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Algeria prevents 96 activists from attending World Social Forum in neighbouring Tunisia

The Algerian authorities have prevented a delegation of 96 trade unionists and civil society activists from crossing the border into Tunisia to attend the World Social Forum (WSF) this week, violating their right to freedom of movement, Amnesty International said today.

The 96 have not been given any reason for the travel ban, though border police near the north-eastern city of Annaba today told the delegates that they were on a list of people banned from leaving Algeria because of “unrest”.

The delegation, travelling in two buses, was stopped from crossing the Algerian border with Tunisia three times at different border posts since 3am yesterday morning. Amnesty has urged the Algerian authorities to immediately lift all the restrictions on the activists and to allow them to attend the WSF and to ensure they will not face any reprisals or intimidation.

Some 50,000 activists are expected to attend the WSF, a global meeting of activists and civil society organisations to discuss social, economic and human rights issues running from 26 to 30 March. Placing travel restrictions on activists is in breach of Algeria’s international obligations.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Ann Harrison said:

“Placing travel restrictions on civil society activists is a blatant attempt to prevent them from meeting and discussing with fellow groups from all over the world, and in so doing to isolate them.

“Ironically, such practices are reminiscent of the travel restrictions placed on Tunisian human rights activists under the Ben Ali era. While Tunisia has experiencing tremendous change and is hosting the 13th World Social Forum in Tunis, the Algerian authorities continue to rely on old repressive tactics and seem to not have learnt the lessons of the recent uprisings in the region.”

The 96-strong delegation is composed of members of the National Autonomous Union of Public Administration Personnel; the human rights groups Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights; SOS-Disparus, composed of relatives of victims of enforced disappearances in Algeria; and a group campaigning on behalf of unemployed people the National Committee for the Defence of the Rights of the Unemployed. Members of these groups have been repeatedly harassed by the Algerian authorities, who continue to restrict freedom of assembly and association in law and practice, as protests over poverty, unemployment and corruption have increased in the country during the past two years.

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