Algeria: Human rights organisations call for immediate release of Algerian activists and journalists

Algeria: Human rights organisations call for immediate release of Algerian activists and journalists - Protection

As the world is focuses on fighting the spread of coronavirus, Algeria is witnessing the persecution of activists and journalists involved with the Hirak. With the Hirak suspended because of the pandemic, the Algerian government has detained many activists and journalists since the beginning of March.  The procedures fully disregard the rights guaranteed by the Algerian judicial system, including the Constitution and the Code of Criminal Proceedings, and go against Algeria’s obligations towards international treaties and conventions.

The journalists and activists who have been targeted include:

Karim Tabbou

An Algerian political activist, founder of the Democratic and Social Union party (UDS) and key figure of the Algerian Hirak, Karim Tabbou was sentenced on March 24 2020 by the Ruisseau Court in Algiers to one year in prison. The procedures that led to his conviction violated the principles of a fair trial, guaranteed by article 56 of the Algerian Constitution, and constitute a serious misdemeanour in Algerian justice. On March 24, the Ruisseau Court of Appeal in Algiers held his trial without notifying his lawyers, and the trial was held in his absence. Tabbou suffered convulsions and a facial paralysis after his request to postpone the trial date was refused. The Kolea prison management refused to authorise a visit from his lawyers on March 25, while he was still suffering.

Ibrahim Daoudji

Ibrahim Daoudji was arrested in Mostaganem on March 16 2020, then escorted and detained in the capital. According to some media sources, he has been on hunger strike since March 16 and is at risk of dying. Daoudji should have had access to a lawyer as prescribed by provisions of article 60.[1] The absence of a lawyer during custody also violates the principle of presumption of innocence guaranteed by the Algerian Constitution’s articles 58 and 59.  The extended and untreated hunger strike is a violation of Article 66 of Algeria’s Constitution, which states that “all citizens shall have the right to protect their health”.

[1] https://www.article19.org/fr/resources/lalgerie-article-19-appelle-a-la-mise-en-liberte-immediate-du-militant-algerien-brahim-douadji/

Samir Belarbi

Samir Belarbia, activist and one of the founders of the Barakat movement, was arrested on March 7, 2020 and has been since then under a warrant of committal. On March 25, the indictment chamber of the Ruisseau Court of Algiers rejected his lawyers’ request for a temporary release. Previously, Belarbi was arrested on September 17, 2019 and convicted to three months in prison for “infringement of the territorial integrity” and “dissemination or detention of publications causing harm to the national interest”. He was released on February 3 by the Ruisseau Court.

Slimane Hamitouche

Slimane Hamitouche is national coordinator of the Missing Persons’ Families National Coordination (CNFD) and SOS Disappeared. He was raised by his maternal uncle, who was abducted in the 1990s and never found again. He has been fighting for the truth for 20 years, along with families of other missing people, and has become a tireless figure of Hirak. He hadn’t missed any demonstrations since February 2019. Since March 7, he has been held at El Harrach prison, charged with “infringement of the territorial integrity” and “inciting crowds”.

On March 25, the Court rejected his request for release and confirmed his warrant of arrest. The arrests of multiple activists in Algeria contravenes the freedom to demonstrate, previously guaranteed by article 49 of the Constitution and aims to intimate and encourage self-censorship.

Abdelouhab Fersaoui

Abdelouhab Fersaoui, President of RAJ Algeria, was arrested in Algiers on October 10, 2019 during a gathering held to support prisoners of conscience. He is charged with “incitement to violence” and “infringement of the territorial integrity.” Since that date, the court has rejected all requests for his release and repeatedly extended his detention: his warrant of arrest which should have expired on February 10, was extended for four additional months by the Court of Sidi-M’hamed. On March, 23, the same court requested to imprison him for two years with a fine of 10,000 Algerian dinars (730€). The verdict is due on April 6. According to article 59 of the Constitution, the temporary detention is an exceptional measure which becomes an arbitrary arrest if extended beyond set deadlines.

Hadj Ghermoul

Active within the Algerian Human Rights Defense League (LADDH) and member of the national committee to defend rights of the unemployed (CNDDC), Hadj Ghermoul was the first to raise a banner protesting against then President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term in January 2019. On Wednesday, March 25, he was sentenced to one year in prison and fined 50,000 dinars (3730€) by the Mascara Court, even though he is still unemployed.

khaled drareni and samir belarbi

Khaled Drareni

Khaled Drareni [2] is an independent journalist, founder of the internet site Casbah Tribune and correspondent for the international French-speaking channel TV5 World and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Drareni was arrested and detained on March 7 while covering a Hirak demonstration in Algiers. On March 25, the Ruisseau Court removed the judicial control and decided to hold him under warrant of arrest. On March 29, the Court of Sidi M’hammed in Algiers upheld the decision of the indictment chamber of the Algiers Court and held him in custody at El Harrach prison. On March 31, according to his lawyer, he was transferred to the Kolea prison.

[2] https://www.article19.org/resources/algeria-article-19-calls-for-the-immediately-release-of-journalist-khaled-drareni/

Sofiene Merakchi

Sofiene Merakchi is a producer for France 24 and RT and correspondent for the Lebanese TV channel Al Mayadeen. He has been held in pre-trial detention since September 26, 2019 by the Court of Bir Mourad Rais for “possession of stolen goods” and “supply of images of demonstrations held on Friday, September 20 to the Al Jazeera channel and other foreign media.” He was the first Algerian journalist to be arrested since the Hirak. His request for release was rejected and on March 29, 2020, the Public Prosecutor at the Court of Bir Mourad Rais requested two years in prison and a penalty amounting to five times the cost of the confiscated equipment.

Belkacim Djir

Journalist Belkacim Djir has been held since July 16, 2019 without a set date for a trial in a common law case. He is simply asking for the right to a fair trial.

Our Call

We, the undersigned national and international human rights organisations, remind the Algerian authorities that the right of expression is a vested and fundamental right for any democracy, challenging the grounds for convicting activists and journalists who simply expressed their political ideas or relayed information from a media standpoint. It is unacceptable to convict people for their political opinions or for undertaking their press duties. These oppressive practices transgress international human rights treaties that Algeria has ratified and are unconstitutional.

We join the calls of lawyers and Algerian civil society and the diaspora in condemning the abuse of the Algerian Code of Criminal proceedings, provisions of the Algerian Constitution and international standards related to fair trials. We consider the lack of respect for the right for life, the right to good health of detainees as well as the absence of defence, the extension of pre-trial detention, conviction of media freedom, and the intimidation of journalists to be a violation of law that must be condemned by Algeria’s highest jurisdiction and by all various jurisdictional authorities in Algeria.

We call on the Algerian authorities to immediately release all[3]journalists and to grant them the freedom and right to report in Algeria, and to also release all political and human rights activists and put an end to judicial proceedings against them.

[3] According to the national committee for the liberation of detainees (CNLD), the number of detainees is about 1200. Source : https://www.elwatan.com/edition/actualite/le-cnld-denonce-lopacite-qui-entoure-ce-dossier-30-03-2020

Signatories

Adala Association for the Right to a Fair Trial
Algerian League for Human Rights
Alter’solidaire Association
ARTICLE 19
Association Beity
Collective of Algerians in Tunisia
Democratic Transition and Human Rights Support Center ( DAAM)
Defense of Individual Liberties Association – ADLI
EuroMed Rights
International Federation for Human Rights
International Press institut
Lebanese Organization for the Unity and Defense of Equal Rights ‘’ LOUDER ’’
Moroccan Association for Human Rights
Moroccan Forum of Young Journalists
Moroccan Organization for Human Rights
National Union of Tunisian Journalists
Prometheus Institute for Democracy and Human Rights
RAJ Youth Action Gathering- Algeria
Euromed France Network (REF)
Algeria Stand-up Movement
Tunisian Economic and Social Rights Forum (FTDES)
Tunisian League for Human Rights
Vigilance Association for Democracy and Civic State

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