Algerian FlagNGO Law Monitor: Algeria

Introduction | At a Glance | Key Indicators | International Rankings
Legal Snapshot | Legal Analysis | Reports | News and Additional Resources

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Last updated 12 September 2013

Introduction

Civil society in Algeria operates in a politically complex environment, influenced by attempts at manipulation by different political forces. In 1987, the government promulgated a new law on associations which had limited effect in instituting reform. The highly restrictive Law on Associations (Law 90-31 of 1990) [English] [عربي] [French] was adopted shortly before the military coup and the start of a decade of violence and terrorism. This law was replaced in January 2012 with a new Law on Associations (Law 12-06 of 2012) [French] [عربي], which also fails to protect the freedom of association consistent with Algeria's international obligations. It provides the government broad discretion to refuse to register an association and suspend the activities of an association, places restrictions on the founders of associations, makes it difficult for NGOs to receive foreign funds, imposes heavy fines and criminal penalties for members or leaders of informal associations, and fails to provide NGOs with an adequate remedy to appeal the rejection of their registration.

In addition, the government of Algeria adopted a new Law on Information on January 12, 2012. Two NGOs, Le Coffectif des Familles de Disparus en Algerie (CDFA) and SOS Disparus, reported that the new Law on Information prohibits non-registered groups like CDFA and SOS from disseminating and publishing information, hindering those groups' ability to operate.1 The law requires all publications to have prior approval by a media regulatory authority. It also restricts expression and access to information in several major areas, such as national identity, sovereignty, the economy, and national security. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least thirty-two provisions can be used to repress free expression, and many are broadly written and could serve as a pretext for unwarranted censorship. Violations under this law can result in fines of up to 500,000 dinars (about $6,700 US).

1 "Deux associations de disparus denoncent un atteinte a leurs libertes," Tout Sur L'Algerie.

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At a Glance

Organizational Forms Associations
Registration Body The President of the people's communal assembly for communal associations; the governor of the province in which the NGO is headquartered (the “wali” of the “wilaya”) for Wilaya associations; and the Ministry of the Interior for national or inter Wilaya associations.
Approximate Number 962 National Associations; 77,361 Local Associations
Barriers to Entry Mandatory registration, restrictions on founders, and excessive government discretion.
Barriers to Activities No "institutional or structural relations" with political parties. The law provides a limited number of areas in which associations can engage, including "professional, social, scientific, religious, educational, cultural, sports, environmental, charitable and humanitarian domains." The government can suspend an NGO if it believes the NGO's activities interfere with the "internal business" of the country.
Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy The 2012 Law on Information, No. 12-5, could further restrict expression and access to information on several topics, such as national identity, sovereignty, the economy, and security. It also requires all publications to be approved by a media regulatory authority.
Barriers to International Contact Prior approval is required before any NGO can join an international association or federation. The government has broad discretion to withdraw authorization for a foreign association to operate in Algeria.
Barriers to Resources Associations are prohibited from receiving funds from foreign funders outside of "official cooperation relationships," a term that is undefined. The 2012 Law on Associations does not list "economic activities" as a potential resource for an association.

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Key Indicators

Population 37,367,226 (July 2012 est.)
Capital Algiers
Type of Government Republic
Life Expectancy at Birth Male: 72.99 years
Female: 76.57 years (2012 est.)
Literacy Rate Male: 79.6%
Female: 60.1% (2002 est.)
Religious Groups Sunni Muslim (state religion): 99%; Christian and Jewish: 1%
Ethnic Groups Arab-Berber: 99%; European: less than 1%
GDP Per Capita $7,300 (2011 est.)

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2013.

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International Rankings

Ranking Body Rank Ranking Scale
(best - worst possible)
UN Human Development Index 96 (2011) 1 – 182
World Bank Rule of Law Index 24.9 (2011) 100 – 0
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index 18.3 (2011) 100 – 0
Transparency International 105 (2012) 1 180
Freedom House: Freedom in the World Status: Not Free
Political Rights: 6
Civil Liberties: 5 (2012)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 7
1 – 7
Foreign Policy: Failed States Index 2012 Rank: 77 (2012) 177 – 1

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Legal Snapshot

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements Ratification* Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Yes 1989
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1) Yes 1989
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Yes 1989
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR) No --
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) Yes 1972
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Yes 1996
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women No --
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Yes 1993
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW) Yes 2005
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) Yes 2009
Key Regional Agreements Ratification* Year
Arab Charter on Human Rights Yes 2007
African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights Yes 1987
African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child Yes 2003
Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community Yes 2001
Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa Yes 2003
Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights Yes 2003

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

Constitutional Framework

The first Algerian Constitution was passed in 1963 by referendum following the end of the War of Independence with France. Algeria’s second constitution was passed in the Boumédienne era (in 1976), and recognized the freedom to associate and form organizations in Article 56 (although the mention was both brief and vague). The requirement that Associations be constituted under the Unic party limited their liberty. A third constitution was written in 1988 following riots, which expanded several freedoms and allowed citizens to elect representatives and to form political parties. The 1992 military coup, however, suspended parts of this constitution because the government declared a state of emergency. The constitution was again modified in 1996, and included unprecedented reforms to liberty of public manifestation. The 1996 constitution was revised in 2002 and 2008, but without major changes. The 2011 revolution in neighboring Tunisia spurred two months of consultations on how to amend Algeria's constitution. A committee completed drafting recommended changes in June 2011, but these proposals have not been presented to the public.

Relevant articles of the Constitution:

  • Article 33: Individual or associative defense of the fundamental human rights and individual and collective liberties is guaranteed.
  • Article 41: Freedom of expression, association and assembly are guaranteed to the citizen.
  • Article 43: The right to create associations is guaranteed. The State encourages the development of associative movement. The law defines the conditions and clauses of the creation of associations.

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

Relevant national legislation includes the following:

  • Law on Associations (Law 12-06 of 2012) [Français] [عربي]: The law replaces the highly restrictive Law on Associations (Law 90-31 of 1990) [English] [عربي] [Français], but still fails to adequately guarantee the right to freedom of association consistent with Algeria’s international obligations. The new law affords the government broad discretion to refuse to register an association and suspend the activities of an association, places restrictions on the founders of associations, makes it difficult for NGOs to receive foreign funds, imposes heavy fines and criminal penalties for members or leaders of informal associations, and fails to provide NGOs with an adequate remedy to appeal the rejection of their registration.
  • Law on Information (Law 12-05 of 2012): This law replaces the 1990 media law and could restrict journalism and access to information in several major areas, including national identity, sovereignty, the economy, and security. The law requires all publications to have prior approval by a media regulatory authority.  According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least thirty-two provisions can be used to repress free expression, and many are broadly written and could serve as a pretext for unwarranted censorship. Violations under this law can result in fines of up to 500,000 dinars (about $6,700 US).  
  • Law on Public Meetings and Gatherings (Law 19-91 of 1990): The law requires organizers of gatherings, marches and processions in outdoor public spaces and thoroughfares to apply for prior authorization from ministry of interior officials eight days in advance of the event. The law allows those officials to deny authorization if the meeting or demonstration "opposes the national values (constantes nationales) or ... undermines the symbols of the Revolution of November 1, the public order, or morality."
  • Ordinance on the Conditions and Rules of Practice of Faiths other than Islam (Ordinance 06-03 of 2006) [Français]

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

Please help keep us informed; if you are aware of pending initiatives, write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

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Legal Analysis

Organizational Forms

The most common civil society organizational form under Algerian law is the association. The 2012 Associations Act defines associations as “individuals or legal entities” that “form a group on a contractual basis for a specific or non-specific period of time and share in a common, voluntary, and non-profit purpose." 

Religious associations, awqaf, are governed by separate laws and are regulated by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Awqaf. Non-Muslim Religious Associations are governed by Law 06 of 2003 and the National Commission for Non-Muslim Religious Services is responsible for registering and regulating these groups.

Public Benefit Status

According to Article 34 of the 2012 Associations Act, associations regarded as “being in the general interest and/or of public utility” can receive financial aid from the government. But the law does not state how to measure the “public benefit” of an association, which leaves much to the discretion of the government.  And in actuality, the Algerian government does not provide any direct or indirect financial benefits, such as tax exemptions or public utility discounts to NGOs.

Barriers to Entry

Registration is mandatory for associations operating in Algeria. The law provides for between three months and six months imprisonment or a fine of 100,000 dinars ($1,350) to 300,000 dinars ($4,040) for being part of an association that is “not yet registered.”  

There are a number of obstacles to the establishment and registration of associations. Rather than encourage the formation of associations, the law and government policies seem specifically designed to discourage associations and civil society in general.  For example:

  • The 2012 Associations Act gives wide discretion to the government to refuse to issue a registration receipt.  For example, the law gives the government the right to refuse issuance of a receipt if the purposes and goals of the association’s activities are not “in the general interest” or “contrary to public order, good morals and provisions of the laws and regulations currently in force.” Even though associations are granted the right to appeal a denial of registration, the government can bring additional proceedings to annul the creation of the association altogether and nullify a previous ruling in its favor. This final procedure has no appeal and, moreover, is not decided by an independent court.
  • The 2012 Associations Act also provides a limited number of areas in which associations can engage, including “professional, social, scientific, religious, educational, cultural, sports, environmental, charitable and humanitarian domains.”
  • The Act restricts who can create, administer, or run association to persons who are of legal age, Algerian nationals, and eligible for his or her civil and civic rights. In addition, if a person serves as an executive member, he or she may not have been sentenced for a crime or flagrant offence incompatible with the field of activity of the association, unless he or she has been rehabilitated.
  • The Act prescribes needlessly burdensome provisions on founding members, including a high minimum number of founders (between ten and twenty-five, depending on the type of association); information on the founders’ marital status, professions, residences, and copies of their police records; and that the founders of an association come from different regions in Algeria.   
  • A foreign association can be de-authorized if it “clearly interferes in the affairs of the host country or performs activities that violate national sovereignty, the established institutional order, national unity, the integrity of the national territory, public order and morality, or the national values of the Algerian people.” An association is considered foreign if one director or board member is a foreign national. Foreign NGOs might also be prohibited from operating in Algeria if the foreign association’s host country has not concluded a bilateral agreement with Algeria.

Barriers to Operational Activity

The 2012 Associations Law provides a limited number of areas in which associations can engage, including “professional, social, scientific, religious, educational, cultural, sports, environmental, charitable and humanitarian domains.” This provision could be interpreted to impose broad restrictions on associations that are not explicitly referenced, such as human rights organizations. Moreover, Article 2 appears to permit only associations with purposes that benefit the public to register. Member benefit organizations, such as clubs, trade associations, and neighborhood groups, do not appear be permitted under the new Law. 

Associations are allowed to spend money only on activities that are directly related to its objectives.

The Law further permits the government to forcibly dissolve an association for interfering with the “internal business of the country” or posing a “threat to national sovereignty,” vague grounds that leave leaving excessive government discretion.

Associations are prohibited from having any “institutional or structural relations” with political parties.  Most active and visible associations report interference by government authorities, including surveillance, monitoring of telephone calls, and difficulty in securing meeting spaces.2


2 United States Department of State 2010 Human Rights Report: Algeria.

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

There are multiple restrictions on the ability of associations to assemble, demonstrate or publicly express themselves.  

There are barriers on the ability of NGOs to criticize the government or to advocate politically unpopular causes.  For example, a 2000 decree bans demonstrations in Algiers, and a 2006 presidential decree continues to criminalize speech about the conduct of the security forces during the internal conflict of the 1990s.3

A new Law on Information of January 2012 could restrict the work of journalists and access to information in several topics, such as national identity, sovereignty, the economy, and security. The law also requires all publications to have prior approval by a media regulatory authority. Furthermore, the government restricts free expression through accusations of defamation and informal pressure.4


3 Id.
4 Id.

Barriers to International Contact

The law requires associations to secure approval from the Ministry of the Interior before joining an international association or federation. This requirement hinders associations from meeting with their peers in the international community to compare experience and exchange ideas.  Moreover, the Prime Minister has warned civil society and political organizations about holding meetings (with foreign missions) that "undermine the country's internal affairs."5

Foreign associations are now allowed to operate in Algeria but can be de-authorized if it “clearly interferes in the affairs of the host country or performs activities that violate national sovereignty, the established institutional order, national unity, the integrity of the national territory, public order and morality, or the national values of the Algerian people.” An association is considered foreign if one director or board member is a foreign national. Foreign NGOs might also be prohibited from operating in Algeria if the foreign association’s host country has not concluded a bilateral agreement with Algeria.


5 United States Department of State 2009 Human Rights Report: Algeria.

Barriers to Resources

Associations may only receive funding from a limited number of sources: membership fees, income from associational activities and assets, donations, income derived from collections, and subsidies. The 2012 Law on Associations does not list “economic activities” as a potential resource for an association.

The 2012 Law on Associations prohibits an association from receiving funds from foreign associations outside of “official cooperation relationships,” a term that the law does not define. An organization that violates this provision may face dissolution.

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Reports

UN Universal Periodic Review Reports Universal Periodic Review: Algeria (2008)
Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs Algeria
USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes Not available
U.S. State Department 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Algeria
Advancing Freedom and Democracy Reports, 2010: Algeria
Failed States Index Reports 2012 Foreign Policy Failed States Index
IMF Country Reports Algeria and the IMF
International Commission of Jurists Algeria
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library Algeria

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News and Additional Resources

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change.  If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

General News

Protest Picnic Defends Ramadan Rights of Algerian Christians (September 2013)
About 200 people ate together at a public lunch in the town of Tizi Ouzou to protest against the "persecution of non-fasters and creeping Islamisation" in the Kabylie region in northern Algeria. Local law enforcement agencies looked on but did not act as sandwiches and soft drinks were shared during a picnic held just a short stroll from law enforcement headquarters. "This is Kabylie, and here we do what we want. We have to respect our culture, our traditions, our individual and religious freedoms. It doesn't matter if they're Jewish, Christian or Muslim," one protester told the BBC.

New Law On Associations Used to Stifle Civil Society (May 2013)
The conviction of an activist in Algeria after he distributed leaflets about unemployment in the country is a worrying sign that a new law regulating associations is being used to restrict civil society groups' activities, Amnesty International said. On May 6, Abdelkader Kherba, a member of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH) and the National Committee for the Defence of the Rights of the Unemployed (CNDDC) was sentenced to a two-month suspended prison term and a fine of 20,000 Algerian dinars (about USD 250) for distributing leaflets on unemployment in Algeria in June 2011.

EU-Algeria Association Council: Priority to Human Rights!  (December 2012)
On the eve of the seventh EU-Algeria Association Council on December 6, 2012, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Coalition of Families of the Disappeared in Algeria (CFDA), the Algerian League for Human Rights Defense (LADDH), the National Independent Union of Public Servants (SNAPAP), the Network of Lawyers for the Human Rights (RADDH) and the Association for Change and Democracy in Algeria (ACDA) are urging the EU to give greater priority to human rights. In particular, these organizations call on the EU to make this issue, including gender equality and democratic reforms, a priority of the agenda of the Association Council, which is one of the stages of the negotiations on the adoption of an ENP Action Plan with Algeria in the framework of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP).

Algerian Government reconciles with citizens (November 2012)
Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal saida new watchdog group will monitor the social atmosphere, trends and changes allowing the government to act in a timely manner and better understand its citizens. A new committee will be created "at the service of the citizens, not the other way around", Sellal promised.

Human rights activist arrested by Algerian police (October 2012)
A member of a leading human rights organization has been beaten and arrested in southern Algeria. The lawyer for Yacine Zaid said Tuesday that his client had been punched and beaten by police when they arrested him at a road block in Ouargla , 700 kilometers (435 miles) south of the capital. The lawyer, Sidhoum Mohamed Amine, said Zaid was arrested Monday on the grounds that he had shown a lack of respect for police.

UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay calls for Algeria to reconsider restrictions on CSOs (September 2012)
The United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay urged the Government of Algeria to reconsider restrictions and impediments being placed on civil society organizations. “While recognizing that the driving force behind this state of affairs is rooted in security concerns, I encourage the Government to review the laws and practices relating to civil society organizations and freedom of assembly, and also to order all security forces to refrain from violating internationally recognized instruments guaranteeing the right to freedom of association,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said at the end of a three-day visit.

Algeria rights activist cleared of charges (September 2012)
An Algerian rights activist Abdelkader Kherba was acquitted by an Algerian court in Ksar el-Boukari, his hometown, in the southwestern Algeria. "The case was without foundation and any decision other than his release would have been surprising," his lawyer Amine Sidhoum said. The 32-year-old was arrested on August 21 at a demonstration against water cuts in Ksar el-Boukari. He later launched a hunger strike to protest his detention. Kherba had been preparing to film the demonstration when a policeman forcefully stopped him and an angry exchange between the two followed, resulting in his arrest.

ANHRI denounces detention of four activists in Algeria on assembly charges (June 2012)
The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) denounced the detention and trial of four human rights activists in Algeria on charges of violating assembly laws. The four activists were called to stand before Bab-elwad court for demanding in a peaceful manner the release of Abdel-kader Kharba, who is a member of the National Commission for the Rights of the Unemployed (CNDDC) and the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH). Kharba was arrested on April 19 for his taking part in a peaceful sit-in in solidarity with court clerks demanding better working conditions. These violations come shortly after the issuance of legislative amendments which allowed the Algerian government to tighten its grip on civil society. In January 2012, the Algerian parliament approved amendments to the Law on Associations that include limitations on the right of assembly.

Upcoming elections must address civil society's legitimate demands on freedom of association (May 2012)
United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Mr. Maina Kiai, urged Algerian authorities to seize the unique opportunity offered by the upcoming legislative elections to ensure that the new regulations for civil society organizations, adopted at the end of last year, adequately meet the requirements of international human rights law. “The legislative elections, scheduled on Thursday, 10 May 2012, must address civil society’s legitimate demands and uphold freedom of association,” Mr. Kiai stressed. “While the Arab Spring paved the way for a more inclusive participation of civil society, it is highly regrettable that Algeria has now taken a step backwards in relation to freedom of association by placing more rigorous limits on the scope of associations’ activities or their access to funding.”

Harassment of union leaders and bans on demonstrations continue in Algeria despite the repeal of the state of emergency (March 2012)
Human rights defenders, in particular union activists, remain the targets of harassment by the authorities in Algeria. On February 26, 2012, 40 members of the National Workers' Committee on Pre-employment and the Social Net of the National Independent Union of Public Servants (Syndicat national autonome des personnels de l'administration publique, SNAPAP) were arrested during a sit-in demonstration staged in front of the Maison de la Presse in Algiers, where participants were calling for recognition of the rights of unemployed and casual workers. On the same day, 40 contract teachers, along with the president and the general secretary of the Contract Teachers' National Council (a SNAPAP affiliate), were also arrested at a sit-in held in front of the Presidency of the Republic in Algiers to call for the granting of tenure. These kinds of arrests have become commonplace against union activists who are the targets of constant harassment by police and by the judicial authorities.

New Media Law Stifles Free Expression, says CPJ (January 2012)
The Algerian government has touted the media law, which went into effect on January 12, as a major step in the advancement of press freedom in the country, but local journalists and civil society activists believe it is still restrictive and are calling for its revision.

News archive

New Algerian Association Law faces citicism (December 2011)

Algeria's Bouteflika to end State TV and radio control (September 2011)

Algerian women test the 'Arab Spring' winds (March 2011) 

Change in Algeria fundamental for human rights and security (February 2011)

Rally for culture and democracy (January 2011)

Algeria seeks unified Maghreb religious authority to fight extremism (April 2010)

U.S., Algeria sign first Legal Assistance Treaty (April 2010)

Aid groups advocate solution to decades-old warehousing of refugees (April 2010)

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The foregoing information was collected by ICNL LLC Middle East / North Africa Regional office in Amman, Jordan.