On the occasion of the third anniversary of Hirak, the Algerian peaceful protest movement born on February 22, 2019, the collective Action-détenu.es denounces the fate of some 300 opponents currently in prison.
Coming from the Algerian diaspora in France, Action-détenu.es is an organization committed against the regime of Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who took over the reins of the country after the fall of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, overthrown by the Hirak, the popular uprising that appeared on February 22, 2019. The collective accuses the executive, subject to the army, of orchestrating a systematic repression against political opponents.
Hakim Taïbi, member of the collective, describes the Hirak as “a new appointment with history, shaped by the will and determination of an entire people to break with despotism, nepotism and forfeiture”. Action-détenu.es castigates a “mafia and corrupt system” who chooses “all repressive” to silence the opposition.
Repressive legal arsenal
According to the collective, which held a press conference Monday in Paris, “attacks and violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms are daily”. Activists denounce the fate of political opponents in detention. If it is impossible to know the exact number, there would be at least 300, of which 29 have been sentenced to prison since the beginning of 2022.
The collective is particularly keen to alert public opinion to the case of the fifty prisoners on hunger strike since January 28, who are protesting against the arbitrariness and the conditions of their incarceration. One of them developed eye problems, and even lost his sight.
In order to smash any hint of rebellion, the executive has equipped itself with a repressive legal arsenal, supported by a judicial power which is totally subject to it. Mouloud Boumghar, professor of public law, reports a “structural justice subject to the executive” who leaves “little chance of escaping repression”. Massensen Cherbi, Algerian constitutionalist and doctor of law from the University of Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas, also present at the press conference, denotes a “legal pyramid” composed of a “authoritarian constitution” and of “liberticidal laws”.
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The extension of the definition of terrorist crime, as defined in Article 87 bis of the Algerian Penal Code, is the latest weapon with which the regime has equipped itself to “silence the people”, according to Mouloud Boumghar. Entered into the Penal Code in 1995, this article was amended in June 2021, and now makes it possible to judge that any opposition to the Algerian government is a subversive act.
For Massensen Cherbi, this amendment attacks the very heart of Hirak’s demands. The penultimate paragraph of the article provides that“to work or induce, by any means whatsoever, to gain power or to change the system of governance by non-constitutional means” is a terrorist act.
However, the key claim of Hirak was the revision of the current system in order to initiate a democratic transition, and the militants have no constitutional means to achieve this. Mouloud Boumghar explains that the paragraph makes no mention of the use of violence. A simple peaceful gathering, without weapons but inciting to a reform of the regime, is understood by the power as a terrorist act.
Arrests and kidnappings facilitated
The revision of article 87 bis has facilitated arrests and kidnappings, further strengthening the Algerian repressive system. Many citizens are won over by fear and reduced to silence, because they are constrained by the obligation to obtain a permit to demonstrate, which the Hirak has never obtained and which makes any gathering illegal.
The diaspora tries to carry their voice abroad, in France but also in the United States and Canada. Various groups, but also lawyers and NGOs, have alerted international organizations, such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and are multiplying solidarity meetings with political prisoners.
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