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B9-0378/2020
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MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on the deteriorating situation of human rights in Algeria, in particular the case of journalist Khaled Drareni

24.11.2020 - (2020/2880(RSP))

with request for inclusion in the agenda for a debate on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law
pursuant to Rule 144 of the Rules of Procedure

Kati Piri, Nacho Sánchez Amor
on behalf of the S&D Group

See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B9-0375/2020

Eljárás : 2020/2880(RSP)
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B9‑0378/2020

European Parliament resolution on  on the deteriorating situation of human rights in Algeria, in particular the case of journalist Khaled Drareni

 

(2020/2880(RSP))

The European Parliament,

  having regard to its previous resolutions on Algeria, in particular that of 28 November 2019 on the situation of freedoms in Algeria and that of 30 April 2015 on the imprisonment of workers and human rights activists in Algeria,

 

  having regard to the country update on Algeria in the EU Annual Report on Human Rights And Democracy in the World 2019, published on 7 October 2020,

 

  having regard to the International Commission of Jurists’ briefing paper ‘Flawed and inadequate: Algeria Constitutional Amendment Process’, published on October 2020,

 

  having regard to the joint letter signed by 31 local, regional and international civil society organisations denouncing the crackdown on Algerian civil society of 29 September 2020,

 

  having regard to the press statement by the Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups of the UN Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council of 16 September 2020,

 

  having regard to the EU-Algeria Association Agreement and notably to Article 2 thereof, which stipulates that respect for democratic principles and fundamental human rights must constitute an essential element of the agreement and inspire the domestic and international policies of the parties thereto,

 

  having regard to the Penal Code and in particular to Articles 75, 79, 95bis, 98, 100, 144, 144bis, 144bis 2, 146 and 196bis thereof, 

 

  having regard to the EU Guidelines on human rights defenders, on the death penalty, on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, on freedom of expression online and offline, and on human rights defenders, and to the EU Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy, 

 

  having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child,

 

  having regard to the opinion 7/2020 adopted by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) on the detention of Fadel Breika,

 

  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

 

  having regard to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR),

 

  having regard to the 2020 World Press Freedom Index produced by Reporters without Borders,

 

  having regard to Rules 144 of its Rules of Procedure,

 

 

  1. Whereas beginning February 2019, Algeria experienced an unprecedented protest movement (Hirak) in reaction to the prospects of a fifth mandate for ex-President Bouteflika; whereas the peaceful demonstrations rejecting the corruption of 'the system' took place regularly throughout the country on Fridays and Tuesdays and continued for an entire year including during the electoral processes; whereas these significant weekly demonstrations were voluntarily halted in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic but the protest movement has continued on social media;
  2. Whereas, following the resignation of Bouteflika in response to the Hirak on 2 April 2019 and two subsequent election postponements during which the military leadership under Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaïd Salah openly wielded power, Algeria held presidential elections on 12 December 2019 through which former Prime Minister Abdelmajid Tebboune became President of Algeria; whereas the Hirak denounced the list of candidates for their ties to the former administration and boycotted the elections, at which the official turnout rate was under 40 per cent;
  3. Whereas political arrests and arbitrary detentions of peaceful Hirak and trade union activists, as well as of journalists, have increased since the summer of 2019; whereas censorship, trials and severe punishment of independent media, often accused of plotting with foreign powers against national security, continue to worsen despite the official end of the Bouteflika regime; whereas security restrictions introduced to fight the Covid-19 pandemic contributed to tightened controls and are consistently used by the authorities to further restrict civic space, limit peaceful dissent and hamper the freedom of speech and of expression;
  4. Whereas in the context of repression currently taking place in Algeria, more and more acts of torture are practiced in police stations and in the Centre of the General Directorate of Internal Security DGSI in Algiers, as in the case of the prisoner of conscience Walid Nekkiche;

 

  1. Whereas between 30 March and 16 April 2020 three communications were sent to the Algerian government by UN Special Procedures in relation to arbitrary and violent arrests, unfair trials and reprisals against human rights defenders and peaceful activists, with a fourth communication on 27 August 2020  regarding Mohamed Khaled Drareni;
  2. Whereas Mohamed Khaled Drareni, who is a correspondent for TV5 Monde, a representative of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and thedirector of the Casbah Tribune, was sentenced in August 2020 to three years in prison and a fine of 50,000 Algerian dinars by the Sidi M’hamed tribunal in Algiers for filming police attacking demonstrators in Algiers on charges officially called 'incitement to unarmed gathering', 'undermining the integrity of the national territory'; whereashis sentence was reduced to two years on appeal on 15 September 2020; whereas, on 16 September 2020,  the Special Rapporteurs and Working Group of the UN Special Procedures condemned his prison sentence in the strongest possible terms, called on the Algerian authorities to ensure his immediate release, and said to consider his conviction ‘a clear violation of the freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and of association’;
  3. Whereas Mohamed Khaled Drareni covered the biweekly Hirak protests from their start in February 2019; whereas his exposure of the Algerian government’s harsh crackdown on peaceful assembly and the freedom of expression had led to his detention, interrogation and intimidation in regard to his coverage of the Hirak three times prior to his conviction, specifically on 14 May 2019, on 9 August 2019, and on 9 January 2020, as well as to his subjection to bribery attempts by government officials twice; whereas he was told his last detention served as a final warning prior to his referral to the judicial system; whereas, on 7 March 2020, Mohamed Khaled Drareni was arrested during a Hirak protest; whereas Drareni was released on 10 March but rearrested on 27 March and detained in El Kolea prison in Tipaza;
  4. Whereas, on the day of his first arrest, over 20 other peaceful demonstrators were taken into custody; whereas two of those arrested were detained for brandishing the Amazigh flag; whereas the Amazigh flag is widely used during the Hirak protests; whereas then-military leader, Ahmed Gaïd Salah, outlawed the use of the flag in June 2019; whereas in recent months, former regime officials have embarked on a smear campaign against the population of the majority-Amazigh Kabylie region with the objective of fomenting ethnic fissures within the Hirak; whereas Amazigh and Hirak activists, including Yacine Mebarki, continue to face arbitrary arrest for expressing dissenting religious and political views;
  5. Whereas the Hirak protests were a conquest of public space by the citizens; whereas, in particular after the Hirak moved online to prevent the facilitation of outbreaks of COVID-19, the restrictions on freedom of expression and the limitations imposed on journalists exacerbated, in particular through the blockage of internet outlets, censorship of TV programmes, and detention and harassment of journalists, media managers, and protesters expressing their views on social media, with at least six online news websites having been made unavailable on Algerian networks in April and May 2020;
  6. Whereasbetween March and June 2020, local rights groups estimate that at least 200 people were subjected to arbitrary arrest for expressing their opinion or for alleged support to the Hirak; whereas the National Committee for the Release of Detainees (CNLD) documented at least 91 prisoners of conscience in detention as of 17 November, up from 44 in late August, and a number of them in pre-trial detention for an indefinite duration; whereas the risk of an outbreak of COVID-19 in prisons places those detained for expressing their political views in additional danger; whereas, on 25 March 2020, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, called for the release of political prisoners and of those detained for expressing critical views in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic;
  7. Whereas in April 2020 Algeria also adopted amendments to the Penal Code through Law 20-06 that further restrict and criminalise the exercise of fundamental rights such as freedom of the press, freedom of expression and freedom of association on artificial grounds of ‘fake news’ undermining the Algerian state or its fundamental interests; whereas the Algerian authorities are increasingly using vague articles of the Penal Code, including those added in April 2020, to prosecute people who exercise their rights to freedom of opinion and expression, and peaceful assembly and association; whereas a first-time of these provisions would carry a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment if taken place ‘at a time of a public health lockdown or a natural, biological or technological disaster or any other form of disaster’;
  8. Whereas, in the context of the crackdown on civic space, the Algerian authorities have advanced a top-down undemocratic constitutional revision process, purportedly as part of President Tebboune’s inaugural commitment to ‘build a new Algeria’ in response to the Hirak protests, but which lacks broad support across Algerian society and which has been criticised by independent civil society organisations for being in violation of international standards of inclusivity, participation, transparency, and sovereignty in constitution-making; whereas the concurrent mass arrest of civil society activists and journalists fully undermined the public legitimacy of the constitutional revision process;
  9. Whereas  Algeria held a referendum  on 1 November on the constitutional revision; whereas the constitutional revision lacks legitimacy due to a historically low official turnout rate of 23.7%, of which 66.8% voted in favour of the revision, the lowest approval rate ever for a vote since the country gained independence in 1962;
  10. Whereas Algeria’s constitution maintains the conditionality of the freedom of the press, officially granted under Article 54 of the revision, on respect of the ‘traditions and religious, moral and cultural values of the Nation’; whereas such limitations on press freedom violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Algeria has ratified; whereas the revision also introduces a dangerous change by constitutionalising the political role and powers of the army;
  11. Whereas the National Union of Magistrates (SNM) has denounced the Algerian authorities’ pervasive and abusive recourse to pre-trial detention; whereas members of the judiciary were sanctioned professionally after acquitting peaceful activists or after they demanded respect for judicial independence from the executive authorities;
  12. Whereas in 2020, Algeria is ranked 146th out of 180 in the World Press Freedom Index by Reporters without Borders, five places lower than in 2019 and 27 places lower than in 2015.

 

  1. Strongly condemns the escalation of arbitrary and unlawful arrests, detentions and judicial harassment of journalists, human rights defenders, civil society and peaceful activists in Algeria, which has not allowed any space for political dialogue on the constitutional revision and the exercise of the freedoms of expression, assembly and association; denounces the use of the introduction of emergency measures in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext for limiting the fundamental rights of the Algerian people;

 

  1. Calls on the Algerian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mohamed Khaled Drareni and all those charged for exercising their right to freedom of expression, both online and offline, and to freedom of assembly and association; reiterates the call of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to urgently release all political prisoners and those detained for expressing dissenting views in light of the COVID-19 pandemic; calls on the Algerian authorities to unblock media outlets and to halt the arrest and detention of political activists, journalists, and human rights defenders, as well as any person who expresses dissent or criticism of the government; 

 

  1.  Reiterates that the freedom of expression, including the freedom of journalists and citizen journalists to report, analyse, and provide commentary on protests or any other expression of discontent with the government or government-related institutions or individuals, is fundamental to a fully democratic political transition;

 

  1. Expresses its solidarity with all Algerian citizens – women and men, from diverse geographic, socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds – who have been peacefully demonstrating since February 2019 to demand a civilian-controlled state, popular sovereignty, respect for the rule of law and social justice;

 

  1. Reiterates its call on the Algerian authorities to put an end to any form of intimidation, judicial harassment, criminalisation, and arbitrary arrests and detention against critical journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders and activists, and to take appropriate steps to ensure and guarantee the right to freedoms of expression, association, peaceful assembly and of the media, which are guaranteed by the Algerian Constitution and by the ICCPR, which Algeria has signed and ratified; condemns any form of excessive use of force used by law enforcement officials in dispersing peaceful protests; reiterates its call on the Algerian authorities to conduct independent investigations into each case of excessive use of force by law enforcement officials and hold all perpetrators to account; calls on the Algerian authorities to implement its international commitments under Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

 

  1. Welcomes the fact that, since the adoption of the European Parliament resolution on 28 November 2019, some political activists have been provisionally released such as the opposition figure Karim Tabbou;

 

  1. Urges the Algerian authorities to ensure the establishment of a free civic space that allows for a genuine political dialogue and does not criminalise fundamental freedoms by adopting new legislation which is fully in line with international standards and which does not provide for exceptions illegal under international law, in particular those Conventions which Algeria has ratified; emphasises that such free civic space is a prerequisite for a democratic and civilian-led Algeria;

 

  1. Recalls that respect for the democratic principles and fundamental rights established by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is one of the essential elements of the 2005 EU-Algeria Association Agreement;  underlines that the ongoing political transition must ensure the right of Algerians of all genders, geographic, socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, including Imazighen, to fully participate in the democratic process, to facilitate the exercise of their right to take part in the conduct of public affairs, including through the reversal of the decline of space for independent civil society, journalism and political activism;

 

  1. Expresses concern about restrictive new laws, such as Law 20-06, that arbitrarily criminalises dissemination of ‘fake news’ and undermining the honour of public officials and financing of associations; stresses that this law contains several provisions violating international standards on freedom of expression and freedom of association, including articles 19 and 22 of the ICCPR;

 

  1. Urges the Algerian authorities to review the current restrictive Law 12-06 of 2012 on Associations, and Law 91-19 on Public Meetings and Demonstrations which sets up a regime of prior authorisation; 

 

  1. Urges the Algerian authorities to review the Penal Code and in particular, Art. 75, 79, 95bis, 98, 100, 144, 144bis, 144bis 2, 146 and 196bis, in line with ICCPR and the ACHPR to stop the criminalisation of freedoms of expression and of peaceful assembly and association;

 

  1. Welcomes that Article 4 of the revised constitution formalised Tamazight as a national and official language under supervision of a newly established governmental institution; recalls that this is the fourth time that Tamazight is declared an official national language; emphasises that such declarations may not serve as a means to disregard the structural problems faced by the Imazighen or sow division within the Hirak; calls on the Algerian authorities to safeguard the equality of Algeria’s Imazighen before the law; urges the Algerian government to overturn the ban on brandishing the Amazigh flag and immediately release anyone imprisoned for displaying Amazigh symbols;

 

  1. Calls on the Algerian authorities to fully guarantee the independence of the judiciary and the impartiality of the justice system, and to cease and prohibit any restrictions, improper influences, pressures, threats or interferences in judicial decision-making and other judicial issues;

 

  1. Calls on the Algerian authorities to ensure both full accountability and civilian and democratic oversight of the armed forces, and their effective subordination to a legally constituted civilian authority, and to guarantee that the role of the military is adequately defined in the Constitution and expressly limited to matters of national defence;

 

  1. Urges the Algerian authorities to allow international human rights organizations and UN Special Procedures access to the country;

 

  1. Calls on the European External Action Service, the Commission and the Member States, together with the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, to support civil society groups, human rights defenders, journalists and protesters, including by adopting a more assertive public position on the respect for human rights and the rule of law in Algeria, by clearly and publicly condemning human rights violations, by urging authorities to release arbitrary detainees and to stop the excessive use of pre-trial detention, by requesting access to detainees and monitoring trials of activists, journalists and human rights defenders, and by closely monitoring the human rights situation in Algeria, using all available instruments;

 

  1. Urges the Council once again to adopt the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime as a decision relating to the Union’s strategic interests and objectives under Article 22(1) of the TEU;

 

  1. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the EU Delegation in Algiers, the Government of Algeria, the UN Secretary-General, the UN Human Rights Council and the Council of Europe.

 

 

Utolsó frissítés: 2020. november 24.
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