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UN rights chief urges Algeria to remove restrictions on civil society organizations

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] urged [statement] Algeria on Wednesday to remove restraints on civil society organizations in North Africa. Pillay applauded Algeria for vast improvements that the country has made since the 1990s when Algeria was entrenched in war. However, she also voiced concerns [UN News Centre report] that security in the country has negatively impacted human rights. Pillay said that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are vital to society and must be permitted to operate without impediments. Pillay specifically alleged violations of Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which are binding on Algeria as a signed party. Pillay's comments come as Algeria celebrates its fiftieth year as a member of the UN. Pillay stated:

It is NGOs who fight for the rights of the most vulnerable sections of society—for the poor, the marginalized, and minorities suffering from discrimination. It is NGOs that play a vital role in upholding the rule of law by exposing corruption and other abuses. Their persistence and exuberance doesn't always make them popular with the authorities, but—like the media and opposition political parties—they provide one of the essential checks and balances that helps create a better human rights environment.
Pillay delivered these remarks in Algeria after meeting with the country's president, prime minister, ministers of Foreign Affairs, Justice and Interior, and the presidents of parliament, the Supreme Court, and Council of State.

In May UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Peaceful Assembly and Association [official profile] Maina Kiai said that Algeria should use its upcoming legislative elections to address concerns about inadequate freedoms of expression and association [JURIST report]. Kiai expressed concern over a law, which passed in January [ICNL report] giving the government broad power in registering groups as associations and banning associations from receiving foreign funds from any governments besides "duly established cooperative relations." It also bans associations from having goals that go against "national values." Kiai said the law is oppressive because it is vague and does not meet international standards for freedom of association. He called on the government to change the law so that it meets the UN's standards.

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