PUBLIC CONFERECE: “Algeria-EU: What type of commitments regarding human rights issues and by the civil society?

Tuesday 21 May 2013

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Canal and Summons: The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (REMDH) and ACSUR Las Segovias.

Venue: Ateneo de Madrid, Sala Úbeda, 19:00-21:00. Calle Prado 21. Metro: Antón Martín, Sevilla o Sol.

Date: 20 May 2013.

Type: Event.

Language: Spanish.

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (REMDH) and ACSUR Las Segovias are calling to a public conference in Madrid to promote a debate on the relations between Spain and Algeria, seen from a human rights perspective.

This meeting will provide the possibility of creating a debate platform and creating awareness within the Spanish people on the violations of fundamental freedoms taking place in Algeria, an aspect of the reality on the ground that in Europe is normally not taken into consideration quite often.

Given its long experience of political, economic and cultural relations with Algeria and the rest of the countries in North Africa, Spain is an important actor on a political chess board in the Euro-Mediterranean region. That is the origin of the intention to organize a conference in Madrid to promote a debate and to foster important meetings among human rights militants and of the civil society on the two sides of the Mediterranean.

The conference will take place in the Ateneo of Madrid, with the participation of an Algerian delegation of human rights defenders from REMDH and of the Spanish civil society organizations.

Participants will have the possibility of debating and deepening with the public on the implications of relations among the European Union, Spain and Algeria, especially within the area of human rights. Participants coming from different means will allow for an enriching of the debate and will provide a global vision on sensitive issues of today’s life in Algeria, such as the freedom of expression and association, women rights, trade union freedoms, forced disappearances that took place during the decade of 1990 and the struggle waged against impunity.

I- GENERAL PRESENTATION

Relations between the EU and Algeria.

Algeria is linked to the European Union through an association agreement enacted in 2005. On February 24, 2011, when the movements of the Arab spring were taken place, the Algerian government lifted the emergency state as a reaction to the wave of popular protests that was shaking the whole region.

The international community and the European Union did not hesitate in congratulating Algerian officials for such decision and also for its will to undertake democratic reforms. In December 2011, Algeria officially expressed its willingness to opening exploratory negotiations with the aim of drafting an action plan within the framework of the new Policy of European Neighborliness.

Up until now, it does not seem possible that the EU has already implemented this policy in a coherent and constant form, and the case of Algeria is a flagrant example of that. The Algerian and international NGOs engaged in the defense of human rights, on their part, have been sending an alert, in several occasions, to the EU regarding the deterioration of the human rights situation and the absence of real reforms. There are some UN agencies which have been observing an equally alarming evolution, in a crystal clear contradiction with the positive evaluation issued by the EU, according to which Algeria is one of the countries “making some progress, rather attractive ones, through the way of a lasting democratization”. Thus Algeria gets additional European financing through de new program SPRING of the EU and the EU has started negotiations on an Action Plan of the Policy of European Neighborliness with Algeria in 2012.

Relations betwee Spain and Algeria

The geographical proximity existing between Spain and Algeria makes possible likewise dense human, economic and cultural exchanges transforming Algeria into a priority partner for the Spanish foreign policy. In 2012, these two countries signed a “Friendship, good neighbor and cooperation treaty”.

On January 10, 2013 took place in Alger the fifth High Level Meeting between Spain and Algeria to deepen the state, political and economic relations between both countries within the framework of an “strategic association” which proves the interest by Spain to be a first order partner for Algeria.

At that time, the president of the Spanish government, Mariano Rajoy, and President Bouteflika noticed “a positive evolution, fundamentally characterized by an intensification in the political and economic dialogue between both countries, which is added to the reaffirmation of the importance granted to stability and security in the western bank of the Mediterranean”. Although it is something positive that relations between Algeria and Spain have been intensified in several areas – and above all on issues related to the circulation of persons, security and the struggle against terrorism – the issues of respect for human rights and strengthening of the links with the civil society should be equally a priority within the framework of the relations between both countries.

II – THEMES COVERED BY THE CONFERENCE

Freedom of association and trade union freedoms.

With the new law on associations which was enacted in 2012, associations continue being exposed to the arbitrarily action of the authorities in areas related to its registry, its activities, its financing or its unilateral dissolution. Organizations member of the delegation were the first one to pay the consequences and they are striving to put an end to the direct interference in the functioning of the associations and of the trade unions done with the purpose of placing hurdles in their work. Trade unionists are also paying dear for the invoice of repression. Although Alger has ratified most of the covenants of the International Labor Organization (ILO), the attacks against and the difficulties imposed to the exercise of union freedoms are recurrent, especially regarding the registry of the autonomous unions, the violations of the right to go into a strike, including among other things the administrative sanctions imposed to participants in the strike, wrongful dismissals, intimidations and legal harassment to member of the trade unions.

Freedom of expression, of opinion and of information

Another law enacted in 2012 through which information is regulated imposes limits to the freedom of expression, of opinion and of information, thus violating international regulations. In concrete terms, our organizations are vindicating the guarantee of the independence of a journalist and a greater Access possibility to the media, the effective opening of the audiovisual sector – including foreign radio and TV stations – already announced but yet to be legally adopted and the abrogation of the law on information passed in 2012 as well as the abolishing of what is established in the Criminal Code sanctioning the crime of slandering and press.

Rights of women

In Alger, there is a constant hindering of the work by women and militant member of civil society organizations, and, equal to men, they suffer the consequences of the tight control by the authority and of the limitation of public freedoms. Thus, the reaffirmation of the rights of women is strongly linked to a real democratization of the public space and of the instauration of a state subject to the rule of law which shall benefit all citizens, both men and women. Thanks to the approval of a new law on “Access opportunity to women to elected assemblies”, in May 2012 women have obtained 30% of the seats in the National Popular Assembly. Nevertheless, from the legal point of view, this new law is just “a drop of water in the dessert” when compared to the discriminatory legislations against women still valid in Algeria, especially in the Family Statute. But putting aside the juridical aspects, Algerian women are facing a social problem: temporary jobs with poor pay and conditions, violence and stereotypes.

Freedom of meeting and concentration; the harassment to human rights defenders and trade union militants.

Spite the end of the emergency situation decreed in 2011 the prohibition of peaceful demonstrations or of any other form of demonstrations in Alger has continued in virtue of a decision taken by the Head of Government in 2001. In practice, those who organize demonstrations either in Alger or in any other city to claim for their right to work, to denounce corruption ore ven to request Access to elementary public services almost systematically have to endure repression by the police forces, arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment of all sort, regardless of the nature of the mass rally. During recent years these harassment actions have been intensified, affecting in special trade unionists and defenders of human rights due to their militant attitude.

Denial of the right to Truth and Justice

Up until now, the Algerian state refuses to acknowledge its share of responsibility in the atrocities observed during the decade of 1990. The Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation and its implementation texts confirm a policy of impunity and hiding of truth and impose forgiveness. These texts impede using justice against agents of the State, and repress and criminalize public debate on mass human rights violations that took place during the 1990s. They only grant minimal compensations to relatives of missing persons, which depends on the obtainment of a death certificate, without entailing any preliminary investigation. It is imperative for Algerian officials to ratify the International Convention for the protection of Enforced Disappearances signed February 6, 2007, and to create, once and for all, a commission formed by jurists and independent national personalities on missing persons to find truth.

III- PARTICIPATING ORGANIZATIONS

LIGUE ALGÉRIENNE DE DÉFENSE DES DROITS DE L’HOMME

Organization created in 1985 by a group of militants, including among them scholar Ali Yahia Abdenour, who was its first president; the League is working in defense of individual and collective freedoms, pursuant to international guidelines on issues of hukman rights and it promotes the case of democracy working in favor of a state subject to the rule of law. Its action is basically focused in the organization of seminars, action to exert pressure, support and defense actions and in the legal defense of persons enduring the violation of their rights. It also acts through the publication of reports and denounce communiqués of the attacks against human rights in Algeria. For more information, please contact: http://www.algerie-laddh.org/ .

COLLECTIF DES FAMILLES DE DISPARU(E)S D’ALGÉRIE

The CFDA carries out actions at national and international levels in defense of the right to Truth and Justice by the relatives of missing persons, of the struggle against impunity and of the creation of a system to find Truth on each individual case for the victims of the decade of 1990. In general terms, through its actions CFDA acts as an effective state subject to the rule of law, paying respect to the fundamental freedoms of its citizens and of the victims in Algeria. For more information, please contact: http://www.algerie-disparus.org/cfd... .

SYNDICAT NATIONAL AUTONOME DES PERSONNELS DE L’ADMINISTRATION PUBLIQUE

The SNAPAP is the main autonomous trade union in Algeria, and it takes actions in all sectors of the public life and of the administration agencies. It is the national organization including the largest part of sector and regional autonomous trade unions. It mission is the defense of material and moral interests of workers from the public life, the defense of trade union freedoms and of human rights, the promotion of action and trade union culture, the struggle against corruption and the creation of awareness by the officials to defend the social achievements and their rights. For more information please contact: http://www.jcalgerie.net/ .

RESEAU DES AVOCATS POUR LA DEFENSE DES DROITS DE L’HOMME

The RADDH is a network formed by lawyers fighting in defense of human rights. Its action is focused in the legal defense of victims of human rights violations, and especially of the attacks against freedom of peaceful meeting and association. It supports defenders suffering judicial harassment and also it develops an information work through press releases.

AGIR POUR LE CHANGEMENT ET LA DÉMOCRATIE EN ALGÉRIE

This is an association of Algerians living abroad, that have formed a collective to support and accompany non-violent, democratic struggles to put an end to the dictatorship and to create a state subject to the rule of law in Algeria. ACDA wants to be an space for reflection, debate and action with a peaceful presentation. For more information, please refer to: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Agir... .

COMITÉ INTERNATIONAL DE SOUTIEN AU SYNDICALISME AUTONOME ALGÉRIEN

The committee, grouping Algerian and French trade unionists, as well as militants from human rights defense associations has been characterized for its aim of developing an international solidarity network. The committee carries out its work by informing on the situation in Algeria, but it also organizes multiple meetings among individuals and trade unions, associations and international NGOs. It supports and spread information on the campaigns implemented by trade unions. For more information, please access: http://www.cisa-solidaritesyndicats... .

THE ORGANIZERS: WHO ARE WE?

ACSUR: ASOCIACIÓN PARA LA COOPERACIÓN CON EL SUR – LAS SEGOVIAS

ACSUR is a civic, plural and lay organization, committed in a social transformation action to create an equitable, sustainable and democratic development model for all men and women at a global level. Since its creation in 1987, ACSUR pretends to contribute to the development of a critical awareness among citizens of both sexes, accompanying the process of a democratic participation and of social organization, from a perspective of solidarity and international cooperation.

Work done by ACSUR in the Maghreb is centered in the support to human rights North African organizations and to organizations working for the defense of the rights of women. ACSUR gets financing from the International Development Cooperation Spanish Agency (AECID) within the framework of a four year agreement, (covering from 2008 to 2012) under the title: “Strengthening the state subject to the rule of law and democratic governance through the support to human rights organizations and their networks. Morocco, Alger, Tunisia”. The lines of work are the promotion and protection of human rights, of the democratic culture and of the associative network through networking and of the defense associations of human rights and of the rights of women.

RESEAU EURO-MEDITERRANEEN DES DROITS DE L’HOMME

The REMDH was created in 1997 to support the Declaration of Barcelona and the creation of the Euro-Mediterranean Association (MEDA). At present, the network groups over 60 members representing the defense of human rights, institutions and persons located in thirty countries in the Euro-Mediterranean region. Its members subscribe the universal principles of human rights and are convinced of the value of cooperation and of the dialogue within and beyond the frontiers.

The main objectives of REMDH are the fostering of networking, cooperation and association with the NGOs, human rights militants and civil society in general in the Euro-Mediterranean area. The REMDH is a regional forum so that NGOs might defend human rights, and a specialized institution in the promotion and protection of human rights in the region. Its goals include likewise the strengthening of the capacities of its members through a dialogue, the exchange of experiences and collective learning.

Bibliography

Joint report REMDH-CFDA-LADDH-SNAPAP, “Political reforms”or additional closing of the society and of the political field in Algeria? 19 April 2012, http://www.euromedrights.org/fra/20... .

Report by the REMDH on the lifting of the emergency condition in Algeria. Reformas en trampantojo, 24 February 2012: http://www.euromedrights.org/fr/der... .

Report by the Speical Rapporteur Mission on the defense and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and of expression in Algeria, Frank La Rue, 12 June 2012 (A/HRC/20/17/Add.1): http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBo... .

Press release by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the freedom of peaceful meeting and associatio, D. Maina Kiai, 4 May 2012: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/... .

Press release by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, of 25 April 2012 (available only in English): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/... .

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