Amnesty International: The Algerian authorities are leading a relentless crackdown on citizens for expressing any form of dissent. Be it participants in protest marches, journalists working for independent media, or people posting on social media, no-one in Algeria is safe from the claws of repression.
Since the “Hirak” weekly protest movement broke out in 2019, first opposing a fifth mandate of then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and then evolving into a wider response to the lack of political freedom in Algeria, hundreds of people have been arbitrarily arrested and detained. The authorities targeted people they considered leaders of the protest movement and those reporting on it, but after the weekly protests were banned due to Covid restrictions, the authorities expanded their crackdown. Young and old; urban and rural; activists and school children, no matter the gender, the Algerian authorities are going after anyone exercising their right to freedom of expression, assembly or association in a way deemed threatening to the government.
The authorities have used various means to broaden their repression, including making repeated arbitrary arrests; imposing heavy fines; pressuring dissidents’ family members for information on their whereabouts; and in at least one case, abducting a fleeing activist with refugee status and forcibly returning him back to Algeria to face trial on bogus charges. Authorities have also employed the tactic of pre-trial detention beyond the legal limit, have meted out lengthy prison sentences, and have subjected detainees to torture and other ill-treatment.
According to local watchdog groups, over 200 people remain detained in Algerian prisons for expressing dissent, often sentenced under problematic articles in the Penal Code such as “harming” the national security, “undermining national unity”, “offending” public officials, “incitement” to unarmed gathering, spreading fake news, and terrorism.
Amnesty International interviewed former detainees as well as the families and lawyers of those who remain behind bars. The individual stories highlighted here underscore the suffering people have endured at the hands of the Algerian authorities. In documenting these experiences, Amnesty International urges support in demanding the Algerian authorities grant the urgent and unconditional release of those arbitrarily detained, halt the harassment of opponents and perceived critics outside prison, and ultimately reform the legislation that enables serious violations of people’s rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association.