On November 20, 2018, Algerian authorities prevented University of Béjaïa students from traveling to an off-campus protest, arresting several students just outside the university gates.
Students, along with human rights activists, had organized a rally at Béjaïa’s Saïd Mekbel Square, calling for the release of Merzoug Touati, an Algerian blogger serving a seven-year prison sentence, reportedly for publishing an interview with an Israeli government official on his blog.
Students and activists gathered in front of the Targa Ouzemour campus of the University of Béjaïa, and prepared to march to Saïd Mekbel Square to join the protest. Before they could begin their march, however, state authorities reportedly detained a number of protesters in front of the campus and prevented others from leaving. Information on exactly how many students were detained and whether they face any criminal charges is unavailable as of this report.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention of students and other peaceful protesters on or around campus in an apparent effort to restrict the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Algeria is a party. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from the use of arbitrary detentions to restrict the exercise of such rights. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such actions undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.