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ALGERIA: Lawyer Salah Dabouz under judicial harassment


Salah Dabouz is an Algerian lawyer who defended prisoners following unrest in Ghardaïa (2015)[1], as well as members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community who were condemned to prison sentences in 2018 for having “offended Islam”. Salah Dabouz was the President of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights.

In early April 2019, Salah Dabouz protested against the arrest of one of his clients, Kamel Eddine Fekar, a unionist and a Mozabite activist who had been released in 2017 after two years spent in jail for “trouble to the public order”.

Salah Dabouz was arrested on April 7th, 2019, in a restaurant in Algiers. He was presented to an investigating judge in Algiers and then transferred to Ghardaïa, 600 km from his home.

He is notably accused of “outrage” for having criticized the Algerian justice system. He had published Facebook posts in which he was announcing his decision to seize the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, about the prosecution launched by Ghardaïa’s judiciary against Mozabite activists.

Salah Dabouz was released on April 8th, but was placed under judiciary control. His trial will be held on May 21st. Till then, the lawyer must appear in Ghardaïa’s Tribunal three times a week. This control is very restricting as Mr Dabouz lives very far from Ghardaïa.

Salah Dabouz announced that he was facing 14 charges, among which “provoking an armed assembly”, “defamation of public institutions”, “undermining the integrity of the national territory”, “communicating secrets to a foreign State”, etc.

The National Union of Lawyers expressed its support and announced a boycott of all judicial activities, on the whole national territory, on April 9th. It denounces a serious infringement on the rights of the defence.

On Mai 17th, while he was taking part in the Algiers protests in favor of a democratic transition, Salah Dabouz was physically assaulted by police agents and was then arrested. He was released later the same day, after his family and human rights activists looked for him in the city’s police stations.

The OIAD fully support Salah Dabouz and firmly condemns the infringements on both his personal life and his professional activities. The OIAD requires that his judicial control be immediately lifted and that the State refrain from any attack or restriction.

The OIAD calls on the Algerian authorities to comply with the UN Basic principles on the role of lawyers, which state that “Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization. In exercising these rights, lawyers shall always conduct themselves in accordance with the law and the recognized standards and ethics of the legal profession.” (Principle n° 23)

According to the same Principles, “Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.” (Principle n° 16)

[1] Clashes between two communities (Mozabites and Châambas) in the Mzab region.