Geneva – Security forces in Algeria launched arrest and arbitrary detention campaigns against students and citizens, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor expressed its deep concern when dealing with renewed protests in the country.
In a press release on Thursday, Euro-Med Monitor stated that on Wednesday, November 11, security authorities summoned student Qais Wald Ammar from Tipaza Province and investigated him. He was transferred to the Public Prosecutor at the court tribunal de cherchell, west of Tipaza, who referred him to the investigating judge. The latter decided to place him in a pre-trial detention on charges of incitement to public gatherings and breach of state security.
Euro-Med Monitor obtained testimonies proving that Algerian security and executive authorities keep using force, intimidation, and arrest in dealing with demonstrations, which sparked again in October 5 after the end of the nationwide public protests due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The renewed demonstrations came in line with reviving the 1988-October marches. The most important results of these protests were abolishing the one-system party, opening the public space and freedoms, and establishing unions and independent newspapers.
In an interview with Euro-Med Monitor, human rights activist and eyewitness to the arrest of Qais, Hamzawy Muhammad Al-Eid—a pseudonym— said that “On Wednesday, November 11, the cybercrime police summoned Qais Wald Ammar. The next day, Qais went to the police station, where he was investigated and held until Thursday.”
He added, "On Friday, the security authorities stormed Qais's house and confiscated all his personal stuff such as his laptop. On Sunday, November 15, Qais stood before the Public Prosecutor, who postponed his court hearing until Monday, under the pretext that the judicial investigation had not been completed."
He continued, “On Monday, Qais appeared before the court with the presence of his lawyer. The Public Prosecutor referred his case to the investigating judge to in charge of making a decision. On Tuesday, November 17, the investigating judge decided to place him in pre-trial detention on charges of incitement to public gatherings and breach of state security. Until now, he has not talked to any of his family members.”
Euro-Med team made attempts to communicate a number of students who were subjected to prosecution or were witnesses to the violations. However, most of them refused to provide any information related to security practices, fearing arrest.
In its latest arrest campaign, the Algerian security arrested 42 activists, who were brought before the Public Prosecutor at Tribunal de Sidi M'Hamed in the Algerian capital. The 42 joined a group of young people, Muhammad Amin Belmokhtar, Muhammad Hamali, Eid Al-Azzawi, and Walid Hamzawi, who were arbitrarily arrested several weeks earlier.
Since the spark of the public protests in February last year, 81 prisoners of consciences were arrested, 11 of whom were in the Algerian capital, 10 ere in Adrar Province, 9 were in Bordj Bou Arréridj Province, and the rest were distributed among other provinces.
On October 21, one of the local courts in the Algerian capital issued prison sentences against nine activists who were arrested during the demonstrations. These demonstrations sparked on October 5 in the Algerian capital in line with the anniversary of 1988-October protests. After the arrest of six activists for two weeks, at the Tribunal de Sidi M'Hamed, the judge handed them a six-month prison sentence.
Mohammed Imad, Euro-Med Monitor’s legal advisor, stated that “As international agreements guarantee the freedom of opinion and expression and the freedom of peaceful assembly, Algerian government should adopt a policy of restraint in dealing with demonstrators and their demands.”
Imad added that “the policy of arbitrary detention is a serious and unacceptable matter as it constitutes an unjustified violation against the rules of international law. Instead of using force, the Algerian government should immediately release all prisoners of conscience and pay special attention to solve the problems that sparked the demonstrations.
Any behavior that violates citizens’ fundamental rights is unacceptable and constitutes a violation that requires legal accountability. Therefore, Algerian authorities should respect the rules of both international and Algerian law. Both laws guarantee freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 19 stipulates that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Article 38 in the Algerian Constitution stipulates that “Fundamental freedoms, human rights and rights of the citizen shall be guaranteed. They shall constitute the common heritage of all Algerian men and women, who shall assume the task of transmitting it from generation to generation so that they may preserve its integrity and inviolability.” Article 41 in the Algerian Constitution stipulates that “Infringements of rights and freedoms as well as any physical or moral attack on the integrity of the human being shall be punishable by law.”
Euro-Med Monitor calls on the Algerian authorities to put an end to the arrest campaign waged over the exercise of freedom of opinion and expression, immediately release all prisoners of conscience, including students, urgently form independent investigation committees to find out those responsible for violating the basic rights of Algerians, whether in public squares or in detention centres, and to hold the perpetrators accountable.