On October 8, 2019, police reportedly arrested dozens of students from various universities holding a peaceful protest 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 and that he would resign. Abdelkader Bensalah is currently serving as acting president, as of this report. Presidential elections are scheduled for December 1, 2019.
Despite Bouteflika’s resignation, 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. More recently, activists, elders, and other members of civil society have joined the students in their protests.
On October 8, hundreds of students and other protesters gathered in the streets of Algiers for one of the weekly protest marches. Police quickly arrived and blocked students from marching along the streets to a central square. Sources indicate that officers used violent force against the students, hitting them with batons. Police reportedly arrested at least thirteen students. It is unclear whether the students have been released or face criminal charges.
Scholars at Risk is concerned by the use of violent force and arrests to restrict students’ peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression — 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 the nonviolent exercise of such rights, so long as they are exercised peacefully. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.