Kouceila Zerguine, Annaba-based lawyer and member of Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH) and the Lawyers’ Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RADDH).
To make sure the 2011 Arab uprisings did not engulf Algeria—as it did to a number of Arab states—a series of measures and new laws were enacted in early 2012. Although these legislative enactments were described as advancing democracy, they have actually restricted freedoms and violated the international commitments made by Algeria, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of the United Nations (ICCPR).
The need for reform provided President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, now in his fourth term, the opportunity for his regime to close up the space available in the political arena and for civil society groups, thereby tightening control over Algerian society. Among these measures were the Association Law (12-06) and the Political Party Law (12-04).
The Associations Law stipulates that mere declaration is no longer sufficient to create a civil society group, and that registration is subject to the prior approval of the authorities. This law in some respects codifies a practice already widely implemented by the authorities, reinforcing the power of the authorities and hindering the independence and impartial regulation of civil society groups. According to the new law, authorities can now refuse the registration of associations that they judge to be “contrary to the national constants and values and to public order, morality, and the provisions of laws and regulations.” The law further places severe restrictions on the funding and membership of civil society groups, among other constraints. These restrictive measures and the vague notion of compliance put forth in the law could allow the authorities to prevent the formation of associations, including groups that defend basic rights.
The Political Party Law, meanwhile, contains 84 articles and strengthens the power of the regime (particularly the Ministry of the Interior) with respect to political parties. From the initial step of forming a party to its internal organization, the Ministry of Interior now has very broad powers that give it significant control over political parties. Furthermore, the law allows the ministry to maintain significant control over dissolution procedures and to enact prohibitions or restrictions.
These two laws, above all, confirm that the government wants to restrict civil society and all forms of peaceful dissent. Equally importantly, these legislative measures indicate that President Bouteflika will continue the traditional practice of managing the consequences rather than addressing the root cause of Algeria’s problems—in turn eschewing the much-needed overhaul of Algerian governance. Bouteflika’s approach will only encourage, not prevent, resistance movements that operate outside the state from emerging. Radicalization is sure to follow.