Algeria: 41 arrested for carrying the Amazigh flag as authorities crack down on freedom of expression

Algeria’s authorities are escalating their crackdown on peaceful protesters, arresting 41 people in recent days for waving the flag of the Amazigh community at demonstrations across the country or simply for having it in their possession, Amnesty International said publishing details of the arrests ahead of fresh nationwide protests planned later today.

The organization is calling on the Algerian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the 34 protesters who remain in detention and to respect and protect the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly during today’s demonstrations. In particular they should refrain from harassing, intimidating, arresting or prosecuting anyone simply for carrying the Amazigh flag or having it in their possession.

“It is utterly absurd that Algeria’s authorities are rounding up peaceful protesters simply for carrying the Amazigh flag. In some cases, people were arrested just for having the flag in their possession. These arrests are a blatant attack on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly of the Amazigh community,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

“Instead of arbitrarily detaining and prosecuting dozens of people solely for exercising their human rights, Algeria’s authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all those detained simply for carrying the Amazigh flag and drop all the charges against them. They must also end arrests of peaceful demonstrators.”  

It is utterly absurd that Algeria’s authorities are rounding up peaceful protesters simply for carrying the Amazigh flag
Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director

All of those still in detention have been charged with “harming the integrity” of the country, and if convicted could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of 3,000 to 70,000 Algerian dinars (around 25 to 600 USD).

“Tomorrow’s protests will be a litmus test of the authorities’ commitment to human rights following President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s departure. If Algeria is to have any chance of achieving genuine human rights reform, the authorities must halt the latest crackdown on protesters calling for change,” said Magdalena Mughrabi.

Background

Since 22 February, largely peaceful mass demonstrations led by lawyers, students, journalists and others have been taking place every Friday across Algeria calling for political reform.

The Algerian authorities have taken steps to recognize the cultural rights of the Amazigh people by establishing Tamazight as an official language in the Constitution in 2016 and designating “yannayer” (the first month of the Amazigh year) as a public holiday since 2018. The Algerian constitution also recognizes “Amazighness” as one of the fundamental components of Algeria’s identity.