International Human Rights Council, which belongs to the United Nations, received a report that was prepared by the Committee of Churches on International Issues, the World Council of Churches and the World Alliance of Evangelicals, which accused Algeria of carrying out “a campaign of intimidation against the Protestant minority and closing Christian houses of worship”, and asked for abolishing the work with the law on exercising religious rites that was issued in 2006.
Algerian government will be obliged to respond to a “large stream” of charges that were lifted by the church Christian institutions during the 39th Session of the International Human Rights Council in Geneva, from September 10 to 28, according to the minutes that was lifted to the Economic and Social Council of the General Secretariat of the Human Rights Council, and the World Council of Churches for International Issues and the International Council of Churches, which is a non-governmental organization with general consultative status, and the World Evangelical Alliance, which an NGO of a special consultative type, Algeria has been carrying out a “campaign of intimidation against the Evangelical Protestant minority since November 2017.”
The report, which copy is available to Echorouk, claims that the Algerian authorities visit places of worship periodically and threaten to close them, and that 6 places of worship have been closed, 3 of which were opened after “international pressure”, while the rest of them remain closed.
Authors of the report claim that this campaign is based on a legislative framework that conflicts with the international law regarding freedom of worship.
It refers to laws that are allegedly threatened by the Evangelical Protestant minority, as the Constitution expressly states that Islam is the religion of the state and guarantees freedom of belief, but the law of the practice of religious rituals that was issued in 2006 affirms that it guarantees the religious freedom of non-Muslims, but requires the prior approval of the National Committee for the practice of rituals, and the latter prohibits the practice of religious rites outside the places of worship.
According to the document, authorities have tools to control the religious communities and referred to the penalties that oppress freedoms and other finanvial penalties against those who proselytize Christianity, and also in article 144 bis of the Penal Code, which states: “A penalty of three to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 to 100 thousand dinars, or one of these two penalties only must be applied against anyone who insults the Prophet (peace be upon him), or the rest of the prophets or mockery of the knowledge of religion necessarily or any ritual of Islam, whether by writing or drawing or permit or any other means, and the punishment is applied by the public prosecutor who initiates criminal proceedings “.
The report presented what it alleged to be images of the “repression” of the Protestants since last November, including the closure of a church in Ait Malikch and the Riki church in Bejaia (eastern Algiers), and the Maatakah Church in Tizi Ouzou (eastern Algiers), with the prevention of evangelical protestants from the assembly in Tiaret and Sidi Bel Abbes (western Algeria) in January 2018.
The report spoke about the re-opening of other places of worship that were closed in the town of Ayoun al-Turk in Oran (western Algeria), and another church in Oran that was reopened on last February,27, and the Ayayda church in Oran.
It also spoke about the conviction of the priest of the Church of Tiaret, Noureddine Belaabed, for two years in prison on January,24, and another person called Uday Hamadad, who was convicted in last March with 6 months in jail for the charge of bringing religious equipment to the church.
The report, that was submitted to the Human Rights Council, recommended that Algeria has to be “consistent with its human rights obligations, particularly with respect to the guarantee of the rights of worship for the closed churches and or the threatened religious institutions and to allow them to be active”, and to ensure “a fair trial for the priest of the Tiaret Church”, review the 2006 law on practicing religious rites In the 2006, and suspending its application with regard to the dissemination of religious beliefs, and abolishing the compulsory license of the non-Islamic religious committee to establish religious activities outside the places of worship.