UPR of Algeria – MRG’s contribution
Minority Rights Group International (MRG) calls on UN member states to use the opportunity of the 4th Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Algeria, scheduled for November 2022, to address the situation of persons belonging to ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and of indigenous peoples in the country.
Civil society in Algeria has been evolving in a particularly restrictive and complex political context for years. February 2019 witnessed the birth of the ‘Hirak’ (‘movement’ in Arabic) initially calling for the removal of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, then seeking a fifth term in office after two decades in power. Following his resignation in April 2019, peaceful mass popular protests continued throughout Algeria to push for a more fundamental transformation of the country’s power structures and institutions. In December 2019 Abdelmadjid Tebboune was elected President in a twice-delayed election characterised by a 60 per cent abstention rate.
Since taking office, President Tebboune has undertaken several political and legislative reforms, including the adoption of a new Constitution in November 2020, albeit in a controversial popular referendum marked by a historically low voter turnout of 24 per cent. However, repression against peaceful Hirak activists, Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), journalists, bloggers and political opponents has only increased, while laws were passed that violate fundamental rights, particularly targeting minority groups.
The submission therefore addresses key human rights issues and violations in relation to the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly; freedom of religion or belief; equality and non-discrimination. It also includes MRG’s recommendations on how states should encourage the government of Algeria to address these issues.
MRG urges reviewing States to recommend to Algeria to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release Mrs Kamira Nait Sid and all other Amazigh rights activists arbitrarily detained for the sole peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly; to further drop all charges against them, and cease any form of intimidation or discrimination;
- Repeal legislation used to prosecute people who exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, with a view to bringing Algeria’s legislative framework in line with its international obligations, notably under Article 21 of the ICCPR.
- Suspend and revise Ordinance 06-03 from 2006 to bring it in line with Algeria’s international human rights obligations, in particular article 18 and article 27 of the ICCPR, and repeal all blasphemy laws and policies, in particular articles 144-bis 2, 160 and 160-ter of the Penal Code.
- Repeal all blasphemy laws, in particular article 144-bis 2, 160 and 160-ter of the Penal Code, and immediately and unconditionally release all those arbitrarily arrested or imprisoned under these provisions, further dropping all charges against them.
- Review the composition of the National Commission of Religious Organisations to guarantee meaningful and equal representation of all minority religious groups.
- Repeal the current system requiring prior authorisation from the State for any religious activity or use of a place of worship, and, pending abolition of the system, take interim measures to ensure that the National Commission of Religious Organisations urgently considers pending registration applications from churches and other non-Muslim religious organisations, guaranteeing that responses to future applications be provided within the designated 60-day period.
- Ensure that the official status afforded to Tamazight under Algeria’s Constitution is practically implemented, notably by guaranteeing instruction in Tamazight across all school levels, and on an equal footing with Arabic, and accelerate its use in administration and public services, legislation, courts of justice, and public media.
- Prioritise the adoption of a comprehensive legal and policy anti-discrimination framework, as well as a national action plan to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
- Pending approval of such a framework, take interim measures to ensure effective access to justice and adequate remedies for all victims of racial and xenophobic discrimination, guaranteeing prosecution and punishment of all perpetrators of such acts.