Overuse of pretrial detention remained a problem in this North African country, said the US annual Human Rights Report. Although the law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, authorities sometimes used vaguely worded provisions, such as “inciting an unarmed gathering” and “insulting a government body,” to arrest and detain individuals considered to be disturbing public order or criticizing the government, explained the document.
Amnesty International and other human rights organizations criticized the law prohibiting unauthorized gatherings and called for its amendment to require only notification as opposed to application for authorization, stressed the US Department report, noting that Algerian police arrested protesters throughout the year for violating the law against unregistered public gatherings.
According to the US document, Algerian authorities held two leaders of the unregistered Ahmadi Muslim community in pretrial detention from February until May 2017 on charges related to their unauthorized religious activities. Throughout the year, police arrested approximately 26 members of the Ahmadi community.
The US Human rights report also recalled the arrest in 2015 of Nacer Eddine Hadjadj, former mayor of Beriane municipality and member of the Rally for Culture and Democracy party, for intercommunal violence in Ghardaia. The man was convicted to three years in prison, reportedly on charges of possession of firearms and holding an armed assembly.
The report also said that Algerian authorities use antiterrorism laws and restrictive laws on freedom of expression and public assembly to detain political activists and outspoken critics of the government.
In 2016, a Tamanrasset court convicted Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Unemployed Workers activist Abdelali Ghellam to a year in prison following his 2015 arrest on charges of taking part in an unauthorized gathering and obstructing traffic.
Regarding the situation of freedom of expression in Algeria, the document said the freedom of speech and press is restricted, citing in this regard the Algerian government harassment of some critics; arbitrary enforcement of vaguely worded laws; informal pressure on publishers, editors, advertisers, and journalists; and control of a significant proportion of the country’s advertising money and printing capabilities.
Some media figures say Algerian authorities used its control over most printing houses and large amounts of public sector advertising preferentially, and that the lack of clear regulations over these practices permitted it to exert undue influence on press outlets.