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UPR of Algeria: legislative developments must be matched by changing cultural and social attitudes
Friday, 01 June 2012 13:32

 

On 30 May 2012, the Working Group of the UPR considered the human rights situation in Algeria. States commended the Algerian delegation for recent political and institutional reforms, which have been directed towards protecting participatory democracy and enshrining the rule of law. Recommendations made to the delegation mostly revolved around continuing these processes, and ensuring that legislative developments trickle down to improve the lives of all Algerian citizens.

                                       

The delegation was led by the Algerian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Mourad Medelci, who referred to the ‘painful periods’ in Algeria’s history that led to the enforcement of exceptional security measures for a period of 19 years.  Since the state of emergency was lifted in February 2011, the Algerian Government has taken legislative action with respect to pluralism, association, access to information, elections, the representation of women, and Government partnership with civil society.

 

77 States participated in the discussion, with each representative speaking for 1 minute 35 seconds. In general, States’ recommendations recognised the progress that has been achieved, and most praised Algeria for its pursuit of democratic ideals. The majority of recommendations were directed towards ensuring that legal reforms translated into real protection of the rights of Algerian citizens.

 

The recommendations were focussed on Algeria’s need to:

 

  • Eliminate gender disparity and protect women’s rights, review the family code to remove gender-based discriminatory provisions, withdraw reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
  • Take measures to protect children from violence and exploitation
  • Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), remove provisions in national legislation that could authorise the death penalty and invite the Special Rapporteur on torture to Algeria
  • Ratify the Rome Statute to the International Criminal Court and the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances
  • Guarantee the right to freedom of expression and assembly
  • Improve the health system and ensure that vulnerable groups, in particular, are protected

 

Despite the fact that the state of emergency was lifted in the time since Algeria’s last review, many of the recommendations made were carried over from the last cycle. In particular, recommendations about gender equality, freedom of expression, and ratification of various treaties were repeated. As Mr Medelci suggested in his opening remarks, however, some of this repetition may have been unjustified. The Algerian Government has taken steps to fulfil previous recommendations, ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and withdrawing reservation to CEDAW. Most of the suggestions provided by States, then, seemed to be directed towards ensuring that social and cultural attitudes of Algerian society were developed to align with new legal norms.

 

For example, the Algerian delegation highlighted the law on the representation of women, which provides that women must fill 30% of the seats in elected bodies. This attracted praise from many States, but many nevertheless continued to stress need to keep in mind women's actual situation in society and the importance of a genuine participatory democracy. Similarly, enormous development has been made in guaranteeing the right to freedom of expression and assembly, with expressions of dissent no longer criminalised. The Algerian delegation denied that any prisoners were incarcerated on the basis of freedom of expression, but States continued to highlight the importance of ensuring that civil society felt the effects of the law removing the prohibitions. Conversely, pressure was placed on the Algerian Government to ensure that, whatever the accepted practice and norms surrounding the death penalty, the legislation be formally revised. The delegation asserted that a moratorium on the death penalty has been faithfully observed since 1993, but States pushed for all death sentences to be commuted to prison terms and for the legislation allowing for the imposition of the death penalty as a sentence to be amended.

 

The divide between legal standards and the restrictions on the rights of Algerians is not as ominous in nature as it seems with countries such as India, where legislative measures can serve to mask the lack of progress in implementing standards. To the contrary, Algeria’s legislative reforms seem to reflect a genuine desire to protect democratic values. This left the assessment of the situation on a positive note- the delegation seemed responsive to the criticism raised, and committed to ensuring that legislative reforms actually improve the lives of Algerian citizens.

 

Algeria deferred giving a response to any recommendations until the 21st session of the Human Rights Council, to be held in September 2012. The delegation thanked States for the evaluation of its human rights situation. It described the realisation of human rights in a particular country as a progressive process that requires the efforts of the entire international community, including through sharing best practice as well as observations and evaluations on a State's efforts. The delegation affirmed its sincere resolution to continue to pursue this process in Algeria.

 

Last Updated on Friday, 01 June 2012 13:34
 
© by The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) 2018