Amnesty International Slams Restrictions of Freedoms in Algeria

Amnesty International had denounced the continued restrictions imposed by Algerian authorities on the rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and religion.

In its annual report 2016-17 on the state of human rights in the world, AI decried the prosecution in Algeria of peaceful critics, including human rights defenders, in unfair trials, and the forced closure of media outlets.

In March, a court in Tlemcen convicted and fined Zoulikha Belarbi, a member of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH), for defamation and for “offending” the President and a public body, says Amnesty.

The charges related to her publishing a satirical collage on Facebook depicting President Bouteflika and senior officials. A six-month prison term was added to her sentence on appeal in December.

In June, the authorities arrested the director and the producer of the private Khabar Broadcasting Corporation and a Ministry of Communication official in connection with two popular satirical current affairs programs.

The three were detained for several weeks before a court sentenced them to suspended prison terms of between six months and one year for licensing irregularities.

According to AI, Algerian Gendarmes sealed the recording studios in July, forcing both shows off the air. Freelance journalist Mohamed Tamalt was also sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for “offending” the President and public institutions in comments he published on Facebook and in his blog about corruption and nepotism among leading officials.

Mohamed Tamalt died in prison on December 11, 2016 after a six-month long hunger strike.

The list of the victims from the Algerian media world also includes Hassan Bouras, a journalist and human rights activist, who was sentenced to one year in prison on charges of complicity in offending public officials and a public body after a private television station broadcast a film of him interviewing three people alleging police and judicial corruption.

As to the situation of human rights defenders in Algeria, it is no better as these advocates are harassed and prosecuted.

In March, a court in Ghardaia charged lawyer Noureddine Ahmine with “insulting a public institution” and falsely reporting an offence, in relation to a complaint of torture that he had filed, apparently on behalf of a client, in 2014, recalls Amnesty report.

Noureddine Ahmine had defended many protesters and journalists facing charges arising from their peaceful exercise of their human rights.

In June, an investigative judge in Ghardaia issued an arrest warrant against lawyer Salah Dabouz, a member of LADDH, in relation to comments he made about unrest in Ghardaia and for allegedly taking a computer and camera into a prison.

In March the UN Human Rights Committee found that Algeria had violated Articles 2, 7 and 9 of the ICCPR. Its findings related to the failure to investigate allegations by businessman Mejdoub Chani that DRS officers had detained him incommunicado and tortured him during interrogation following his arrest for corruption and money laundering in 2009. He remained in prison at the end of the year awaiting the outcome of appeals to the Supreme Court.

Amnesty International also says the Algerian government continued to allow impunity for serious human rights abuses committed during the 1990s, by failing to investigate past abuses and hold those responsible to account.

According to AI, the unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, rape and other torture acts committed by the security forces, as well as some abuses committed by armed groups, may amount to crimes against humanity

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