Responding to today’s ruling by the Administrative Tribunal in Algiers accepting the government’s arbitrary request to dissolve the well-known Algerian civil society organization, the Youth Action Rally (Rassemblement Actions Jeunesse -RAJ), which played a prominent role in the Hirak protest movement, Amna Guellali, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International said:
“The decision to dissolve the Youth Action Rally (RAJ) is a devastating blow for human rights in Algeria. It is also an alarming indicator of the authorities’ determination to tighten their crackdown on independent activism and suppress the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Shutting down civil society organizations is one of the severest restrictions on the right to freedom of association. Doing it in a bid to silence critics and crush dissent is unlawful and unacceptable.”
On 26 May 2021, the Ministry of Interior notified RAJ that it had requested its dissolution on the grounds that the organization’s activities violated Algeria’s law governing associations. According to one of RAJ’s members, the activities involved included holding discussions with other civil society activists at its headquarters in Algiers, organizing protests, as well as being in contact with national and international NGOs. All these activities are protected under the right to freedom of association and are clearly in line with the rights established under the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. In 2019 and 2020, 11 members of RAJ were arrested, prosecuted and nine were arbitrarily detained simply for peacefully protesting or expressing their views online.
Since RAJ was established, the organization has worked to foster human rights in Algeria, playing a pivotal role in education, promotion of human rights and more recently, calling for a democratic process and radical political change during the Hirak protests. In a press release issued today, RAJ said that they will appeal the decision.
The dissolution of an organization is among the severest restrictions on the right to freedom of association, protected under article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It may only be used when there is a clear and imminent threat to, for example, national security or public order, and it must be proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued and only used when less restrictive means would be insufficient.