MEPs formally called on Algerian authorities to immediately release Khaled Drareni and others who police arbitrarily arrested exercising their rights to freedom of speech and assembly.
The European Parliament adopted on Thursday a resolution calling on Algeria to respect human rights and ensure basic freedoms in the country.
The resolution expresses concern with the deteriorating situation of human rights in Algeria, stressing, in particular, the case of journalist Khaled Drareni.
An Algerian court sentenced Drareni in August to three years in prison and fined him 50,000 Algerian dinars ($389) for filming police attacking Hirak demonstrators in Algiers.
The court formally charged the TV5 Monde correspondent with “inciting an unarmed gathering” and “undermining the integrity of national territory.” In September, a judge reduced his sentence to two years following an appeal.
The European Parliament resolution “strongly condemns the escalation of arbitrary and unlawful arrests, detentions and judicial harassment of journalists, human rights defenders, trade unionists, lawyers, civil society and peaceful activists in Algeria.”
A true democratic transition requires the Algerian people’s participation
The resolution argues Algeria has not allowed any space for political dialogue on the undemocratic constitutional revision and the exercise of the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association.
It also denounces the use of emergency COVID-19 measures to limit the fundamental rights of the Algerian people.
The members of European Parliament (MEPs) formally call on Algerian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Khaled Drareni “and all those detained and charged for exercising their right to freedom of expression, both online and offline, and to freedom of assembly and association.”
With the resolution, MEPs reiterate their demands that Algerian authorities stop all forms of intimidation and criminalization of dissent, insisting that the country take appropriate steps to guarantee the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.
Dissent and criticism are fundamental to a fully democratic political transition, the resolution stresses.
Echoing the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, the resolution calls for the urgent release of all political prisoners and those detained for expressing dissenting views.
As well, the resolution urges Algerian authorities to unblock media outlets and expresses solidarity with the Algerian people who have demanded democracy, fighting against corruption.
The resolution also outlines its concerns with restrictive elements of Algerian law. It highlights, in particular, the new Law 20-06, “which arbitrarily criminalizes the dissemination of ‘fake news’ undermining the honor of public officials and the financing of associations.”
MEPs adopted the resolution with 669 votes in favor, three against, and 22 abstentions.
Repeated calls for cooperation
High Representative of the EU Joseph Borrell’s speech to the European Parliament plenary on Thursday underlined the EU’s interest “in a strong and strategic cooperation with Algeria” and attempts to “reinforce the bilateral partnership.”
He affirmed that the EU “stands ready to support the reforms that the Algerian authorities will want to undertake, keeping in mind that the ultimate objective is to respond to the legitimate expectations of the Algerian people.”
“We need more dialogue with Algeria, not less,” he stressed. “We are determined to deepen an open dialogue with Algeria, based on trust and constructive criticism.”
Algeria has experienced political, social, and economic turmoil since the Hirak (movement) began in February 2019 in response to former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announcing he would seek re-election for a fifth term.
Bouteflika, 83, eventually resigned in April 2020 under pressure from the military. With 20 years in office, he was Algeria’s longest-serving head of state.
Abdelmajjid Tebboune won the presidential election in December 2019 on promises of sweeping democratic “reforms.” Yet he ultimately failed to deliver, evidenced in the protests that raged even amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the record-low voter turnout and boycott against the recent constitutional referendum.
With Tebboune still in Germany one month after Algiers announced the president’s COVID-19 infection, Algeria is a ship without a captain. The country is suffering the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and global collapse in oil prices, an overwhelmed health system, social unrest, and international condemnation of human rights violations.