Algerian activist sentenced over leaflets

Abdelkader Kherba

An Algerian campaigner who distributed leaflets about unemployment has been convicted under a new law designed to restrict civil society activities in the country.

Abdelkader Kherba, a member of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH) and the National Committee for the Defence of the Rights of the Unemployed (CNDDC) was given a two-month suspended jail sentence and fined 20,000 dinars (about $250) by a court in the city of Médéa on Monday.

Khader has previously been harassed by the authorities in connection with his work on behalf of trade unionists and the unemployed but his latest prosecution was brought under Article 46 of the Associations Law which punishes members of unregistered organisations.

The law, which came into force last year, is one of a series of restrictive measures introduced after the government lifted its 19-year-old state of emergency in an effort to placate opposition groups. It combines the worst features of similar laws in other Arab countries and, according to Amnesty International, places Algeria in breach of its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

As usual with such laws, it requires civil society organisations to be registered with the authorities while at the same time making registration difficult and imposing controls on those that succeed in becoming registered.

In the words of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law:

"It provides the government broad discretion to refuse to register an association and suspend the activities of an association, places restrictions on the founders of associations, makes it difficult for NGOs to receive foreign funds, imposes heavy fines and criminal penalties for members or leaders of informal associations, and fails to provide NGOs with an adequate remedy to appeal the rejection of their registration."

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network has also published a more detailed critique of the law here

Posted by Brian Whitaker
Saturday, 11 May 2013