The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton
The European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Štefan Füle
The European Union Special Representative for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis
The Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Member States of the European Union
Brussels, 20 June 2014
Dear High Representative,
Dear Special Representative,
In the context of the upcoming negotiations on the Action Plan between the European Union (EU) and Algeria in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) reiterate the need to prioritise respect for human rights, including equality between men and women, and to call on the Algerian authorities to take action in this regard.
Despite numerous promises of reforms since 2011, the human rights situation in Algeria remains poor. Freedom of association and assembly and the right to peaceful protest have been severely restricted and activists from both associations and trade unions have been arbitrarily prosecuted in order to intimidate them and punish their activities for the defence of human rights. Algeria lacks laws that adequately criminalize violence against women, while discrimination against women remains entrenched in law and in practice. Furthermore, Algeria’s cooperation with United Nations experts and mechanisms, as well as with international human rights NGOs remains very limited or even non-existent, despite those experts and organizations’ repeated requests to visit Algeria.
Acknowledging this situation, the EU expressed its concerns during the Council meeting of May 2014, declaring that “Algeria’s election to the United Nations Human Rights Council should encourage the country to strengthen respect for fundamental rights and civil liberties, particularly freedom of association, opinion and expression. The EU encourages Algeria to implement measures and mechanisms to promote human rights in accordance with international conventions, paying particular attention to the rights of women.“
In March 2014, the European Commission (ENP MEMO) conducted a similar analysis, raising “a continued lack of judicial independence and the situation seems to have deteriorated with respect to the freedom of association and assembly (including continuing hindrances for independent trade unions) and the freedom of expression (including for bloggers).”
In light of this assessment shared by the EU, our organisations consider that the current negotiations represent an important opportunity for the EU to implement effectively its commitment to human rights and civil society in its relations with Algeria, as defined both in its revised European Neighbourhood Policy and in the EU Strategic Framework Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy.
Ahead of the conclusion of an EU-Algeria Action Plan, and in line with the positions taken during the last Council meeting, our organisations call upon the EU and its 28 Member States to apply strong and concerted pressure on the Algerian authorities and urge them to:
1. Ensure that human rights defenders of and all activists in Algeria can fully exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly without fear of harassment or interference;
2. Repeal all articles of Law no. 12-06 on associations that violate the right to freedom of association and their ability to cooperate and affiliate themselves with organisations based in other countries;
3. Repeal the 2001 Decree that prohibits assemblies and protests in Algiers;
4. Ensure the protection of women and girls from gender-based violence, including by adopting laws criminalising all forms of violence against women;
5. Repeal all provisions of the Penal Code and Family Code that discriminate against women and girls, withdraw all reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and ratify its Optional Protocol;
6. Ensure that the proposed changes to the Constitution are in accordance with Algeria’s international human rights obligations, and that no amendments would entrench impunity for serious human rights violations , such as enforced disappearances, unlawful killings and torture;
7. Cooperate fully with the Human Rights Council, including its human rights experts, or special procedures, in particular by responding immediately and favourably to their requests to visit the country, by issuing and honouring permanent invitations to UN human rights experts and working groups, and by promptly implementing their recommendations;
8. Issue visas promptly to representatives of international human rights organisations who request to visit Algeria.
Furthermore, our organisations call for the chapter related to human rights in the future EU-Algeria Action Plan to express a firm political will to jointly advance de jure and de facto the promotion and protection of human rights in line with international human rights standards. Thus, we draw your attention to the need to adopt specific objectives in this regard, combined with a schedule for reforms to be undertaken by Algeria in the short term, and with involving independent civil society in a constructive manner. It is equally important to define indicators for an objective and regular assessment of the situation in line with international human rights conventions.
For ease of reference, we have added below links to our documents on the latest human rights developments in Algeria.
We would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm our availability to work with you to promote human rights in Algeria.
President of EMHRN
Director, Middle East and North Africa Programme, International Secretariat of Amnesty International
Deputy Director, Middle East and North Africa Division, Human Rights Watch