Abdelkader Kherba prosecuted under controversial ‘Law 12-06 relating to Associations’
The conviction of an activist in Algeria after he distributed leaflets about unemployment is a worrying sign that the country’s new law regulating associations is being used to restrict civil society groups’ activities, Amnesty International has said.
Earlier this week (6 May), Abdelkader Kherba, a member of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights and the National Committee for the Defence of the Rights of the Unemployed, was sentenced to a two-month suspended prison term and a fine of 20,000 Algerian dinars (about £150) for distributing leaflets on unemployment in Algeria in June 2011.
The Appeal Court of the city of Médéa (50 miles south-west of the capital Algiers) convicted Kherba under Article 46 of a controversial new law called “Law 12-06 relating to Associations”, which came into force in January last year. Article 46 places active members of non-registered associations at risk of prison terms ranging from three to six months and hefty fines.
Kherba has previously been harassed by the authorities because of his work on behalf of unemployed people or in support of trade unionists. In April last year he was fined and received a suspended one-year prison sentence after a court convicted him of “direct incitement to a gathering” for joining and filming a sit-in protest by judicial clerks. He was again arrested, detained and prosecuted last August after attempting to film a demonstration against water cuts. Charged with insulting and committing violence against an official, he was later acquitted and released.
Abdelkader Kherba told Amnesty: “This conviction is an attempt to prevent me and other activists to continue our peaceful actions. It is a way to increase pressure on us.”
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Ann Harrison said:
“The latest court case against Abdelkader Kherba is yet another example of how the authorities in Algeria are misusing the law and the judicial system to intimidate those who advocate for social and economic rights.
“If this sentence is not quashed, it will send the message that the new law on associations will be used to further restrict activists and groups who peacefully campaign on issues the authorities may regard as a threat.”
Although Algeria lifted its 31-year state of emergency in 2011 amid region-wide anti-government demonstrations, civil society groups and human rights activists continue to suffer threats and harassment from the authorities, and the government has introduced new laws restricting the media and NGOs. Algeria has seen protests over poverty, unemployment and corruption increase during the past two years and a number of activists and trade unionists have faced judicial harassment and prosecution simply for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
The Law 12-06 relating to Associations tightens controls on civil society groups and gives the authorities the power to deny them registration or funding and suspend or dissolve them. Many articles in the new law contravene Algeria’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which enshrines the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association.
In March 2013, the Algerian authorities prevented a delegation of trade unionists and civil society activists - including members of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights and the National Committee for the Defence of the Rights of the Unemployed - from crossing the border into Tunisia to attend the World Social Forum, violating their right to freedom of movement.