HRWF (08.11.2022) – On 11 November, Algeria’s human rights report will be examined by the UN Human Rights Council in the framework of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). On the eve of this event, the US Commission on the International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has published a Factsheet about Law and Religion in Algeria, divided into seven parts:
Law, Religion and Politics
Laws Restricting the Manifestation of Religion
Laws Governing Worship
Here is an excerpt about the anti-missionary laws:
In 2006, the Algerian government issued Ordinance 06-03, which regulates non-Muslim religious organizations and activities. While this ordinance works to protect the rights of non-Muslim individuals to worship in community with one another and in public, it also places unwarranted restrictions on non-Muslims’ rights to manifest their religion publicly through teaching, as protected under Article 18 of the ICCPR.
Article 11 of Ordinance 06-03 criminalizes proselytization. Anyone who “incites, constrains, or utilizes means of seduction intending to convert a Muslim to another religion; or uses to this end establishments of teaching, education, health, of a social and or cultural character, training institutes, or any other establishment, or any other financial means,” is subjected to three-to-five years in prison and a fine of 500,000–1 million Algerian dinar (roughly 3,500–7,100 USD). Anyone who “makes, stores, or distributes printed documents or audiovisual footage or by any other medium or means which aim to shake the faith of a Muslim” is subject to the same penalties.
As is the case with blasphemy laws, imprisoning individuals charged with proselytization constitutes a particularly severe religious freedom violation as identified in IRFA because it denies individuals the right to liberty on the basis of their manifestation of their religion or belief through teaching in public orin private, as protected under Article 18 of the ICCPR.
In February 2020 a court in Oran sentenced pastor and bookshop owner Rachid Mohamed Seighir and his bookshop assistant Mouh Hamimi to two years in prison and a 500,000-dinar (approximately 3,500 USD) fine for proselytization. Police brought charges against Seighir and Hamimi for “printing, storing, or distributing materials that can ‘shake’ the faith of a Muslim” after raiding the bookshop in 2017. Following appeal, the court reduced the sentence to one year in prison and a fine of 200,000 dinars (approximately 1,400 USD) in June 2021.
The Algerian government has also implemented key aspects of Ordinance 06-03 in a way that discriminates against religious minorities, particularly Evangelical Protestants. Article 12 of Ordinance 06-03 punishes any individual who “collects money or accepts donations without the authorization of the legally empowered authorities” with one-to-three years in prison and a fine of 100,000–300,000 Algerian dinar (roughly 710–2,100 USD). In 2021, Algerian authorities used this clause to prosecute Foudhil Bahloul, a Christian convert who had collected donations with the help of his parish after having lost his job due to his conversion.