On June 15, 2021, Algerian authorities arrested University of Bab Ezzouar (UBE) professors Sara Ladoul and Mahana Abdesselam, members of the National Coordination of Academics for Change (CNUAC), for their role in the Hirak protest movement.
The Hirak — an Arabic term meaning “movement” — protest movement began in February 2019 to oppose then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was running for a fifth term. The movement succeeded in forcing President Bouteflika’s resignation and continued to push for Democratic reform. CNUAC is a collection of Algerian academics supporting the movement.
According to reports, Ladoul and Abdesselam were arrested on the same day and released after several hours of interrogation. The professors were called to appear at a police station on June 24. It is unclear what charges, if any, were brought against the professors.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention of scholars apparently in retaliation for the nonviolent 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 or retaliating against the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, so long as it is nonviolent and responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, the use of arrests and other legal actions to restrict or retaliate against a researcher’s exercise of the right to freedom of expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.