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By Willy Fautre, Human Rights Without Frontiers

HRWF (09.10.2020) – https://bit.ly/3d84Ypv

 

  • Short profile
  • Constitutional and legal framework
  • Freedom to have, retain or change religion
  • Freedom of expression on religious issues & blasphemy
  • Freedom of association
  • Freedom of worship and assembly
  • Freedom to share beliefs/ Proselytism
  • Recommendations

 

SHORT PROFILE

Name: People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria

Population: 40,610,000

Total area: 2,381,741 sq km

Life Expectancy at birth: 76 years[1]

Gross National Income Per Capita: $15,000[2]

Official Religion(s) or Church(es): Islam (official, 98.50%), agnostic (1.25%) Christianity (0.17%), other (0.07%).[3]

 

World Happiness Index: 84 out of 156[4]

 Constitutional and legal framework

 

Algeria is a presidential republic, operating with a dual legal system of French civil law and Islamic law.[5] Laws are drafted and voted upon within a bicameral Parliament, consisting of the Council of the Nation (upper house) and the National People’s Assembly (lower house). In addition, there is a Constitutional Council which ensures the implementation of the constitution and its amendments.

 

The following are the main laws or legal instruments used to regulate the freedom of religion or belief:

 

  • Constitution (1989 with revisions to 2016)
  • Penal Code (promulgated by Order No. 66-156 of 18 Safar 1386 corresponding to June 8, 1966)
  • Law on Information (Law 12-05 of 2012)
  • Law on Associations (Law 12-06 of 2012)
  • Presidential Order Number 12 of 1 March 2006
  • Ordinance on the Conditions and Rules of Practice of Faiths other than Islam (Ordinance 06-03 of 2006)
  • Law no. 91-19 of 1991 on public meetings and demonstrations

 

The judiciary is made up of province-level (called wilaya) courts and a Supreme Court consisting of 150 judges, broken down by division: civil and commercial, social security and labour, criminal, and administrative.[6] Sharia courts are not included in Algeria’s judicial system, although there is a High Islamic Council that serves as a consultative body on “matters relating to Islam.”[7]

 

Ordinance 06-03 on the Conditions and Rules of Practice of Faiths other than Islam states that the free practice of religions other than Islam is allowed, provided they remain in accordance with the constitution and other relevant laws. It also requires compliance with national morality and public and national safety. Ideas or faiths deemed contrary to those principles are not legally protected by this Ordinance. Additionally, it bans any unregistered religious activity or group, including the use of any facilities to carry out meetings or worship. Lastly, it seeks to protect Islam from any activities of other groups deemed to infringe upon the Muslim faith, including proselytism.[8]

 

The regulation of religion is managed by several bodies within the Algerian government. Registration for religious groups is required by the government. The justifications provided for denials of applications are vague, including potential risks to national identity, security and morality, as well as the economy.[9]  In effect, this allows arbitrary denial of registration, thus rendering all activities and gatherings of those unregistered religious groups illegal.

 

All applications for registration pass through the office of the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) to whom they are required to provide extensive internal information. This includes the personal information of the group’s founding members and information about their good standing within society. In order to qualify as a national association, these founding members must reside in at least one quarter of the country’s 48 wilayas.

 

While all associations require the MOI’s approval, religious associations require additional approval from the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Endowments (MRA). The specific requirements for this approval are not explicitly stated, though it is possible to appeal denials from the MRA through regular judicial processes. Within the framework of the MRA is the National Commission for Non-Muslim Religious Groups, which handles registration and issues specific to non-Muslim communities and groups.

 

Finally, as part of its mandate to oversee a variety of human rights concerns in Algeria, the National Consultative Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (CNCPPDH) does regularly monitors religious freedom issues. The CNCPPDH allows for reporting and recourse for religion-related violations.

 

Constitutional articles[10] regulating freedom of religion and belief are as follows:

 

  • Article 2: Islam is the religion of the State.
  • Article 10: Prohibition of practices “contrary to Islamic morals and the values of the November Revolution”.
  • Article 32: All citizens are equal before the law.
  • Article 42: Freedom of creed and opinion is inviolable.
  • Article 48: Freedom of expression, association and meeting are guaranteed to the citizen.
  • Article 49: The right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed within the framework of the law, which sets forth how it is to be exercised.
  • Article 50 (bis 2): Freedom of printed and audio-visual press and through the media networks shall be guaranteed and may not be restricted by any form of prior control.
  • Unrestricted publication of information, ideas, pictures and opinions shall be guaranteed within the framework of the law with the respect of the nation’s principles and religious, ethical and cultural values.
  • Article 53: The right to create associations is guaranteed by law. The State encourages the development of associative movement.
  • Article 195: The basis for the High Islamic Council.
  • Article 198: The basis for the Human Rights Council.

 

In March of 2006, President Bouteflika of Algeria signed a Presidential Order Concerning Religion, which modified constitutional articles and proposed amendments:

 

  • Article 2: The Algerian State, of which the religion is Islam, guarantees the free exercise of religious worship in the framework of respect of the dispositions of the Constitution, of the present ruling, of the laws and regulations in force, of the public order, of good moral standards and of the fundamental rights and liberties of third parties.
  • Article 3: Associations of religious practice other than Muslim enjoy the protection of the State.
  • Article 4: It is forbidden to use religious affiliation as the basis for discrimination towards any person or group of persons. [11]

 

Several articles within the Penal code relate to religious issues. Article 144 bis. criminalises any insults or perceived slander against the Prophet, messengers of God or Islam.

Freedom to have, retain or change religion

Apostasy is not a criminal offence, and conversion is not illegal under civil law. However, various laws intend to protect Muslims from evangelising influences and Christian converts are often targets of blasphemy charges for instances where they explained their beliefs.

 

The Ahmadi population has faced particularly focused repression on account of their religious convictions. Despite a total population of just 2,000 individuals in Algeria, 266 were charged with religiously-based offences between June 2016 and January 2018.[12] These arrests are justified due to the classification of the Ahmadi beliefs as heretical, or through connecting the community with alleged Israeli conspiracies.[13] They have been charged under Article 144 of the Penal Code, relating to insults against the Prophet, his messengers or Islam, with punishments of between three and five year prison terms and fines of up to 100,000 dinars (€740).[14]

 

In Algeria’s 2017 Universal Period Review at the UN, all recommendations relating to freedom of religion were generally accepted, whereas any recommendations relating to the free worship of the Ahmadi community were ignored.[15] This demonstrates that the international community recognises the issues facing the Ahmadi community, as well as Algeria’s unwillingness to put an end to the targeting of that religious community.

 

As is the case in other Muslim-majority North African countries, Algeria regulates inter-religious marriages. It is illegal for a Muslim woman to be married to a non-Muslim man. In this case, there must either be a divorce, or the husband must also convert to Islam. No such restriction exists for a non-Muslim woman wed to a Muslim man, but she is socially required to uphold Islamic standards within the household. This same legal preference for Muslims extends to disputes over inheritances, where Muslim applicants win most cases over non-Muslim applicants.[16]

 

Read the full paper here.

 

 

Concrete cases of violations of freedom of religion or belief in 2018-2020 can be found in HRWF Database of News per year and per country at: https://hrwf.eu/newsletters/forb/.

A paper about Ahmadis in Algeria and some other countries can be found at: https://hrwf.eu/forb/our-advocacy-papers/.

 

[1] “Country Profile – Algeria”. The World Bank. 2016. http://databank.worldbank.org/data/views/reports/reportwidget.aspx?Report_Name=CountryProfile&Id=b450fd57&tbar=y&dd=y&inf=n&zm=n&country=DZA. Accessed 4 June 2018.

[2] CIA World Fact Book. “Algeria”. Central Intelligence Agency. 16 May 2018. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ag.html. Accessed 29 May 2018;

[3] “Algeria”. The Association of Religion Data Archives. http://www.thearda.com/internationalData/countries/Country_4_1.asp. Accessed 29 May 2018.

[4] J.F. Helliwell, R. Layard and J.D. Sachs. “World Happiness Report 2018”. 2018. https://s3.amazonaws.com/happiness-report/2019/WHR19_Ch2A_Appendix1.pdf Accessed 29 May 2020.

[5] CIA World Fact Book. “Algeria”. Central Intelligence Agency. 16 May 2018. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ag.html. Accessed 29 May 2018.

[6] CIA World Fact Book. “Algeria”. Central Intelligence Agency. 16 May 2018. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ag.html. Accessed 29 May 2018.

[7] “Algeria, State Institutions.” European Institute for Research on Mediterranean and Euro-Arab Cooperation.  http://www.institut-medea.be/en/countries/algeria/algeria-state-institutions/. Accessed 29 May 2018.

[8] “Non-Muslim minorities in Algeria: Submission of HRWF Int’l to the EEAS consultation of NGOs”. Human Rights Without Borders. 2016. https://hrwf.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/0914-Algeria.pdf. Accessed 29 May 2018.

[9] UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. “Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 9 of the Convention: Fifteenth to nineteenth periodic reports of States parties due in 2009 – Algeria”. Refworld. 15 October 2012.  http://www.refworld.org/country,,CERD,,DZA,,51ed28894,0.html. Accessed 29 May 2018.

[10] Government of Algeria. “Constitution of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, 1989 (reinst. 1996, rev. 2016)”. Constitute Project. 2016. https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Algeria_2016?lang=en. Accessed 29 May 2018.

[11] Kendal, Elizabeth (trans.). “Algeria: Text of Presidential Order Concerning Religion”. World Evangelical Alliance. 2006. http://worldea.org/news/431/Algeria-Text-of-Presidential-Order-Concerning-Religion. Accessed 29 May 2018.

[12] “Algeria: New Trials Shake Ahmadi Minority.” Human Rights Watch. 22 January 2018. https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/01/22/algeria-new-trials-shake-ahmadi-minority. Accessed 29 May 2018.

[13] “Algeria’s Ahmadis forced to worship behind closed doors”. News24. 25 August 2017. https://www.news24.com/Africa/News/algerias-ahmadis-forced-to-worship-behind-closed-doors-20170825. Accessed 29 May 2018.

[14] “Algeria: Stop Persecuting a Religious Minority”. Human Rights Watch. 4 September 2017. https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/09/04/algeria-stop-persecuting-religious-minority. Accessed 29 May 2018.

[15] Universal Periodic Review Working Group. “Algeria: Third review, Session 27”. UN Office for the High Commissioner on Human Rights. 22 September 2017. https://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/algeria/session_27_-_may_2017/response_to_recommendations_algeria_2017.pdf. Accessed 29 May 2018.

[16] Universal Periodic Review Working Group. “Algeria: Third review, Session 27”. UN Office for the High Commissioner on Human Rights. 22 September 2017. https://www.upr-info.org/sites/default/files/document/algeria/session_27_-_may_2017/response_to_recommendations_algeria_2017.pdf. Accessed 29 May 2018.

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