Algeria: 41 people arrested for carrying the Amazigh flag as authorities crack down on freedom of expression


Algerian authorities are stepping up their crackdown on peaceful protesters, arresting 41 people in recent days for raising the flag of the Amazigh community during protests across the country or simply for having it in their possession, Amnesty International said in posting. details of the arrests ahead of new protests scheduled for later today.

The organization calls on the Algerian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the 34 demonstrators still in detention and to respect and protect the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly during today’s protests. In particular, they must refrain from harassing, intimidating, arresting or prosecuting anyone simply for carrying the Amazigh flag or having it in their possession.

“It is completely absurd that the Algerian authorities are bringing together peaceful protesters just because they are carrying the Amazigh flag. In some cases, people have been arrested simply for having the flag in their possession. These arrests constitute a blatant attack on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly of the Amazigh community, ”said Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Amnesty International.

“Instead of arbitrarily detaining and prosecuting dozens of people just for exercising their human rights, the Algerian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all those detained simply for displaying the Amazigh flag and drop all charges against them. They must also end the arrests of peaceful protesters.

It is utterly absurd that the Algerian authorities are rounding up peaceful protesters just because they are carrying the Amazigh flag.

Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Director Middle East and North Africa

All those still in detention have been charged with “undermining the integrity” of the country, and if found guilty they could face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of 3,000 to 70. 000 Algerian dinars (approximately 25 to 600 USD).

“Tomorrow’s protests will be a litmus test of the authorities’ commitment to human rights after the departure of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. If Algeria wants to have a chance to achieve real human rights reform, the authorities must end the latest crackdown on protesters calling for change, ”said Magdalena Mughrabi.

Background

Since February 22, largely peaceful mass protests led by lawyers, students, journalists and others have taken place every Friday across Algeria to demand political reforms.

Algerian authorities have taken steps to recognize the cultural rights of the Amazigh people by instituting Tamazight as an official language in the Constitution in 2016 and designating “yannayer” (the first month of the Amazigh year) as a public holiday since 2018. The constitution also recognizes “Amazighity” as one of the fundamental components of Algerian identity.

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