Algerians have protested every week for more than six months now, demanding economic reforms and an embrace of democratic principles. Thousands continued to protest even after former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned in April, and they haven’t stopped as the North African nation works its way toward a December 12 presidential election.
That may come to an end on Friday, though, as Algeria’s army chief has ordered security forces to arrest people if they persist in their protests. The announcement has been met with frustration from both local and international human rights organizations that support Algeria’s quest for a civilian government, and whose members remain concerned over the extended interim leadership of Abdelkader Bensalah.
Among them are the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LADDH) and Amnesty International. Amnesty issued a warning Thursday over the Algerian crackdown, noting that at least 37 students and activists have been arrested in the last 10 days, most recently during peaceful protests in Algiers. They face an array of charges that include incitement and attempting to harm national security and interests.
“The resumption of sweeping arbitrary arrests targeting groups of political and other civil society activists is a clear indication that the right to freedom of assembly and expression in Algeria is still very much under threat,” said Heba Morayef, Middle East and North Africa Regional Director at Amnesty International. “The Algerian authorities must recognize that peaceful protesters’ calls for radical change will not just go away. They must listen to peaceful protesters instead of trying to crackdown on them.”