Algiers – An Algiers court on Wednesday dissolved civil society group Youth Action Rally (RAJ), which has been a key part of the country’s pro-democracy protest movement, a rights group said.
The move came after the authorities accused the RAJ of acting in violation of a law on associations “and in contradiction of the objectives listed in its statutes”.
“The administrative court delivered its verdict to dissolve the RAJ. It’s scandalous,” Said Salhi, vice president of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights, told AFP.
The league urged respect for the right to freedom of association and organisation, which Salhi said was “the cornerstone of any democracy”.
He urged a halt to “attacks on the Algerian people’s democratic gains” and expressed his group’s “solidarity” with the RAJ activists.
The RAJ called the decision “unjust and absurd” and said its lawyers would appeal.
“The RAJ will fight and defend the association so it continues to exist on the ground,” the group said in a statement.
“This verdict will not weaken us, will not erase our 28 years of existence, resistance and struggle for citizenship, freedom and democracy,” it added.
Rights group Amnesty International called the decision “a devastating blow for human rights in Algeria”.
“It is also an alarming indicator of the authorities’ determination to tighten their crackdown on independent activism and suppress the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” Amnesty’s regional deputy director Amna Guellali said in a statement.
“Shutting down civil society organisations… in a bid to silence critics and crush dissent is unlawful and unacceptable,” she added.
In a statement published late last month, the RAJ had rejected accusations against it, saying they were “based mainly on the public activities of the association during the Hirak” protests.
The group’s actions were “compatible” with the association’s mandate to “promote youth involvement in the city’s management”, it argued.
Algeria’s 2012 law governing the work of associations requires authorities to grant prior approval for their establishment.
Passed during the era of autocrat Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who died last month, the law was part of reforms that sought to prevent the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings from spreading to Algeria.
The Hirak pro-democracy movement forced Bouteflika from power in April 2019 after two decades at the helm.
Several RAJ members, including the group’s president Abdelouahab Fersaoui, have faced prosecution or been imprisoned.
Fersaoui was arrested in October 2019 during a demonstration and spent six months in jail for “undermining the integrity of the national territory”.
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