Despite the promise of a dialogue by the newly elected Algerian president, members of the pro-democracy movement “Hirak” continues to be arrested and prosecuted by the authorities, Human Rights Watch reported.
Since the presidential election on December 12, 2019, Algerian authorities have detained dozens of activists who participated in peaceful protests, including as recently as January 17, 2020.
Many remain in detention, facing charges based on their participation in peaceful protest or criticism of the authorities after the authorities provisionally released more than 70 activists in January.
“Instead of freeing everyone detained for peaceful protest, the authorities have continued arresting and detaining people for their peaceful activism,” said Eric Goldstein, acting Middle East and North Africa executive director at Human Rights Watch on Tuesday, January 28.
“Offers of dialogue lose credibility when you are locking people up simply for going onto the streets to disagree with you.” Goldstein continued.
At least one prominent journalist was arrested and threatened with prosecution. The authorities charged a novelist with “insulting the president of the Republic” and “harming state security” over his Facebook posts mocking President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. Several prominent leaders of Hirak remain in detention.
The Hirak movement began in February 2019 as millions of Algerians took to the streets to demand that then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika steps down, opposing his candidacy for a fifth term.
After Bouteflika‘s resignation in April, the movement continued its pressure through large demonstrations in several cities calling for a more pluralistic and inclusive system of governance and a boycott of any presidential election that was not preceded by inclusive negotiations over the form it would take.
The authorities largely tolerated the protests at first, but beginning in June, started more aggressively arresting groups of protesters. They intensified the crackdown starting in September by arresting more than 13 leaders of the protest movement. The authorities held the presidential election without meeting the protesters’ conditions.
Following his election, Tebboune, who served as prime minister under former President Bouteflika, declared that he is open to a dialogue with the Hirak movement and announced that the government would “consolidate democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights.”
Algerian courts in several cities provisionally released more than 70 activists on January 2. However, courts in various cities refused the request for provisional release filed by several prominent leaders, including AbdelwahabFarsaoui, a Hirak member, and KarimTabbou, an opposition figure.
The National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees estimates that of the 150 people who were held in pretrial detention or tried for their participation in the protest movement between June and December 2019, approximately 80 remain in prison. (Source: HRW)