On June 2, 2019, police in Algiers used violent force against students holding peaceful demonstrations calling for democratic reform in Algeria.
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 holding protests in central Algiers every Tuesday to call for broader democratic reform. State authorities have responded to some of these protests with violent force, arrests, and other coercive tactics.
On Sunday, June 2, a group of students gathered in front of the University of Algiers to march into central Algiers to demonstrate (the protest had been rescheduled from Tuesday, June 4 to avoid conflicting with the Eid al Fitr holiday). Police, who had erected barricades to prevent the march, reportedly beat some of the protesters with batons, and used violent force against a journalist trying to film the incident. Police later reportedly beat another group of students who attempted to take a different route to the city center. As of this report, neither police nor university leaders have issued public statements about the incident.
Scholars at Risk is concerned by the use of violent force against university students in apparent retaliation for their peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association — 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 restricting or retaliating against the nonviolent exercise of these rights. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.