Algeria: Security forces must not use excessive force against peaceful protesters

Algerian security forces must refrain from using excessive or unnecessary force to disperse peaceful demonstrations against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term in office, said Amnesty International, ahead of a fresh wave of protests planned tomorrow all over the country. 

Since 22 February, a series of largely peaceful demonstrations have taken place across the country including protests by lawyers, students and journalists opposing a fifth mandate for President Bouteflika, who has been in power for nearly 20 years, in the upcoming presidential elections on 18 April. 

“As tensions rise amid growing protests, we are appealing to the Algerian authorities to exercise restraint, respect the rights of demonstrators and not to use excessive or unnecessary force to quell peaceful protests,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.  

“The world’s eyes are on Algeria right now and how the government chooses to respond to these demonstrations will be a crucial test of its commitment to upholding the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

“Security forces must only use force as a last resort and even then, it should only be used proportionately and when absolutely necessary.”

The world’s eyes are on Algeria right now and how the government chooses to respond to these demonstrations will be a crucial test of its commitment to upholding the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly
Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International

The vast majority of protests have been peaceful, but some protesters responded by throwing stones after law enforcement officers used tear gas.   

Algeria’s authorities have allowed the demonstrations to take place despite a blanket ban on protests in the capital Algiers since 2001.

However, at least 41 protesters have been arrested since the demonstrations began last Friday, according to official figures. Most were arbitrarily detained for a few hours before being released. In addition, today, at least four journalists were detained while participating in and covering a protest calling for freedom of the press; they too were subsequently released. 

“Targeting protesters with arbitrary arrest or prosecutions would be a flagrant violation of the right to freedom of expression and assembly. Algerian authorities must ensure their actions do not violate the country’s own constitution or its international obligations,” said Magdalena Mughrabi. 

“They must also guarantee the right to freedom of movement for protesters and ensure journalists are able to report freely on the demonstrations with no censorship of media coverage.”