- 3 Apr 2019
- [International Secretariat]
- Region: PEOPLE'S DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF ALGERIA
Algerian authorities must stop prosecuting peaceful protesters and allow the judiciary to function independently, Amnesty International said today, ahead of further nationwide protests expected tomorrow.
Since a wave of protests began on 22 February to oppose President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid to run for a fifth term in office, at least 311 people have been arrested according to the Algerian General Directorate of National Security. Protesters have been charged with "unarmed gatherings", acts of violence and theft.
“Algeria’s authorities should drop charges of “unarmed gatherings” against anyone who took part in the mass demonstrations peacefully and amend all laws that criminalize freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.
Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the Algerian authorities to amend the article on “unarmed gatherings” of the country’s Penal Code that has been used to prosecute peaceful protesters who can face up to one year in prison.
The organization also called for the country’s judiciary to be allowed to carry out their roles independently, and without interference or pressure from authorities.
"There should be no disciplinary measures taken against judges willing to respect due process and fair trial rights for all those appearing before the courts in relation to the protests. Algeria has an obligation to guarantee the independence of the judiciary and protect judges and lawyers from any form of political influence,” said Magdalena Mughrabi.
Since 22 February, mass demonstrations have taken place in Algiers and the rest of the country despite a ban on such demonstrations in the capital introduced in 2001.
Amnesty International observed three protests on 15, 19 and 22 March in Algiers.
On Friday 15 March, 75 people were arrested, at least 20 of whom have since been charged with participating in "unarmed gatherings". The other protesters were charged with acts of violence and theft.
On 18 March, the judge in charge of the cases was suspended for refusing to carry out what he said were instructions from the president of the tribunal to convict all protesters.
Judges and lawyers gathered on 21 March in front of the Sidi M'hamed Tribunal in solidarity and called for the protection of independent justice.
28 March 2019
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE
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