Algeria is set to ban unauthorized protests following the Hirak movement, which has seen hundreds of thousands participate in protests over the past two years, according to an announcement published on Sunday.
The Hirak movement is a successful pro-democracy group of peaceful protesters. In 2019, the movement engaged in widespread peaceful protests to speak out against Algeria’s former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika entering his fifth term in office. As of 2016, Algerian Presidents have been limited to serving two terms in office. The changes did not catch Bouteflika as they apply only to presidents serving from 2016-onwards. Bouteflika heeded the concerns and subsequently resigned. The movement eschewed large protests over most of 2020 due to the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two years on, the protesters are taking a stand against corruption and the country’s poor democracy. Algeria is ranked 104th out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Index.
Local news reported that the unauthorized protests ban seeks to end the Hirak movement. If the movement’s protests were to continue, they would need a permit. Organizers would be named on the permit together with the protest’s beginning and end times. The Hirak movement is not known for having individual leaders spearheading the protests.
Specific sanctions for contravening the new law were not announced. However, local news reported that the Algerian Interior Ministry stated, “[f]ailure to comply with these procedures will result in violating the law and the constitution, which denies the legitimacy of the march, and it will be necessary to deal with it on this basis.”
The reference to the country’s constitution denotes the constitutional change enacted in November last year. The changes included some which were conducive to democracy and others which stood contrary, underpinned by a lack of consultation with the public criticized by the Hirak movement and low voter turnout signaling legitimacy concerns. The Hirak movement encouraged boycotting the referendum which passed the changes to signal the citizenry’s political dissatisfaction.
One change was that Algerian citizens have the right to peaceful assembly, but must provide notification prior to the assembly. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Algeria is a party given it ratified the treaty in 1989, provides in Article 21 for the right to peaceful assembly without qualification or restriction. Amnesty International said at the time that the changes do not go far enough to protect human rights and judicial independence.