Police in Algeria have arrested prominent human rights activist, Fatiha Briki, without specifying the reasons, according to a report in the North Africa Journal on Tuesday, June 22. The report, quoting Briki’s family and the Algerian prisoners’ rights group National Committee for the Liberation of Detainees (CNLD), stated that she was arrested on June 17, and her home was also searched. A retired university teacher, Briki is a member of the CNLD and an anti-torture association. She was a regular participant in the anti-establishment Hirak protests organized every Friday. Weeks before the country’s legislative elections were held on June 12, the government had banned unauthorized protests.
Even after news of her arrest became publicly known, there have been no official statements from Algerian authorities explaining the reasons behind her detention. Her family revealed that they were prevented from meeting her on Sunday. A statement released on behalf of the family said, “Fatiha is well both physically and psychologically. Her place is not in prison. She must be released immediately.”
The vice-president of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH), Said Salhi, said, “Fatiha Briki is a member of the CNLD and of the Committee against torture. I think it is her work in favor of the detainees that is the cause of his arrest. She is one of the foremost and central Algerian figures involved in documenting cases of human rights violations in the country. Her only crime in the eyes of the authorities is solidarity with political detainees and torture victims.”
In the weeks preceding the election on June 12, Algerian authorities embarked on a systematic campaign of arrests and crackdowns on human rights activists, opposition figures, journalists, lawyers and Hirak leaders and members. Several of them were also abruptly detained for criticizing the government and advocating a boycott of the elections. In the last two weekly Friday protests, close to 2,000 demonstrators were also detained. These violations of the freedoms of speech and peaceful assembly took place despite the fact that Algerian president Abdelmadjid Tebboune has expressed support for the demands of the Hirak movement and even praised it. He had also ordered the release from prison of many political detainees, some of whom were arrested again.
At least 260 Algerians who are part of or have links with the Hirak protests or with other organizations and civil society groups are under arbitrary detention, according to the CNLD. More than 80 Algerian and international human rights organizations have also recently written to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) expressing alarm at the “repressive escalation” of the Algerian authorities and “the incessant criminalization of fundamental freedoms.”