Algeria disbands pro-democracy organization as part of broader assault

Algerian officials dissolved a decades-old pro-democracy organization that took part in the peaceful demonstrations that helped drive long-time President Abdelaziz Bouteflika out of office in 2019

Feb 24, 2023 - 16:22
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Algeria disbands pro-democracy organization as part of broader assault

The Youth Action Group, abbreviated RAJ, and the left-wing Movement for Democracy and Socialism, which was also suspended by the same order, appear to be the newest targets of Algeria's assault on dissenting voices.

According to the Algerian Council of State, RAJ was dissolved in accordance with an administrative court decision in favor of an interior ministry lawsuit in October 2021. The ministry claimed that the group is "rallying forces to destabilize the country" and engaging in other activities that violate a contentious 2012 law governing nongovernmental organizations.

RAJ leaders have repeatedly disputed the government's allegations, claiming that officials under Bouteflika's replacement, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, have reneged on pledges to change the power structure, which was characterized by corruption and the looming specter of persecution under Bouteflika.

International human rights groups have urged Tebboune to repeal the 2012 legislation governing NGO activities enacted by the Bouteflika government, which also controls professional associations.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said in a joint statement earlier this month that the legislation is "heavily limiting and does not adhere to international norms on freedom of organization."

The two watchdogs also urged Algerian officials to overturn their decision to disband the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights, or LADDH, and to "end their overall assault on autonomous civil society groups."

Following a complaint made by the interior ministry, the Administrative Court of Algiers disbanded LADDH in June 2022, the organization announced in January after reading the decision on its destiny on the internet.

The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, or GI-TOC, said in a statement on Wednesday that Raouf Farrah, one of its researchers in Algeria, had been detained and accused in court with "spreading information from secret papers."

According to the group, Farrah and his 67-year-old father, who was also arrested, were tried alongside seven others in the northeastern city of Constantine on Feb. 20 during an overnight hearing. The group also accused Raouf Farrah with "receiving money for the purpose of conducting actions to disrupt public order," calling the accusations "completely unfounded."

"There is nothing secret or detrimental to the Algerian state in (Farrah's widely released study," the group said, pleading with officials to let him go.

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