In the city of Tizi-Ouzou, in the indigenous Kabylie region of Algeria, a human rights seminar was to be held July 23rd through 25th, 2010, for the purpose of international promotion and defense of human rights, organized by the Amazigh World Congress (CMA), Kabylie’s Women Organization (AFK), and the Kabylie-Solidarité Organization, with the support of the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC). The UNO provided pertinent material for this seminar. Its inception was intended for several dozen associated Amazighs regions of Algeria. The program consisted of accounts, debates and workshops centered around mechanisms for the promotion and defense of human rights for the United Nations, African Union relative to Algerian human rights.
The seminar organizers prepared the pedagogic materials (documents to be distributed to the participants, computer, audio-video equipment, etc) and arranged for the workrooms, accommodations and meals for the duration of the seminar.
Local government was made aware of the seminar’s activity and contents.
On Friday, July 23rd, the seminar started at 10 am and an hour later, at the beginning of the presentation, approximately twenty policemen, led by the main commissioner, burst into the seminar room, while thirty more policemen secured the street. The commissioner ordered all those present to terminate their activity, to exit and were arrested, taken away in police vehicles. The members of the organization tried unsuccessfully to protest. They asked police to restrict arrests to those organizing the seminar and to leave the participants alone, but the commissioner refused. All pedagogic materials and equipment was confiscated. The participants were taken away to the Central Police station of Tizi-Ouzou and two French nationals were immediatelty deported from Algeria.
At the Police station during the remainder of the day, the police undertook individual cross-examinations, investigating everyone’s identity, occupation and activism, as well as their religious affiliation, the nature of their relation with CMA, along with the seminar organizers and with Movement for the Self-government of Kabylie (MAK).
It wasn’t until 6 :00 pm that the detained group was finally released, but to this day, the seized equipment was never returned to the organizational committee.
The manager of the establishment where this seminar was to take place was also detained and interrogated by the police. The following day, the Wali de Tizi-Ouzou (with territorial administrative authority) signed a bylaw shutting down the establishment.
Hence, average citizen association members, coming to the seminar with the sole intent of learning about human rights, found themselves treated as common criminals, to the dismay and shock of the younger members. As for the seminar organizers, by criminalizing their activities, the police tried to demonize and discredit them.
Lastly, by ordering the administrative shutdown of the place where the seminar was to be held, authorities indeed forbade future activity for all independent citizens.
In fact, during the three days following this event, the representatives of the three organizations (Belkacem Lounes, for the Amazigh World Congress (CMA), Kamira Nait Sid for the Womens’ Association of Kabylie (AFK) and Rabah Issadi, for the Association Kabylie-Solidarité (AKS)) searched in vain for an outlet to report these abuses to the general public and to report these acts of flagrant human rights violations for assembly and expression.
No public representative, not even the Office of Human Rights and Citizens of Tizi-Ouzou, would report these events to the press for fear of judicial, administrative and police reprisal.
So, in Algeria, the most basic human rights can be seriously infringed upon without consequence and with impunity.
Let’s recall that other activities organized by or with the Amazigh World Congress (CMA) Congress, were subjected to the same acts of interference and intimidation, leading up to a ban or to administrative and police harassments: In 2008, a ban of the general congress of the CMA in Kabylie and in 2009, the arrest of the members of the Council Federal of the CMA in Tizi-Ouzou.
In any case, the seminar organizers and human rights representatives of Tizi-Ouzou, are outraged and appalled by this obstacle to a lawful and peaceful activity, intended only to promote human rights. Our indignation and anger are all the more intensified by the fact that the Algerian State adopted that very premise of international law pertaining to human rights, as Algeria’s representatives in the UNO never cease proclaiming their human rights convictions.
The three organizations appeal to international authorities, ONG and people friendly to this cause to urgently proclaim to the Algerian government to submit itself to its obligations relating to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, of democracy and rule of law.
In summary, we solemnly assert, in spite of police threats and suppression, that we shall persue our noble cause to fight with peaceful determination for human rights and for the individual and collective freedom, in accordance with international law.
Tizi-Wezzu, le 28 juillet 2010
P/le Congrès Mondial Amazigh, Belkacem Lounes P/l’Association des Femmes de Kabylie, Kamira Nait Sid P/l’Association Kabylie-Solidarité, Rabah Issadi