4 October, 2023The Confédération Syndicale des Forces Productives (COSYFOP), Algerian national trade union centre, is raising serious concerns over the recent misuse of anti-terrorism laws against trade union leaders.
"The unjust and baseless terrorism charges against our leaders, Hamza Khroubi and Nasreddine Hamitouche, reflect a disturbing trend of suppressing trade union voices in Algeria. COSYFOP condemns the misuse of Article 87BIS of the Algerian Penal Code and points to previous cases, such as that of Ramzi Dardar, as evidence of a concerning pattern. We deny any association with terrorist movements,”
COSYFOP said in a statement on 20 September 2023.
COSYFOP's concerns echo the findings of the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, who concluded an official visit to Algeria on 26 September.
Acknowledging the Algerian government's positive steps towards protecting freedom of assembly and association, as enshrined in the 2020 Constitution, Voule highlighted severe restrictions imposed over the past four years. Independent civil society has been dismantled, political pluralism curtailed, and human rights defenders, activists, and journalists imprisoned.
See more on report from Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association calling on Algeria to pardon convicted protesters.
The backdrop of these concerns lies in the controversial labour law reforms passed by the Algerian parliament in April, sparking outrage from trade unions. The law, which claimed to enhance trade union activities and protect workers' rights, faced significant opposition. Trade unions, including COSYFOP, argued that the law severely restricts workers' rights, rolling back progress made since the 1990s. The period since 2019, marked by widespread protests, saw trade unions actively participating in political discussions and mobilizations. However, the recent law has triggered controversy and protests due to its infringement on freedoms and liberties.
COSYFOP had previously submitted concerns to the Commission of Experts, outlining issues related to the right to organize and government violations. Additionally, they asked for intervention for the release of its member, Bennouna Abdeldjabbar, sentenced to 18 months in prison for allegedly publishing content on social media that was damaging to national security. The Commission confirmed that they received the communication and forwarded it to the Algerian government for response. The organization is waiting for the Commission's review of the observations and government's response during its November session.
Organizations like Human Rights Watch continues to call on the Algerian government to undertake reforms, safeguarding the rights of Algerians to free expression and peaceful organization.
“These developments, including the misuse of anti-terrorism laws to target trade unionists, highlight the importance of safeguarding the fundamental rights of workers and the crucial role trade unions play in defending these rights. We urge the Algerian government to uphold international labour standards, respect the right to peaceful assembly and association, and ensure fair treatment for all workers,”
says Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary.