Algeria: Arbitrary trials of Hirak protestors for raising Berber flag


GENEVA – The Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties strongly condemns decision of the court in Algeria to sentence 22 Hirak persons for jail term for raising the Berber flag.

The Council calls for the immediate abolition of the above-mentioned verdict and to stop misuse of judiciary as a means of retaliation against demonstrators who express their political views and positions peacefully as guaranteed by  internationally recognised fundamental right of freedom of assembly and opinion.

The misdemeanor of the court in Sidi M’hamed in central Algiers on Monday night sentenced to one year in prison, including six months in force and six suspended and a fine of 30 thousand Algerian dinars against 22 demonstrators on charges of violating the integrity of the homeland after raising the Berber flag during the demonstrations that began nine months ago in October. During the first hearing, the Public Prosecutor’s Office demanded between 18 months and two years of imprisonment for 11 protesters arrested for raising the Berber flag. That hearing was postponed due to a judicial strike that ended on 6 November.

According to the National Committee for the Release of Detainees, which is campaigning for the release of detainees and follows the conditions of their detention and trial, the cases of 20 defendants, one of them in hospital, were postponed until November 18.

The Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties stresses that raising the banner of an ethnic community is a peaceful expression of opinion protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Algeria ratified in 1989, and the country’s authorities must respect its obligations. We insist that every person arrested or tried for possessing or waving a banner must be released immediately and the charges against them dropped.

The Council also stresses the need to stop the harassment by the Algerian authorities against the opposition Ali Belhadj and other opposition figures and civil organizations as well to prevent them from participating in the movement and punish them by arrests and trials.

We warn of the dangers of the hegemony of the executive branch over the judiciary and other authorities in Algeria, contrary to the Algerian Constitution of 1996, which includes the constitutional amendment of 2016 that guarantees the separation of powers, the independence of justice and legal protection, and the control of the work of public authorities.

The Council stresses that the influence of the executive power over the judiciary is a serious threat to the country’s emerging democracy following the resignation of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika last April.

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