ARTICLE 19 condemns the dissolution of the Azday Adelsan n Weqqas association (the literary café of Aokas) and calls on the Algerian authorities to protect freedom of association.
On 1 April 2023, the association Azday Adelsan n Weqqas (the literacy café of Aokas) was dissolved by the first instance of the administrative court of Bejaia. The move followed a complaint lodged by a delegate of the police of the wilaya of Bejaia on the orders of the wali (mayor).[mfn] Maghreb Emergent, « Accusée de propagation du christianisme, une association d’Aokas risque la dissolution », Disponible sur : https://maghrebemergent.net/accusee-de-propagation-du-christianisme-une-association-daokas-risque-la-dissolution/ [/mfn] Established in 1989, the association has carried out local and national activities on a range of literary, scientific and artistic themes.
‘We hope that the Algerian justice system will urgently rectify the dissolution of the association Azday Adelsan n Weqqas, which intends to lodge an appeal. The Algerian authorities are called upon to adopt a prosperous legal framework allowing for the creation of a pluralistic and independent associative environment, in accordance with international standards on freedom of association, as well as to amend the chapters of the draft law on associations that restrict the freedom of association, especially those that confer discretionary powers to the administration, disproportionate controls and lengthy and complex procedures related to the creation, funding and litigation of associations and NGOs in Algeria,’ said Saloua Ghazouani, Director of the ARTICLE 19 MENA office, in response to the closure.
On 26 September 2022, the association was notified that a complaint had been filed against it, and that had been accused of transgressing Article 43 of the 2012 law governing associative activity and the association’s internal regulations and its aims. It also faced accusations of ‘religious proselytising’ according to the provisions of Article 15 of Ordinance No. 06-03, which set out the conditions and rules for the exercise of religions other than Islam. The complaint states that ‘members hide behind the association for the propagation of Christianity by distributing CDs, printed materials and leaflets in the communes of Aokas and Tizi N’berber’, according to a press release issued by the association[mfn] Maghreb Emergent, « Accusée de propagation du christianisme, une association d’Aokas risque la dissolution », Disponible sur : https://maghrebemergent.net/accusee-de-propagation-du-christianisme-une-association-daokas-risque-la-dissolution/ [/mfn] in response to the case being filed.
In a statement issued on 8 October 2022, the association said that it ‘has never published anything that contradicts the objectives assigned to it and has never, since its creation, encouraged or supported any work related to any religion whatsoever’. It also states that the complaint ‘is unjustified and that a simple investigation will demonstrate its falsity’.
ARTICLE 19 condemns this disproportionate decision to dissolve the association based on allegations made by the executive branch and remains concerned by the increasing number of dissolutions of Algerian associations, which include Rassemblement, Actions, Jeunesse (RAJ), SOS Beb El Ouad, Caritas and recently, the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights, thereby undermining the breadth of Algeria’s civic space.
Law 12-06 of 12 January 2012 on the law on associations, which was the basis for the decisions to dissolve these associations – the latest of which was the Azday Adelsan n Weqqas, remains a piece of legislation that works against liberty and is based on restrictive measures. The bill for the new law on associations is, moreover, ambiguous and includes most of the restrictive measures of the old law.
ARTICLE 19 reminds the Algerian authorities that freedom of association is guaranteed by the 2020 Constitution and that Algeria reiterated its respect for this freedom and its protection during its Universal Periodic Review by accepting the recommendations concerning freedom of association and by agreeing to bring the law on freedom of association into line with constitutional provisions and international standards. ARTICLE 19 urges the Algerian authorities to comply with the recommendations they accepted at the 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council in March 2023.
Read ARTICLE 19’s analysis of increasing pressures on associations and organisations in Algeria, and threats to freedom of expression.