Human Rights Watch urged Algerian authorities to cease criminal prosecutions against bloggers, journalists and media figures for peaceful speech, using articles in the penal code criminalizing “offending the president,” “insulting state officials” or “denigrating Islam.”
The International Human Rights Watchdog called on Algeria to accept key recommendations included in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) concerning the freedom of speech, assembly and association. In particular, it should accept the recommendation to revise or repeal Law 12-06 on associations, a law extensively used by the government to restrict freedom of association.
“They should also accept to facilitate the issuance of visas and accreditations without restriction to representatives of international organizations defending human rights and to foreign journalists, and reply favorably to the pending requests of the UN human rights experts and mechanisms to visit Algeria,” HRW said.
Algeria still has prison sentences in its legislation for nonviolent speech offenses, such as for insults and defamation. These articles were used during the review period to prosecute over a dozen people, some of whom went to prison, deplored HRW.
It also regretted that Algerian authorities continue to prosecute labor activists who organized or called for peaceful demonstrations on charges such as “unauthorized gathering,” and they continue to ban demonstrations in Algiers.
Since 2016, Algeria has prosecuted more than 266 Ahmadis, a minority religious group, and sentenced more than a hundred to prison sentences. It is more than ever important that Algeria respects the international conventions it has signed, which guarantee freedom of religion and conscience and prohibit arbitrary interference by the state in people’s beliefs.