Algeria: Amnesty Condemns Use of Excessive Force against Peaceful Demonstrations

Algerian security forces must stop using excessive or unnecessary force to disperse peaceful demonstrations against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term in office, said Amnesty International.

Since 22 February, a series of largely peaceful demonstrations have taken place across the country including protests by lawyers, students and journalists opposing a fifth mandate for President Bouteflika in the upcoming presidential elections on 18 April.

“As tensions rise amid growing protests, we are appealing to the Algerian authorities to exercise restraint, respect the rights of demonstrators and not to use excessive or unnecessary force to quell peaceful protests,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty Deputy Director for the MENA region.

“The world’s eyes are on Algeria right now and how the government chooses to respond to these demonstrations will be a crucial test of its commitment to upholding the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly”, added the AI official.

The vast majority of protests have been peaceful. However, at least 41 protesters have been arrested since the demonstrations began last Friday, according to official figures.

Most were arbitrarily detained for a few hours before being released. In addition, at least four journalists were detained Thursday while participating in and covering a protest calling for freedom of the press; they too were subsequently released.

“Targeting protesters with arbitrary arrest or prosecutions would be a flagrant violation of the right to freedom of expression and assembly”, said Magdalena Mughrabi, calling on Algerian authorities to respect the right to freedom of movement of protesters and ensure that journalists are able to report freely on the demonstrations with no censorship of media coverage.

Algerians of all walks of life are protesting in large numbers over moves to maintain ailing longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika in power. They are angry that they had no voice in Bouteflika’s decision to stand for office again. Instead, it was Algeria’s military and civilian elites who, unable to agree on a successor, determined that Bouteflika must run again to ensure the regime’s continuity.

The 81-year-old Bouteflika has ruled the country since 1999 and will run for a fifth term in office in April despite rarely being seen in public or addressing the nation since he had a stroke in 2013.

Algerian popular demonstrations are building up, challenging the security apparatus. The protesters want that Bouteflika drop his bid for re-election, calling him unfit to rule.

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