have been taken to ensure that protesters, including human rights defenders, can exercise their rights without fear of being threatened or detained, while clarifying the legal basis for the restrictions on internet access.