On April 17, 2019, police officers reportedly raided the University of Algiers’ Faculty of Law in an apparent attempt to restrict student protest activities.
Protests have spread across Algeria since February 2019 when the country’s president of 20 years, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, announced his intention to run for a fifth term in office. On April 2, after weeks of nationwide protests, often led by students, Bouteflika declared that he would no longer seek re-election. Despite Bouteflika’s announcement, students continued demonstrating for broader democratic change. State authorities responded to some these protests with violent force, arrests, and other coercive tactics.
On April 17, three officers of an elite police unit, the “Research and Intervention Brigade” (BRI), reportedly entered the premises of the Said Hamdine Faculty of Law at the University of Algiers, and raided a meeting held by students to discuss the ongoing protests. The officers reportedly confiscated a number of documents from the students, including a list of the meeting’s attendees, and attempted to detain one of the students. Students reportedly surrounded the officers and prevented them from detaining the student. Additional officers then reportedly entered the university and secured their encircled colleagues’ exit from the lecture hall. Some reports indicate officers used violent force against students during the operation, while other, unconfirmed reports allege that officers also arrested an unspecified number of students.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about a police raid on a university campus, confiscation of student materials, and the alleged use of force in an apparent attempt to restrict the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, 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 interfering in the peaceful exercise of these rights. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.