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Algeria: NGOs call for more freedom, end to restrictive associations law

Law violates ability to organise freely in North African country, human rights groups say
Algerians gather on Friday to commemorate 30 years since popular uprising left scores dead (AFP)

Several Algerian human rights groups have called for the cancellation of a law they say violates their ability to work freely in the North African country, proposing instead new legislation to guarantee their rights.

The law, which deals with the work of Algerian associations and has been in force since 2012, was described as "villainous" by Abdelouahab Fersaoui, president of youth group Rassemblement Action Jeunesse.

At a news conference on Friday in Algiers, the country's capital, Fersaoui said the law forces NGOs to obtain state approval to operate, and the government has the ability to investigate a group's activities and financing.

The law was passed as part of a wider effort by Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to stem any potential Arab Spring-style protests in 2011.

At the time, members of the Algerian political opposition and human rights activists denounced the law, saying it entrenched state control over civil society.

On Friday, nine human rights groups proposed a new text they say would end the requirement that organisations must receive state approval.

The groups, which include the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (Laddh) and Algerian Women Demand Their Rights (Fard), said they plan to present their plan to political parties, government deputies, the interior minister and civil society actors.

Fatma Boufnik, president of Fard, the women’s rights group, said more than 55 percent of Algeria’s 108,940 registered associations have not conformed to the law "and therefore risk being dissolved".

In a statement, the rights groups said they decided to present their proposal to remind people "of the long road the Algerian people have been on in search of freedom, and for which they have made supreme sacrifices".

Friday marks 30 years to the day since a series of widespread demonstrations ended single-party rule and ushered in limited, democratic freedoms in Algeria.

At least 169 people were killed during that popular uprising, according to the state’s official tally, while human rights groups say as many as 1,000 people were killed and more than 2,000 others were injured.

Based on a translation from AFP