Algeria must open civic space and let critical voices be heard: UN expert
26 September 2023
ALGIERS (26 September 2023) – Urgent attention must be given to the current situation of legal restrictions and prosecutions of individuals and associations in Algeria, a UN expert said today.
"The Government must loosen tight restrictions on assemblies and associations to bring laws and practice into conformity with the national Constitution and international human rights law”, said Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and association in a statement at the end of a 10-day official visit to Algeria.
The visit took place during ongoing reforms to bring legislation into conformity with the 2020 Constitution and aspirations of the Hirak demonstrations, which brought hundreds of thousands of Algerians to the streets every week for more than a year in 2019 - 2020.
“Hirak demonstrators showed remarkable civic spirit, setting an example for the world on the conduct of peaceful protests,” Voule said. He also commented on the largely measured and professional response by Algeria’s national police during the Hirak.
“The Government must now address the climate of fear caused by a string of criminal charges against individuals, associations, trade unions and political parties under overly restrictive laws, including anti-terrorism legislation contrary to Algeria’s international human rights obligations,” the Special Rapporteur said.
“In building the new Algeria, I urge the Government to abandon charges and pardon those people convicted for their involvement in the Hirak. This will also reflect recognition of Hirak as a turning point in Algeria’s commitment to move forward,” he said.
“In the spirit of the peaceful Hirak protests, the common message from all civil society actors I met was to be recognised by public authorities as trusted partners in the development of their country,” the UN expert said.
Voule said that while he observed efforts to improve the economic situation of the population, Algeria was still struggling to provide space for civil society. He reiterated that allowing civil space that also includes critical voices is essential to improved governance and policy making, and to build sustainable and inclusive participatory democracy.
“To meet the promise of the Constitution and the Hirak, and to fulfil its obligations under international human rights treaties, Algeria must guarantee, in law and in practice, the right of its population to assemble and associate freely, to exchange views and ideas and defend specific interests, including in collaboration with partners within and outside the country,” Voule said.
The Special Rapporteur will submit a comprehensive report on his visit to Algeria to the Human Rights Council in June 2024.
Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule was appointed Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of association by the United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2018. He is a lawyer currently working in Geneva in the field of human rights. Prior to his appointment, he headed the Africa programme of the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR). Mr. Voule has also worked as Secretary General of the Togolese Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, as a campaigner for the Togolese Coalition for the International Criminal Court and as Secretary General of the of Amnesty International-Togo. Since 2011, Mr. Voule has been an expert member of the Working Group on Extractive Industries, the Environment and Human Rights Violations of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. His mandate covers all countries and was recently renewed by resolution 41/12 of the Human Rights Council.
Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.