Apr 27, 2022

Kabylia : UNPO Releases Report On Ongoing Crackdown and Neglect of Kabyles in Algeria

UNPO has released its report into the situation in Kabylia, whose parent state, the Algerian government, has administered in a brutal and authoritarian manner the historical region. An overall crackdown in Algeria is taking place against against the instigators of pro-democracy protests, known as the Hirak movement between 2019-2021. As part of this crackdown Kabyle self-determination activists have been particularly targeted in the aftermath of the movement which was stopped by the Covid-19 pandemic. The handling of this very pandemic in Algeria displays an increased neglect of Kabyle society by Algerian authorities, who refused to allow the entrance of medical supplies from the diaspora to the Kabyle region. Furthermore, in the summer of 2021 the Algerian government exacerbated a forest fire crisis by refusing help in tackling them and blaming self-determination activists for starting them. 

UNPO has released this report as part of our submission to international authorities requesting a full investigation into these occurences of human rights abuses. Particularly striking is the way civil society in Algeria continues to be brutally cracked down upon by the FLN government. We hope that international pressure ensures Algeria respects its commitments to the relevant international treaties guarenteeing civil and political rights. 

Over the past year, the human rights situation facing the Kabyles has gotten significantly worse, as the Algerian government has intensified its campaign of repression against anyone critical of the regime. The invocation of terrorism and the decriminalization of the Kabyle self-determination movement has enabled a new era of political repression, comprising of unprecedented degrees of censorship, persecution, discrimination, killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and continued attempts of erasing and suppressing Kabylian language, culture and identity.

The recent crackdown on peaceful dissent follows a long-established pattern of efforts to silence and repress the Kabylian population. Significant human rights issues still remain, and in many instances severely worsening, include: arbitrary arrests and detention; lack of judicial independence and impartiality; serious restrictions on freedom of expression and press, including criminal defamation laws and arrests of journalists; substantial interference with freedoms of peaceful assembly and association; and transnational repression through extradition of refugees and exiles in third countries. Moreover, there have been acute failures by the Algerian authorities in their response to Covid-19 and the 2021 forest fires, both of which resulted in disproportionately high fatalities in the Kabylian territory. Attempts to protest against these conditions and lack of governmental aid have been met with brutal force.

At the same time, there has been increasing international recognition of the worsening human rights situation in Algeria over the past year. In March and May 2021 the OHCHR released statements on the deteriorating human rights situation in Algeria with regards to, inter alia, the unnecessary and disproportionate force against peaceful protesters and continuing arrests. In June 2021, 82 civil society actors also addressed a joint letter to the UN Human Rights Council calling for states’ action to address the Algerian authorities' alarming crackdown on pro-democracy forces. The European Parliament has also passed a resolution on the deteriorating situation of human rights in Algeria, and in December 2021 a group of UN Special Rapporteurs and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention presented a letter addressed to Algeria on its abuse of anti-terrorism legislation to crack down on peaceful activists, highlighting its impacts on fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and assembly.

The UNPO therefore urges the Government of Algeria, in coordination with international actors and civil society, to recognize the right to self-determination of the Kabyles in order to ensure the realization of their fundamental rights. Repressive policies and activities must be stopped in the areas of speech, association and assembly. Excessive force and arbitrary detention cannot be used to curtail freedom of peaceful expression. Policies infringing upon these rights of the Kabyle people must end.