Algeria

Last updated: 15 June 2020

Coronavirus Response

As Algeria combats the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities have extended the imprisonment of opposition leaders, detained prominent journalists, and summoned for questioning dozens of political activists. On April 1, 2020, purportedly to combat the spread of COVID-19 in prisons, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune pardoned 5,037 prisoners who had a year or less of their sentence remaining. However, those pardoned did not include individuals detained for their participation in the Hirak protest movement. Nearly 50 political prisoners remain in prison, and more members of civil society were targeted following the pardon decision, including journalist Sofiane Merakchi, who was sentenced to eight months in prison on April 5, and Abdelouahab Fersaoui, activist and head of the civic group Youth Action Rally (RAJ), who was sentenced to one year in prison on April 6. President Tebboune had also banned all protests, marches, demonstrations, and other mass gatherings in March, due to COVID-19, but anti-regime protests resumed in several cities across Algeria in late May, in support of individuals being detained for their involvement in the Hirak movement.

In addition, as part of a package of measures to combat COVID-19, Algeria’s Parliament adopted amendments to the Penal Code on April 23 that heighten restrictions on freedom of expression during a public health crisis. The amendments increase prison sentences for defamation, and introduce new penalties including prison sentences for the dissemination of false information. Under the amendments, offenders face prison sentences of between one and three years, but penalties are 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 create a new criminal offense that may be used to restrict funding for civil society leaders and organizations. 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. The Penal Code amendments came into force on April 29, 2020.

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

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 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 gives the government broad discretion to refuse to register associations and fails to provide an adequate remedy to appeal the rejection of a registration request. Most notably, the aw allows 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 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).

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, the authorities continue to violate fundamental rights and freedoms 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. 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.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, several NGOs have expressed concern over the continued arrest and detention of activists and journalists. Whilst over 5,000 prisoners were granted amnesty on April 1, 2020, none of these individuals were political prisoners.

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 Number1,027 National Associations; 92,627 Local Associations
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.”
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 demonstration and other assemblies in Algiers remains in place even after the state of emergency was lifted in 2011, even though authorities have published the decree forbidding all kinds of rallies in the capital.
Population42,972,878 (2020 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)$15,481 (2018 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 Index22 (2018)100 – 0
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index21 (2018)100 – 0
Transparency International106 (2019)1 168
Freedom House: Freedom in the WorldStatus: Not Free
(2020)
Political Rights: 10
Civil Liberties: 24
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1- 40
1 – 60
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 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 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.

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

On December 19, 2019, newly elected President Tebboune announced that he would start his mandate with a constitutional reform with the view of strengthening fundamental freedoms and liberties including the right freedom of expression, assembly and association. On January 8, 2020 a panel was put in place to prepare draft proposals for the revision of the constitution. Further to 73 recommendations, the first draft of the constitution was made public on May 7, 2020. The draft constitution restricts the number of successive presidential terms to two but does not redistribute real powers to the Parliament and the head of government nor does it guarantee public freedoms.

Once the draft constitution receives parliamentary approval, the amendments will be subject to a popular referendum.

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.

In addition, Algeria appeared three recent reports of Secretary-General on intimidation and reprisals for cooperation with the UN in the field of human rights: the 2019 report (A/HRC/42/30 ); the 2018 report (A/HRC/39/41); and the 2017 report (A/HRC/36/31). The concerns of the Secretary-General followed reports to the Human Rights Committee, in July 2018, of reprisals against NGO members for cooperating with the Committee including the prosecution and detention of activists and victims of human rights violations (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 41, which states, “[t]he 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 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 Department2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Algeria
Fragile States Index ReportsForeign Policy Failed States Index