Algeria

Last updated: 2 March 2021

Coronavirus Response

On March 17, 2020, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune banned all protests, marches, demonstrations, and other mass gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing an end to the weekly Hirak anti-government protests that had continued for more than a year. The government has also been accused of using the COVID-19 crisis as a pretext to arrest independent journalists including those who covered the Hirak movement, and to implement other restrictive measures.

For example, on April 1, 2020, as a measure against the COVID-19 pandemic, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune pardoned 5,037 prisoners whose remaining sentences were 12 months or less. However, none of the Hirak detainees awaiting trial were pardoned. Moreover, after April 2020, the authorities furthered their crackdown by imprisoning opposition leaders and prominent journalists, and summoned for questioning dozens of political activists. Victims of this wave of repression included journalist Sofiane Merakchi, who was sentenced to eight months in prison on April 5, 2020, and Abdelouahab Fersaoui, an activist and head of the civic group Youth Action Rally (RAJ). Fessaoui was sentenced to one year in prison on April 6, 2020.

In addition, on April 22, 2020, the Algerian government presented Law 20-06 amending the Penal Code to the parliament [عربي] [French]. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government opted for a “restricted” parliamentary debate. The Law entered into force on April 29, 2020 and increased prison sentences for defamation, introduced new penalties, including prison sentences, for the dissemination of “false information,” and restricted CSOs’ ability to obtain foreign funding.

Further, on May 25, 2020, anti-regime protests resumed in several cities across Algeria after over two months of interruption due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The protests were in support of individuals currently being detained for their involvement in the Hirak movement.

It is also relevant to note that as part of a package of measures to combat COVID-19, Algeria’s Parliament adopted amendments to the Penal Code on April 23, 2020 that heightened restrictions on freedom of expression during a public health crisis. The amendments increased prison sentences for defamation, and introduced new penalties including prison sentences for the dissemination of false information. Under the amendments, offenders faced prison sentences of between one and three years, but penalties were heightened if the offence takes place “at a time of a public health lockdown or a natural, biological or technological catastrophe or any other form of catastrophe,” with first time offenders facing up to five years in prison.

The Penal Code amendments adopted as part of the COVID-19 package also created a new criminal offense that may be used to restrict funding for civil society leaders and organizations. The amendments provided that an individual who receives funds by any means, from a person or entity whether foreign or domestic, for activities “likely to undermine state security, stability, or normal functioning of [state] institutions,” or undermine “the fundamental interests of Algeria” or “public security and order” may be punished by up to seven years in prison. The penalty was doubled to up to 14 years if the individual receives the funds as part of an organization or association. The Penal Code amendments came into force on April 29, 2020.

Learn more about how Algeria’s COVID-19 response impacts civic freedoms with ECNL-ICNL’s COVID-19 Civic Freedom Tracker.

Update

On February 19, 2021, the authorities ordered the release of dozens of detainees who had been arrested in connection with the pro-democracy demonstrations after President Tebboune granted a “presidential pardon” to around 60detainees. Among those released was journalist Khaled Drareni, who was convicted on appeal on September 15, 2020. Drareni, however, was still waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on his appeal on March 25, 2021. Tebboune also announced the dissolution of the National Popular Assembly and called for early elections. It was reported that these measures, which were announced on the eve of the Hirak‘s second anniversary on February 22, 2021, were taken in an attempt to prevent the revival of the protests that had diminished in intensity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Introduction

The 1990s were marked by large-scale human rights violations committed during the Algerian civil war, which stretched from 1991 until 2002. While the state of emergency was lifted in 2011, fundamental freedoms remain restricted and demonstrations are still prohibited in the capital. Although the authorities tolerated peaceful demonstrations in the beginning of the Hirak movement, they resumed arresting groups of protesters in June 2019.

2012–2019: Restrictive Legal Framework

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 2012 Law on Associations (Law 12-06 of 2012) [French] [عربي] created additional restrictions on the freedom of association and generally fails to protect the right in line with Algeria’s international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This law gave the government broad discretion to refuse to register associations and failed to provide an adequate remedy to appeal the rejection of a registration request. Most notably, the law allowed the executive to refuse to register any association whose purpose would be contrary to “national constants and values, public order, good morals and the provisions of the laws in force.”

The law also allowed the government to suspend an association’s activities or dissolve it on vague grounds, placed restrictions on associations’ founders, made it difficult for associations to receive foreign funds, and imposed heavy fines and criminal penalties for members or leaders of informal associations. After the law’s adoption, a number of associations 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 required all publications to have prior approval from a media regulatory authority. It also restricted 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 could be used to repress free expression; many were broadly written and could serve as a pretext for unwarranted censorship. Violations under this law could result in fines of up to 500,000 dinars (about $6,700 US).

In February 2016, Algeria’s Parliament 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. The 2016 amendments established a National Council for Human Rights to promote, monitor and protect human rights in the country.

Despite these amendments, authorities continued to violate fundamental rights and freedoms by relying on existing legislation.

2019–2020: Calls for Regime Change

In February 2019, following the announcement that, despite being incapacitated, Abdelaziz Bouteflika was going to seek a fifth presidential mandate during the April 2019 elections, mass popular protests erupted across the country. On April 2, 2019, Bouteflika resigned as president and, on April 9, 2019, Abdelkader Bensalah was elected as interim president.

Demonstrations (known as the Hirak movement) continued, with people demanding an effective change in the country’s power structures and institutions. The elections scheduled to be held in April 2019 were cancelled and it was announced that they would be held on December 12, 2019, amid continued peaceful protests over their legitimacy and effective representability. The continued bi-weekly protests were met by an increased crackdown by the military, under the leadership of Army-chief Ahmed Gaid Salah. Civil society space was increasingly restricted by the arrests of protesters, bloggers, political opponents and other peaceful activists. The pre-election period was marked by several trials against civil society members on one hand and, on the other hand, trials of members of the former government of Bouteflika.

On November 28, 2019, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the situation of freedoms in Algeria, calling on the Algerian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those charged for exercising their right to freedom of expression, to put an end to any form of intimidation, to amend Law 91-19 amending Law No. 89-28 of 1989 on Public Meetings and Demonstrations to remove all restrictions on peaceful demonstrations that are not absolutely necessary or proportionate, and to eliminate and prevent any form of excessive use of force by law enforcement officials while dispersing public gatherings.

High abstention rates were a feature of the December elections, with electoral participation falling to less than 40%. Abdelmadjid Tebboune was elected president, however, the bi-weekly demonstrations remain ongoing. In February 2020, protests marked the one year anniversary of the movement. Algerian civil society remains divided over the legitimacy of the new president’s mandate as the organisation of the elections, and the selection of candidates, were determined by the same political system that the popular demonstrations are protesting against.

Restrictions on civil society space, and the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, have continued under Tebboune’s presidency. In February 2020, Human Rights Watch announced that at least 173 protesters were on trial on charges that relate to either their activism or their peaceful participation in protests. And, on February 16, 2020, police in Algiers prohibited groups active in protesting for regime change from holding a news conference in a hotel in Algiers.

2020: Post-election Restrictions on Fundamental Freedoms.

On September 15, 2020, Algerian journalist Khaled Drareni was sentenced to two years in prison for his coverage of Hirak after being charged with “undermining the integrity of the national territory” and “unarmed assembly.” Drareni was sentenced alongside two prominent Algerian activists, Samir Benlarbi and Slimane Hamitouche, who were released shortly thereafter.These charges, which are based on articles 96 and 100 of the Penal Code, have been regularly used by the Algerian authorities against peaceful demonstrators. In response to Drareni’s arrest, UN officials issued a public statement calling for his immediate and unconditional release. They additionally expressed concern over the Algerian authorities’ use of national security laws to prosecute people exercising their fundamental freedoms.

Also, in September 2020, the national Algérie Presse Service falsely claimed that human rights complaints filed by Algerian activists and citizens were rejected by the “Geneva Office of the Dispute Tribunal.” In response, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement asserting that the information contained in the article was a complete fabrication, pointing out that there was no organization called “Geneva Office of the Dispute Tribunal.”

Lastly, in November 2020, new constitutional reforms were approved by a popular referendum, despite the lowest voter turnout in Algeria’s history. The reforms, which are largely seen as an effort by the Algerian authorities to end the Hirak movement, did not offer sweeping changes. Instead, they maintained the powers of the president to make key appointments and influence all branches of government.

Organizational FormsAssociations
Registration BodyThe 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 Number108,940 (source: Ministry of Interior)
Barriers to EntryMandatory registration, restrictions on founders, and excessive government discretion.
Barriers to ActivitiesNo “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 AdvocacyAssociations must obtain prior approval from the government before receiving funds from foreign donors, and are required to have a pre-existing “cooperation agreement.” Other barriers stem particularly from laws criminalizing activism and expression on certain subjects, such as violations committed by the authorities during the 1990s civil war as a result of the terms of the 2006 Charter on Peace and National Reconciliation. Other stipulations integrated in the penal code also constitute barriers, particularly those chilling criticism against the President and the army.
Barriers to International ContactPrior 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 ResourcesAssociations 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 AssemblyThree 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. A blanket ban on protests and other assemblies in Algiers has remained in place after the state of emergency was lifted in 2011, even though authorities have not published the decree
Population43,053,054 (2019 est.)
CapitalAlgiers
Type of GovernmentRepublic
Life Expectancy at BirthMale: 76.1 years
Female: 79.1 years (2020 est.)
Literacy RateMale: 87.4%
Female: 75.3% (2020 est.)
Religious GroupsSunni Muslim (state religion): 99%; Other, including Christian and Jewish: <1%
Ethnic GroupsArab-Berber: 99%; European: less than 1%
GDP Per Capita (PPP)$4,498 (2019 est.)

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2016.

Ranking BodyRankRanking Scale
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index82 (2019)1 – 182
World Bank Rule of Law Index20.67 (2019)100 – 0
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index20.20 (2019)100 – 0
Transparency International106 (2019)1 180
Freedom House: Freedom in the WorldStatus: Not Free
Overall Ranking: 34
Political Rights: 10
Civil Liberties: 24
(2020)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
100 – 1
40 – 1
60 – 1
Foreign Policy: Fragile States IndexRank: 71 (2020)178 – 1

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International AgreementsRatification*Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)Yes1989
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1)Yes1989
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)Yes1989
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR)No
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)Yes1972
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)Yes1996
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against WomenNo
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)Yes1993
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW)Yes2005
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)Yes2009
Key Regional AgreementsRatification*Year
Arab Charter on Human RightsYes2007
African Charter on Human and Peoples’ RightsYes1987
African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the ChildYes2003
Treaty Establishing the African Economic CommunityYes2001
Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in AfricaYes2003
Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ RightsYes2003

* 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 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 reinstated 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.

On November 1, 2020 Constitutional changes were passed after a popular referendum with a record low voter turnout was held. The revised Constitution limits the role of the army to “the consolidating and developing of the Nation’s defensive capabilities; preserving national independence and defending national sovereignty; and protecting the unity of the country and the integrity of its territory” (Article 30). However, it does not prohibit the armed forces from intervening in the political or economic affairs of the country. It additionally does not provide for civilian oversight of the armed forces, though under the adopted constitution, the president remains the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and in charge of national defense.

The amendments to the Constitution also placed more power in the hands of the president, providing him with the power to appoint and dismiss the prime minister, one-third of the upper chamber of Parliament, ministers, judges, the head of the supreme court, the head of the higher administrative court, the head of the court of accounts, and the head of the constitutional court. Under this amended Constitution, the president of the republic also serves as the president of the Higher Judicial Council, and his powers are unchecked; he is unimpeachable and may dissolve the People’s National Assembly under any circumstances.

Under article 39 of the amended Constitution, torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment is punishable by law, but cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment is neither prohibited nor criminalized. Article 44, moreover, maintains that no person shall be arrested, detained or prosecuted for reasons other those provided by the law and mandates that persons must be provided with the reason behind their arrest. It also holds that acts of arbitrary detention be punished and that pre-trial detention only be used as an exceptional measure. Despite the positive steps provided by the inclusion of such laws in the constitution, they fall short of guaranteeing the right of everyone “to liberty and the security of person.” The right of persons to challenge the lawfulness of their detention before a court, even in situations of extreme emergencies, is not guaranteed in the amended Constitution nor are victims of arbitrary arrest or detention entitled to any reparation or compensation.

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

Relevant national legislation includes the following:

  • Law amending the Penal Code (Law 20-06 amending and completing Ordinance 66-156 of June 8, 1966, on the Penal Code) [Français]: The law contains several concerning provisions which impact freedom of association and freedom of expression and fails to meet international standards. Under this law, individuals can face prison sentences of up to seven years for receiving funds deemed a threat on vague grounds such as “national unity” or “Algeria’s fundamental interests”. In addition, the law threatens press freedom, increasing the custodial sentences for defamation, and introduces custodial sentences for the dissemination of false information. Under this law, new offenders face prison sentences of between one and three years, which doubles for repeat offenders. In addition, penalties are higher in the event that the offence takes place “at a time of a public health lockdown or a natural, biological or technological catastrophe or any other form of catastrophe”, with first time offenders potentially facing up to five years in prison.
  • 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.” This law extends to news conferences held in locations such as hotels.
  • Ordinance on the Conditions and Rules of Practice of Faiths other than Islam (Ordinance 06-03 of 2006) [Français]: The text of this law imposes undue restrictions on the exercise of religions other than Islam.
  • Law No. 90-14 of June 2, 1990 on the exercise of the right to organize: This law does not allow migrant workers who are regularly working in Algeria to form unions and organize. Although it provides for a declaratory procedure for the registration of unions, in practice independent unions often face the administration’s refusal to register them, creating a de facto system of approval. The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families recommended that the law be amended in their 2018 concluding observations. In 2016, the International Labor Organization recommended that Algerian authorities end the practice of preventing the registration of autonomous unions and revise section 6 of law No. 90-14 without further delay so as to “secure to all workers, without distinction as to nationality, the right to establish a trade union.”
  • Ordinance No. 06-01 of February 27, 2006 implementing the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation: Article 45 rejects any complaint on violations committed during the internal conflict, including violations of jus cogens norms, as inadmissible before courts. Article 46 prescribes a penalty of imprisonment and a fine for any person who “attacks the institutions of the State,” or “impugns the honor of its officials or tarnishes its international reputation.” This article creates a climate of self-censorship and a chilling effect on civil society as it encompasses all form of criticism against state security forces for violations committed during the internal conflict.
  • Law No. 09-04 of August 5, 2009 regulating the prevention of and the fight against offences linked to Information and Communication Technologies
  • Law No. 05-01 of February 6, 2005 on the Prevention and Fight against Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism, modified by Ordinance No. 12-02 of February 13, 2012 and approved by Law No. 12-10 of March 26, 2012
  • Law No. 16-13 of November 3, 2016 established the National Council for Human Rights, its composition, and terms of appointment of its members, as well as the rules relating to its organization and functioning.
  • Ordinance No. 95-11 of February 25, 1995; Law No. 01-09 of June 26, 2001; Law No. 06-23 of December 20, 2006 incriminating terrorism and its financing in article 87 of the Criminal Code, which has been the subject of concern since the article defines the crime of terrorism in overly broad and vague terms, allowing for prosecution of acts that should be protected as acts of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.
  • Decree Governing the Electronic Press (Decree No. 20-332). The decree came into force on November 22, 2020 following its publication in the Official Gazette [Français]. Article 5 of the Decree introduces excessive restrictions, stating that directors responsible for online news outlets must, inter alia, hold Algerian nationality, must not have been deprived of their civil and political rights, and must not have been convicted of the crimes of defamation, insult, contempt, discrimination, or hatred and incitement to such crimes. This provision is particularly concerning because the authorities regularly press such charges against individuals peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression. Under the decree, the director responsible for an online news outlet must ensure the respect of the provisions in Law No. 12-05, which is known as the “information code” and imposes excessive constraints on the content of sharable information (Article 13). According to CSOss, the Decree will strengthen “the control of political power over freedom of expression online”.

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

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

Organizational Forms

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.

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 by January 12, 2014. Any association that did not successfully register before the deadline was deemed illegal, with their members subject to prosecution and possible imprisonment.

On August 17, 2018, the Human Rights Committee raised concerns regarding the 2012 Law on Associations in its concluding observations, highlighting that “under that legislation, (a) the founding of an association is subject to an authorization procedure; (b) cooperation with foreign organizations and the receipt of funds from abroad are subject to prior clearance by the authorities; and (c) associations may be dissolved by simple administrative decision for reasons of “interference with the domestic affairs of the country or affront to national sovereignty.” Furthermore, the Committee expressed concern over numerous credible reports that the government had rejected the by-laws of organizations that existed prior to the 2012 Law on Associations, adding that this practice limits freedom of association and exposes their members to hefty penalties for “unauthorized activity.”

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.

In 2018, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern over credible reports of “harsh police repression of strikes or demonstrations by unions, judicial harassment, intimidation and threats, including suspensions and dismissals, in particular within the civil service.” While the creation of unions is also subjected to a declaration-based system of registration, in practice this system functions de facto as an authorization-based one.

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

There are multiple restrictions on the ability of associations to publicly express themselves. The 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.

In April 2020 a Law amending the Penal Code was decreed, increasing the custodial sentences for defamation, and introducing custodial sentences for the dissemination of false information.

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.

Lastly, Algeria has been mentioned in the four last reports of UN Secretary-General for intimidation and reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN in the field of human rights, including the 2020 report (A/HRC/45/36); 2019 report (A/HRC/42/30 ); 2018 report (A/HRC/39/41); and 2017 report (A/HRC/36/31). The concerns of the Secretary-General came after reports were submitted to the Human Rights Committee in July 2018 about government reprisals against CSO members for having cooperated with the Committee. (see CCPR/C/DZA/CO/4, para. 8 (b)).

Barriers to Resources

Penal Code amendments that came into force April 29, 2020 create a new criminal offense that may be used to restrict funding for civil society leaders and organizations. Article 2 of the amendments provide that an individual who receives funds by any means, from a person or entity whether foreign or domestic, for activities “likely to undermine state security, stability, or normal functioning of [state] institutions,” or undermine “the fundamental interests of Algeria” or “public security and order” may be punished by up to seven years in prison. The penalty is doubled to up to 14 years if the individual receives the funds as part of an organization or association.

Barriers to Assembly

Lack of Legal Protections

Algeria’s Constitution protects the freedom of assembly in article 52, which states, “[t]he freedom of expression, association, and assembly is guaranteed.”

However, 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 protesters 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.

Vague Provisions

Law No. 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.

Advance Notification

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.

Content Restrictions

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.

Criminal Penalties

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.”

Blanket Ban on Demonstrations in the Capital

While the decree installing the blanket ban on assemblies in the capital has not been published, the authorities admitted during the state’s periodic review before the UN Human Rights Committee that there was a general ban in the capital, stating that the necessities of public order and the fight against terrorism justified the ban (Replies to the list of issues, March 14, 2018, UN. Doc CCPR/C/DZA/Q/4/Add.1).

UN Universal Periodic Review ReportsAlgeria reports
Reports of UN Special RapporteursAlgeria reports
USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country NotesNot available
U.S. State Department2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Algeria
Fragile States Index ReportsForeign Policy Failed States Index
IMF Country ReportsAlgeria and the IMF
International Commission of JuristsAlgeria
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online LibraryAlgeria

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

Algerians back constitutional reforms amid low voter turnout (November 2020)

A proposal to change Algeria’s constitution won the most votes in Sunday’s referendum, the election commission said, but the very low turnout undercut the government strategy of using the poll to turn a page on last year’s political unrest. The Hirak protest movement had called for a boycott, dismissing the revised constitution as a “facade” of change.

Algerian journalist jailed for two years on appeal (September 2020)

Algerian journalist Khaled Drareni received a two-year prison term at his appeal hearing on Tuesday, in a trial rights groups have called a test of press freedom in a country recently rocked by anti-government protests. Drareni, 40, an editor at the Casbah Tribune news site and correspondent for French-language channel TV5 Monde, had been sentenced to three years in jail in August for his coverage of Algeria’s anti-government protests.

Algeria’s Hirak protesters defy virus lockdown (May 2020)

Algerians resumed anti-regime protests in several cities in support of detainees of the “Hirak” movement, defying the ban of demonstrations during the pandemic. The protests took place during the Eid Al-Fitr celebrations in the North African country despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the ban on demonstrations.

Algeria accused of using coronavirus to ‘settle scores’ with media (April 2020)

Several rights groups have accused Algerian authorities of taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists covering long-running anti-government protests. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), along with 16 other rights groups, released an updated statement on Friday calling on authorities to release one of their journalists who was arrested on 29 March.

Leading Algerian activist jailed as crackdown continues (April 2020)

The sentencing of yet another leading figure close to Algeria’s anti-government movement has sparked an outcry, as authorities continue their clampdown on opposition figures and journalists despite the coronavirus pandemic. The Sidi M’hamed court in Algiers on Monday sentenced Abdelouahab Fersaoui, head of the civic group Youth Action Rally (RAJ) and a leading activist of the popular movement, to one year in prison.

“Fake news” bill will tighten gag on press freedom in Algeria (April 2020)

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns an Algerian bill criminalizing “fake news” that “undermines public order and security” or “state security and national unity.” This vaguely worded and draconian legislation is designed to tighten the gag on press freedom, RSF said.

Anti-government protests thwarted as Algeria bans street marches over coronavirus (March 2020)

Algeria has banned street protests over the coronavirus, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said, bringing to an end a year of unprecedented mass demonstrations. The protest movement, known as the Hirak, exploded onto the streets in February 2019 as it became clear that octogenarian leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika would seek another term as president after 20 years in the job.

Algeria: One Year On, Activists Languish in Jail (February 2020)

Dozens of protesters and activists remain in jail a year after pro-democracy protests began in Algeria, Human Rights Watch said today. Many are facing trial hearings in February and March 2020. Following presidential elections in December 2019, the authorities released many jailed activists but prominent leaders of the movement who had been imprisoned since September or October remain behind bars.

The Algerian Hirak: what role for civil society? (February 2020)

It has been almost one year since the beginning of the popular uprising known as the “Hirak”, a movement marked by its innovation, its pacifism and its quest for justice and equality. Is it time for the first self-assessment of civil society? This article aims at starting a debate about the actual role of civil society organizations and the movement, and discusses the mechanisms by which more effective and transparent participation can exist.

In Algeria, a dangerous crackdown on independent trade unions (February 2020)

Independent trade unionists in Algeria face escalating repression for their role in the ongoing democracy movement.

Algeria’s new president reiterates reform pledges, protesters divided (December 2019)

While Tebboune outlined a strategy to diversify the economy and end Algeria’s dependence on oil and gas exports, his promises of reforms and economic diversification seemed similar to pledges made by Bouteflika a few days before he was ousted. Opposition leader Soufiane Djilali and other politicians said they face a dilemma: either accept dialogue or take the radical path of civil disobedience. Leaderless protests underlined the weakness of opposition parties, which are struggling to push for broader political freedoms.

Algeria: Escalating Repression of Protesters. Leaders Arrested Ahead of Disputed Presidential Elections (November 2019)

Algerian authorities have arrested scores of pro-democracy movement activists since September 2019. Many remain detained on vague charges such as “harming national unity” and “undermining the morale of the army.” The authorities should immediately and unconditionally release the peaceful activists and respect the rights to free speech and assembly of all Algerians. A protest movement known as the Hirak in Arabic initially came together in February to oppose President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s plan to seek a fifth term, and has maintained its momentum with huge demonstrations every Friday calling for the ouster of the existing government and a more pluralistic and inclusive framework to prepare for free elections. Authorities initially tolerated the protests, but beginning in June started arresting groups of protesters, including at least 40 for brandishing the Amazigh flag, a symbol of that ethnic group that, until then, had been tolerated.

Algerian activists demand a place at the table (June 2019)

On June 15, Algiers hosted a National Conference of Civil Society with the aim of producing a roadmap on how to shape the country’s – hopefully – democratic future. Yet at a time when civil society is just beginning to re-awaken, some wonder whether it will really be able to influence the possible transition that is looming.

Hundreds of Algerians protest against proposed energy law (October 2019)

Algerians protested in front of parliament on Sunday October 13, 2019 against proposed changes to the energy law that they say the caretaker government has no right to pass. The draft law was agreed by the cabinet on Sunday, interim president Abdelkader Bensalah was quoted by state media as saying. It must still be approved by parliament. Protesters said the law was draw up by the caretaker government to secure support of Western countries in a standoff over mass protests that have rocked Algeria for months. The government did not immediately comment.

Civil society organizations in Algeria agree to a “transition from six months to one year” (June 2019)

For the first time since the beginning of the protest movement, unions and associations have managed to find a consensus for a way out of the crisis. The long awaited first National Conference on the Dynamics of Civil Society, held on Saturday June 15 in Algiers, reached a joint text. These Algerian autonomous collectives, associations, and unions of very different ideologies have adopted a framework “for a way out of the crisis and a democratic transition.” The document agrees on the need for “a transition period ranging from six months to a year” and the installation of an “independent commission to direct, organize and declare the results of the elections,” with the aim of moving “towards a new Republic.”

NGOs call for more freedom, end to restrictive associations law (October 2018)
Several Algerian human rights groups have called for the cancellation of a law they say violates their ability to work freely, proposing instead new legislation to guarantee their rights. The law, which deals with the work of Algerian associations and has been in force since 2012, was described as “villainous” by Abdelouahab Fersaoui, president of youth group Rassemblement Action Jeunesse. At a news conference in Algiers, the country’s capital, Fersaoui said the law forces NGOs to obtain state approval to operate, and the government has the ability to investigate a group’s activities and financing. The law was passed as part of a wider effort by Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to stem any potential Arab Spring-style protests in 2011.

Algeria ‘fails’ on human rights and freedom of expression, says EU (October 2017)
The European Union’s annual report on human rights and democracy noted several “failures” in Algeria on human rights issues, noting that the practice of certain fundamental rights “continued — sometimes — to be hampered in practice,” said the report. The report also noted that Algeria’s law on associations undermines the functioning of local and international associations in Algeria, and that several of the EU’s partners “have not yet received authorization to officially register as associations and therefore cannot properly carry out their activities in the country.”

Algeria should accept UPR recommendations on freedom of speech, assembly and association (September 2017)
Human Rights Watch called on Algeria to accept key recommendations from the 2012 Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process related to freedom of speech, assembly and association. In particular, Human Rights Watch said, it should accept the recommendation to revise or repeal Law 12-06 on associations, a law extensively used by the government to restrict freedom of association.

Government: 60,000 Associations Outside the Law (December 2016)
The Interior Ministry reported that 60,000 organizations were operating illegally in Algeria, across 45 states.

Algeria on the Brink? Five Years after the Arab Spring (May 2016)
Despite the Arab uprisings of 2011 and sweeping changes reshaping many of its neighbors, Algeria has remained relatively stable and its long-entrenched regime resilient. Yet the status quo faces internal and external challenges that threaten to plunge the country into disorder.

Will a New Constitution Help Algeria? (February 2016)
The government’s adoption of new constitutional amendments aimed to improve the country’s political and economic situation, but opposition groups criticize the draft as nonconsensual and not addressing the country’s key crises.

Arrested for Ironic Facebook Post (March 2015)
Algerian labor rights activist Rachid Aouine was arrested on March 1, on the grounds of ironic comments he made on Facebook about police and the right to protest. Rachid Aouine was accused of “inciting an unarmed gathering” and could face up to one year in jail.

Algerian Civil Society Committed to Fight against Climate Change (October 2014)
More than 120 Heads of State and Government joined business and civil society leaders for the 2014 UN Climate Summit that aims to mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement on climate change in 2015 and deliver concrete new commitments. “Algeria is firmly committed to contributing to the global effort aimed at combating climate change,” said Foreign Affairs Minister Ramtane Lamamra.

News archive

Algerian Churches, NGOs Wary as ‘Restrictive’ Law Comes into Force (January 2014)

Protest Picnic Defends Ramadan Rights of Algerian Christians (September 2013)

New Law On Associations Used to Stifle Civil Society (May 2013)

EU-Algeria Association Council: Priority to Human Rights! (December 2012)

Algerian Government reconciles with citizens (November 2012)

Human rights activist arrested by Algerian police (October 2012)

UN Human Rights chief Navi Pillay calls for Algeria to reconsider restrictions on CSOs (September 2012)

Algeria rights activist cleared of charges (September 2012)

ANHRI denounces detention of four activists in Algeria on assembly charges (June 2012)

Upcoming elections must address civil society’s legitimate demands on freedom of association(May 2012)

Harassment of union leaders and bans on demonstrations continue in Algeria despite the repeal of the state of emergency (March 2012)

New Media Law Stifles Free Expression, says CPJ (January 2012)

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)

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