Civil society in Algeria operates in a politically complex environment, influenced by attempts at manipulation by different political forces. For over two decades, associations were governed by the highly restrictive Law on Associations (Law 90-31 of 1990) [English] [عربي] [French], which was adopted shortly before a military coup and a prolonged period of violence and terrorism in Algeria. Following the pro-reform uprisings in other Arab countries in early 2011, President Bouteflika pledged that he would enact major political and legislative reforms to address popular discontent, including a number of new laws to enhance individual rights and freedoms.
However, the new Law on Associations (Law 12-06 of 2012) [French] [عربي], adopted in 2012, created additional restrictions on the freedom of association, and generally fails to protect the right in line with Algeria's international obligations. The 2012 Law gives the government broad discretion to refuse to register associations, and fails to provide them with an adequate remedy to appeal a rejection of their registration request. The law also allows the government to suspend an association’s activities or dissolve it on vague grounds, places restrictions on associations’ founders, makes it difficult for associations to receive foreign funds, and imposes heavy fines and criminal penalties for members or leaders of informal associations. Since the Law’s adoption, a number of associations have faced new obstacles in carrying out their activities, with some organizations opting to close down voluntarily rather than confront administrative and legal hurdles.
In addition, in January 2012, Algeria’s government adopted a new Law on Information, which places substantial restrictions on associations’ ability to publish and disseminate information. The law requires all publications to have prior approval from a media regulatory authority. It also restricts expression and access to information that relates to certain subject areas, such as national identity, sovereignty, the economy, and national security. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 32 provisions of the information law can be used to repress free expression; 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).
Most recently, Algeria’s Parliament in February 2016 adopted a series of constitutional amendments. The government had first pledged to reform the constitution in response to popular protests in 2011, and it was hoped that the new reforms would help to strengthen Algeria’s democracy and its framework for fundamental rights. Among other things, the 2016 amendments reintroduce a two-term limit on the presidency, provide for the creation of an independent election commission, and expand on existing protections for the freedoms of assembly and the media. Nonetheless, it remains to be seen if and how the new constitutional provisions will bring about meaningful change for the Algerian people.
|Registration Body||The President of the People's Communal Assembly (for communal associations); the governor of the province in which the association is headquartered (for Wilaya, or provincial, associations); and the Ministry of the Interior for national or inter-Wilaya associations.|
|Approximate Number||1,027 National Associations; 92,627 Local Associations|
|Barriers to Entry||Mandatory registration, restrictions on founders, and excessive government discretion.|
|Barriers to Activities||No "organic 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 association if it believes the association’s activities interfere with the “internal affairs" or threaten the “national sovereignty” of the country.|
|Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy||Associations must obtain prior approval from the government before receiving funds from foreign donors, and are required to have a pre-existing “cooperation agreement.”|
|Barriers to International Contact||Prior approval is required before an association can enter into a “cooperation agreement” with any international association or foreign entity. 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.|
|Barriers to Assembly||Three days advance notification requirement, vague provisions that allow the government to ban assemblies, lack of Constitutional protections for "everyone" to enjoy the right, and excessive criminal penalties and content restrictions.|
|Population||39,542,166 (July 2015 est.)|
|Type of Government||Republic|
|Life Expectancy at Birth||
Male: 75.29 years
|Religious Groups||Sunni Muslim (state religion): 99%; Christian and Jewish: 1%|
|Ethnic Groups||Arab-Berber: 99%; European: less than 1%|
|GDP Per Capita (PPP)||$14,500 (2015 est.)|
Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2016.
|Ranking Body||Rank||Ranking Scale
(best - worst possible)
|UN Human Development Index||83 (2015)||1 – 182|
|World Bank Rule of Law Index||26.6 (2014)||100 – 0|
|World Bank Voice & Accountability Index||22.7 (2014)||100 – 0|
|Transparency International||83 (2015)||1 – 168|
|Freedom House: Freedom in the World||Status: Not Free
Political Rights: 6
Civil Liberties: 5 (2016)
|Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 7
1 – 7
|Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index||Rank: 76 (2016)||177 – 1|
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
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 1976 during the Boumédienne era; it recognized the freedom to associate and form organizations. After public uprisings in 1988, a third constitution was adopted, expanding on several individual freedoms, including by allowing citizens to elect representatives and form political parties. Parts of this constitution were suspended following the 1992 military coup, however, when the government declared a state of emergency. The constitution was again modified in 1996, 2002, and 2008, though without substantial changes with regard to individual rights and freedoms.
The 2011 revolution in neighboring Tunisia and signs of growing discontent among Algerians led President Bouteflika to promise a raft of reforms that included constitutional revisions. Consultations on recommended changes took place from 2011 to late 2015, when President Bouteflika approved the draft amendments, and Parliament approved them in February 2016. Among other things, the amendments reinstate a two-term limit on the office of the presidency, and a requirement that the prime minister be selected from the parliamentary majority rather than directly chosen by the president. The amendments also include provisions expanding on the protection of certain rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly:
Relevant articles of the Constitution include (with 2016 amendments in Italics):
- 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 41 (bis): Freedom of peaceful demonstration shall be guaranteed to citizens within the framework of the law which shall establish how this right can be exercised.
- Article 41 (bis 2): Freedom of printed and audio-visual press and through the media networks shall be guaranteed and may not be restricted by any form of prior control.
This freedom may not be used to prejudice other citizens' dignity, rights and liberties.
Unrestricted publication of information, ideas, pictures and opinions shall be guaranteed within the framework of the law with the respect of the nation's principles and religious, ethical and cultural values.
Press offenses may not be subject to liberty deprivation punishments.
- Article 41 (bis 3): Acquisition and transfer of information, documents and statistics shall be guaranteed to the citizens.
Exercising this right may not prejudice the others' private life, their rights, legal contractual interests, and national security requirements.
The law shall establish the modalities of exercising this right.
- Article 43: The right to create associations is guaranteed by law. The State encourages the development of associative movement. The conditions and clauses of the creation of associations shall be determined by an organic law.
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, limits associations’ ability to receive foreign funds, imposes heavy fines and criminal penalties for members or leaders of informal associations, and fails to provide associations 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 can be used to circumscribe journalism and access to information in several major subject 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 public marches and demonstrations in outdoor public spaces and thoroughfares to apply for prior authorization from interior ministry officials, eight days in advance of the event. Organizers of temporary public “gatherings” are required to notify officials three days in advance. The law allows those officials to deny authorization if the meeting or demonstration "opposes the national values (constants 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
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The most common organizational form for civil society entities under Algerian law is the association. The 2012 Law on Associations 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, or awqaf, are governed by separate laws and are regulated by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Awqaf. Non-Muslim Religious Associations are governed by Ordinance 06 of 2003 on the Conditions and Rules of Practice of Faiths other than Islam; 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 Law on Associations, 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 determine the “public utility” of an association or define the “general interest,” which leaves much to the discretion of the government in deciding on an association’s eligibility. In practice, the Algerian government does not provide any direct or indirect financial benefits, such as tax exemptions or public utility discounts, to associations.
Barriers to Entry
Registration is mandatory for associations operating in Algeria, and requires the prior approval of government authorities. The 2012 Law on Associations 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.” The Law creates numerous obstacles to formation and registration, however. For example:
- The Law on Associations limits those who can create, administer, or run an association to persons who are of legal age, Algerian nationals, and those eligible to enjoy their civil and political rights. In addition, a person may only serve as an executive member if he or she has not 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 Law requires a high minimum number of founding members: ten for a local group, 15 if the group is regional, and 25 if it is national. In addition, extensive information on the founders is required with the association’s establishment documents, including the founders’ marital status, professions, residences, copies of their police records, and – in the case of a national group – proof that the founders of an association come from at least 12 different regions in Algeria.
- The Law gives very broad discretion to the government to refuse to register an association. For example, the law gives the government the right to refuse registration if the purposes and goals of the association’s activities are not “in the general interest” or are contrary Algeria’s “national principles and values, public order, morality, and the laws and regulations in force.” Associations have the right to appeal a denial of registration, but 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 Law requires authorities to issue a deposit receipt when an association submits its registration documents, as well as a final registration receipt once a specified amount of time (30-60 days, depending on the type of group) has lapsed without the government rejecting the registration. However, in practice, authorities often ignore these obligations and withhold the receipts, leaving associations without proof of their legal existence and unable to, e.g., open a bank account or rent property.
On January 12, 2014, pursuant to Article 70 of the 2012 Law on Associations, all existing associations that had not already done so were required to re-register and align their governing statutes with the Law. Any association that did not successfully register by January 12 was deemed illegal, with their members subject to prosecution and possible imprisonment.
Barriers to Operational Activity
The 2012 Law on Associations provides that associations may engage in activities “especially in professional, social, scientific, religious, educational, cultural, sports, environmental, charitable and humanitarian” domains. However, the Law allows the government to dissolve any association that conducts activities outside of those explicitly provided for in its statutes. The Law also prohibits associations from having “any relationship… whether organic or structural” with political parties, or receiving gifts “in any form whatsoever from them.”
As mentioned above, Article 2 requires that the purpose and goals of an association be “in the general interest;” upon registration, the association must define this purpose or purposes “with precision.” Further, associations are allowed to spend money only on activities that are directly related to its purposes.
The Law permits the government to forcibly dissolve an association or suspend its activities for interfering with the “internal affairs of the country” or posing a “threat to national sovereignty.” Such vague grounds give the government excessive discretion to terminate an association, with no judicial oversight or arbitration. While the Law also requires that the authorities give an association warning to comply with the Law, in practice they often ignore this requirement. Further, most active and visible associations report interference by government authorities, including surveillance, monitoring of telephone calls, and difficulty in securing meeting spaces.
Barriers to Speech / Advocacy
There are multiple restrictions on the ability of associations to publicly express themselves. A new Law on Information of January 2012 requires all publications to have prior approval by a media regulatory authority, which among other things limits associations’ ability to conduct advocacy through written materials. Presidential decrees have also criminalized speech concerning certain topics, such as a 2006 presidential decree which makes it a crime to criticize the conduct of security forces during the internal conflict of the 1990s. Finally, in practice, the government restricts free expression through accusations of defamation and informal pressure on associations.
Barriers to International Contact
The Law on Associations requires associations to secure approval from the Ministry of the Interior before entering into a “cooperation agreement” with any international entities. (Under the previous law, associations needed prior approval only in order to join an international organization as a member, not to carry out “cooperation agreements.”) This requirement gives the government broad discretion to restrict different forms of cooperation between Algerian and international associations, and among other things, limits associations’ ability to receive foreign funding and coordinate projects with their peers in the international community. High-ranking government officials have publicly criticized international NGOs and warned civil society against holding meetings with foreign missions that "undermine the country's internal affairs.”
Foreign associations are allowed to operate in Algeria, but their authorization may be suspended or withdrawn if the Interior Ministry deems their activities “likely to affect the national sovereignty, the established institutional order, the national unity or integrity of the national territory, public morality and order, or the national values of the Algerian people.” They may likewise be de-authorized for carrying out activities outside those provided for in their statutes. 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 Resources
The Law allows associations to receive funding from limited 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 Law further prohibits an association from receiving funds from foreign missions or non-governmental organizations except under a “duly established cooperation agreement,” a term that the Law does not define. As described above, however, the Law requires prior approval from the government before an Algerian association may enter into such an agreement. An organization that violates this provision may face dissolution.
Barriers to Assembly
Lack of Legal Protections
Algeria’s Constitution protects the freedom of assembly in Article 41, which states, “The freedom of expression, association, and assembly is guaranteed to the citizen.” However, in contravention of ICCPR, the right is not extended to “everyone,” as non-citizens are excluded.
Repressive assembly legislation, in combination with harsh decrees and an ongoing state of emergency from 1992 to 2011, have restricted Algerians’ ability to assemble. In 1991, Parliament amended and supplemented Law No. 89-28 of 1989 on Public Meetings and Demonstrations, narrowing the right to assemble and conduct meetings. The resulting law (Law No. 91-19) continues to regulate freedom of assembly in Algeria. A 2001 ban on all demonstrations in Algiers, enacted after a violent confrontation between protestors and police in the capital city, also remains in effect. In April 2015, for instance, police prevented a public march led by retirees and pensioners from entering Algiers to demonstrate in front of the Presidency.
Additionally, a state of emergency was imposed by presidential decree in 1992, enabling a crackdown on demonstrations and anti-government protests which were becoming widespread and occasionally violent at that time. The state of emergency was continually extended pursuant to legislative orders, until February 23, 2011, when it was finally lifted. Nonetheless, authorities continue to prohibit and crush demonstrations pursuant to Law 91-19 and the 2001 decree.
Law 91-19 prohibits any meeting or demonstration that “opposes national fundamental principles” or that harms “the symbols of the revolution of November 1, the public order or public morals.” Such vague language allows the government excessive discretion in forbidding an assembly based on its objectives.
Law No. 91-19 requires that organizers of “public gatherings” notify the government at least three days prior to the gathering (Articles 5, 15). The Law defines “public gatherings” as “temporary rallies of people, agreed upon beforehand and organized outside public roads in a closed place that is easy for people to join. Its purpose is the exchange of ideas or the defense of joint interests.” Authorities may prohibit the gathering with no obligation to explain their decision.
The Law distinguishes “public demonstrations,” which it defines as “processions, parades, or gatherings of people in a public manner, and all demonstrations that go through public roads.” For public demonstrations, the law requires that organizers request approval from the governor eight days before the demonstration’s planned date. The governor must make a decision, accepting or refusing the request, at least five days before the date set for holding the demonstration.
Appeals against administrative decisions in general are subject to Articles 800 and 801 of the Civil and Administrative Procedure Code. Organizers of an assembly can thereby appeal a negative decision to an administrative court. However, groups have reported that, in practice, the authorities often wait until the last minute to notify assembly organizers of a refusal, giving them no time to appeal the decision to a court before the assembly’s start date.
Law No. 91-19 prohibits, “in any gathering or demonstration any prejudice towards national constants, or to the symbols of the November 1 Revolution, public order, or public morals.” The Law does not provide further definition for these terms.
Law No. 91-19 imposes possible imprisonment and fines for participation in an illegal assembly. Article 23 states that “[a]nyone found responsible for participating in the organization of an unauthorized demonstration will get either a prison sentence ranging from three months to a year, a fine between 3,000 and 15,000 Algerian Dinars, or both.”
|UN Universal Periodic Review Reports||Universal Periodic Review: Algeria (2012)|
|Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs||Algeria|
|USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes||Not available|
|U.S. State Department||2013 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Algeria
Advancing Freedom and Democracy Reports, 2010: Algeria
|Fragile States Index Reports||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|
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 email@example.com.
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The foregoing information was collected by ICNL LLC Middle East / North Africa Regional office in Amman, Jordan.