Home Page
Introduction
Internet Course
Issue Statements
UPR Reviews & Follow-up
WUNRN-Womens's UN Report Network
SOROBAS – Separation of Religion
or Belief and State
1986 - Tolerance for Diversity of Religion or Belief
2012 - The Tandem Project Fellowship
Now is the Time

 

 

 

 

THE TANDEM PROJECT
http://www.tandemproject.com.
info@tandemproject.com

UNITED NATIONS, HUMAN RIGHTS,
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

The Tandem Project is a UN NGO in Special Consultative Status with the
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations

Separation of Religion or Belief and State

Universal Periodic Review reports in six languages

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/dzsession1.aspx

Reports: National Report, Compilation of UN Information, Summary of Stakeholders’ Information, Questions Submitted in Advance, Report of the Working Group – Conclusions and Recommendations, Related Webcast Archives.
Main Country Page: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/MENARegion/Pages/DZIndex.aspx

 

Universal Periodic Review - Algeria

Only contributions submitted in one of the United Nations official languages are admissible and posted on this webpage

Date of consideration: Monday 14 April 2008 - 9.00 a.m. - 12.00 p.m.

 

 

     

Flag of Algeria 

 

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process launched by the UN Human Rights Council in 2008 to review the human rights obligations and responsibilities of UN Member States by 2011. The UN Human Rights Council has recommend a second cycle starting in 2013. UPR Process and  News: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx


Follow-up

If the UN General Assembly adopts the recommendation of the UN Human Rights Council to have a second Universal Periodic Review cycle beginning in 2012 Algeria as one of the first countries in the first cycle will be among the first to report follow-up to recommendations. The Tandem Project recommends a review of the following activities between 2008-2011 by Algeria in the second cycle beginning in 2012. 

National Report: Freedom or Religion or Belief, Implementation of Universally Recognized Rights, page 11: The criminalization of religious activities applies to persons who, lacking the necessary capacity or authorization, seek to persuade citizens to renounce their religion, in most cases by coercion or blackmail. This provision applies to all religions, including the majority religion in Algeria, namely Islam.”

Working Group Report
: Conclusions and Recommendations, page 12: That Algeria continue a dialogue with minority religions (The Holy See).

U.S. Government Report, Algeria, 2010: Embassy officials raised U.S. concerns about religious discrimination with government officials, specifically the lack of progress in registering non-Muslim religious organizations.
Embassy and visiting U.S. government officials, including congressional staffers, met occasionally with Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials. Embassy officials also met with officials of the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The ambassador and other embassy officials also met with members of the Muslim Scholars Association and several national scholars of Islamic studies throughout the reporting period, as well as with several Christian and, to a lesser extent, Jewish groups. Embassy officials attended seminars on religious tolerance and concepts of Islam specific to the country, often sponsored by the government and national religious organizations. Embassy officials also met with religious leaders of Muslim and Christian communities and with the CNCPPDH.

Embassy officials further underscored the need for religious tolerance by funding two ongoing cultural restoration projects with religious significance for both Christians and Muslims. The embassy facilitated travel for an imam to visit a Los Angeles mosque as part of an exchange program. During Ramadan the embassy sponsored an interfaith dialogue writing competition for high school students in cooperation with the country's Muslim boy scouts and several local newspapers. Nearly a dozen Islamic scholars attended an iftar (evening meal during the month of Ramadan) hosted by the ambassador and discussed, the need for religious tolerance and diversity. The embassy maintained contact with three Islamist political parties (Movement for a Peaceful Society, Movement for National Reform, and Islamic Renaissance Movement). Muslim scholars, members of Islamist political parties, and Muslim scouts were regularly nominated for and participated in the International Visitor Leadership Program.


Report click on link to the Main Page

Report by Mr. Abdelfattah Amor, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief (E/CN.4/2003/66/Add.1)

Compilation of UN Information, Implementation of International Human Rights Obligations, page 9: The Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief raised concerns regarding an ordinance adopted as law in April 2006, which set the conditions and rules for the practice of religions other than Islam. She reported that this text stipulates the location where other religions may be practiced. It also criminalizes attempts to convert Muslims to other religions as well as the creation, storage or distribution of documents aimed at undermining the faith of a Muslim (“ébranler la foi d’un musulman”), and preaching in religious buildings without the authorization of both the religious and national authorities. The Government noted that freedom of conscience is guaranteed by the Constitution and that while the ordinance itself specifies that the State religion is Islam, free exercise of religion is guaranteed as long as laws and regulations, public order, and the fundamental rights and freedoms of others are respected.


FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

U.S. State Department 2010 International Religious Freedom Report, Algeria

http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2010/148812.htm

Links to State Department sites are welcomed. Unless a copyright is indicated, information on the State Department’s main website is in the public domain and may be copied and distributed without permission. Citation of the U.S. State Department as source of the information is appreciated.

Excerpt

Section I. Religious Demography
The country has an area of 919,595 square miles and a population of 36 million. More than 99 percent of the population is Sunni Muslim. There is a small community of Ibadi Muslims in the province of Ghardaia. Unofficial estimates of the number of Christian and Jewish citizens varied between 12,000 and 50,000. The vast majority of Christians and Jews fled the country following independence from France in 1962. In the 1990s many of the remaining Christians and Jews emigrated due to acts of terrorism committed by Muslim extremists. For security reasons due mainly to the civil conflict, Christians concentrated in the cities of Algiers, Annaba, and Oran in the mid-1990s. According to Christian community leaders, evangelical Christians, including Seventh-day Adventists accounted for the largest number of Christians. Most evangelicals lived in the Kabylie region. Next in size were the Methodists and members of other Protestant denominations, followed by Roman Catholics. A significant proportion of Christian foreign residents, whose numbers were difficult to estimate, were students and illegal immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa seeking to reach Europe. One religious figure estimated there were between 1,000 and 1,500 Egyptian Christians living in the country.

During the reporting period, there were fewer press reports that Christian proselytizing had resulted in significant numbers of Muslims in the Kabylie region converting to Christianity. There were no standardized statistics on the number of religious conversions. Reporting from media, NGOs, and churches suggested that citizens, not foreigners, were the majority of those actively proselytizing in Kabylie.

Since 1994 the Jewish community has diminished to less than 2,000 members due to fears of terrorist violence. The Jewish community was not active, and the synagogues remained closed or unused. While the government allowed for the reopening of 25 synagogues around the country, none are in use.

In Algiers, church services were attended primarily by members of the diplomatic community, foreign resident Westerners, sub-Saharan African migrants, and a few local Christians.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The constitution provides for freedom of belief and opinion and permits citizens to establish institutions whose aims include the protection of fundamental liberties of the citizen. The constitution declares Islam the state religion and prohibits institutions from engaging in behavior incompatible with Islamic morality. Ordinance 06-03 provides for the freedom of non-Muslims to practice religious rites, on condition that the exercise thereof is in keeping with the ordinance, the constitution, and other laws and regulations and that public order, morality, and the rights and basic freedoms of others are respected. The ordinance regulates non-Muslim religious practice by regulating non-Muslim worship and stipulating fines against attempting to convert Muslims to another religion. Depending on the severity of the infraction (e.g., selling Bibles as opposed to actively proselytizing), one-time fines against Christians can range from $6.80 (500 dinars) to $6,802 (500,000 dinars). The prohibition against efforts to proselytize Muslims was not always enforced.

The constitution prohibits non-Muslims from running for the presidency. Non-Muslims may hold other public offices and work within the government; however, there was considerable anecdotal evidence that non-Muslims were not promoted to senior posts. As a result many non-Muslims hid their religious affiliation.

Ordinance 06-03, enforced since February 2008, limits the practice of non-Muslim religions, restricts public assembly for the purpose of worship, and calls for the creation of a national commission to regulate the registration process for non-Muslim religious groups. The ordinance requires organized religious groups to register with the government, controls the importation of religious texts, and orders fines and punishments for individuals who proselytize Muslims.

Government officials asserted that ordinance 06-03 is designed to apply to non-Muslims the same constraints that the penal code imposes on Muslims. In practice ordinance 06-03 and the penal code enabled the government to shut any informal religious service that took place in private homes or in secluded outdoor settings.

However, Christian leaders claimed to have improved relations with the government during the reporting period. Several church leaders reported receiving help from the Ministry of Religious Affairs to complete and file applications to register non-Muslim religious groups under the ordinance correctly. Nevertheless, many representatives of churches and some human rights organizations reported that the government had not provided the administrative means to process and approve requests to register non-Muslim religious groups under the ordinance. The National Commission for Non-Muslim Religious Services, which is the governmental entity responsible for regulating the registration process for non-Muslim religious groups, reportedly approved one request for accreditation by non-Muslim religious associations on July 1, 2009, for the representation of the Jewish community. The government also allowed for the reopening of 25 synagogues. None of the synagogues is in use, and the "reopening" stands as a technical permission that is not being implemented. According to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the National Commission has 12 or 13 applications for accreditation from various Protestant denominations. Members of the non-Muslim religious community alleged that the number was higher. Christian citizens who converted from Islam reportedly constituted the vast majority of the groups who sought legal registration.

Executive decree 07-158, which came into effect in early 2009, gives greater precision to ordinance 06-03 by specifying the composition of the National Commission for Non-Muslim Religious Services and the regulations that govern it. It establishes that the Minister of Religious Affairs and Awqaf (religious endowments) presides over the commission, which is composed of senior representatives of the Ministries of National Defense, Interior, Foreign Affairs, National Security, the national police, the national gendarmerie, and the governmental National Consultative Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (CNCPPDH). Individuals and groups who believe they are not being treated fairly by the Ministry of Religious Affairs may address their concerns to the CNCPPDH.

Conversion is not illegal under civil law, and apostasy is not a criminal offense. The government permitted missionary groups to conduct humanitarian activities as long as they did not proselytize.

Under ordinance 06-03, proselytizing is a criminal offense and carries a punishment of one to three years in jail and a maximum fine of $6,800 (500,000 dinars) for violations by lay individuals and three to five years' imprisonment and a maximum fine of $13,600 (one million dinars) for violations by religious leaders. The law stipulates a maximum of five years in jail and a $6,800 (500,000 dinars) fine for anyone who "incites, constrains, or utilizes means of seduction tending to convert a Muslim to another religion; or by using to this end establishments of teaching, education, health, social, culture, training…or any financial means." Anyone who makes, stores, or distributes printed documents, audiovisual materials, or the like with the intent of "shaking the faith" of a Muslim may also be punished in this manner, but this was not always enforced. During the reporting period, no new cases against proselytizing could be confirmed.

Some aspects of the law and many traditional social practices discriminate against women. The family code, which draws on Shari'a (Islamic law), treats women as minors under the legal guardianship of a husband or male relative. Under the code Muslim women are prevented from marrying non-Muslims, although this regulation was not always enforced. The code does not prohibit Muslim men from marrying non-Muslim women, but it prohibits them from marrying a woman of a nonmonotheistic religious group. Under the law children born to a Muslim father are Muslim, regardless of the mother's religion. In rulings on divorce, custody of the children normally is awarded to the mother, but she may not take them out of the country without the father's authorization. Under the 2005 family code amendments, women no longer need the consent of a male tuteur (guardian) to marry.

The family code also affirms the Islamic practice of allowing a man to marry as many as four wives; however, under the 2005 family code amendments, he must obtain the consent of the current spouse, or spouses, as well as the intended new spouse and a judge. Furthermore, a woman has the right to a no-polygamy clause in a prenuptial agreement. Polygamy rarely occurred in practice, accounting for only 1 percent of marriages.

Women suffer from discrimination in inheritance claims. The family code, which derives inheritance rules from Shari'a, states that women, including widows, are entitled to a smaller portion of a deceased husband's estate than his male children or brothers. Non-Muslim religious minorities may also suffer in inheritance claims when a Muslim family member lays claim to the same inheritance.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs provided financial support to mosques and paid the salaries of imams. Imams are hired and trained by the state, and observances of Muslim services, with the exception of daily prayers, can be performed only in state-sanctioned mosques.

The penal code states that only government-authorized imams can lead prayer in mosques and establishes strict punishments, including fines of up to $2,720 (200,000 dinars) and prison sentences of one to three years, for anyone other than a government-designated imam who preaches in a mosque. Harsher punishments exist for any person, including government-designated imams, who acts "against the noble nature of the mosque" or acts in a manner "likely to offend public cohesion." The law does not specify what actions would constitute such acts. The government legally may prescreen and approve sermons before they are delivered publicly during Friday prayers. In practice each wilaya (province) and daira (county) employed religious officials to review sermon content.

The government and private contributions of local believers funded mosque construction. The ministry's educational commission is composed of 28 members who are in charge of developing the educational system for teaching the Qur'an. The commission was responsible for establishing policies for hiring teachers at the Qur'anic schools and ensuring that all imams are well qualified and follow governmental guidelines aimed at stemming Islamic extremism.
The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad, Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, Awal Moharem, and Ashura.

The Ministries of Religious Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Interior, and Commerce must approve the importation of non-Islamic religious writings. Often, delays of five to six months occurred before obtaining approval, and there have been further delays when books reached customs. The government periodically restricted the importation of Arabic and Tamazight (Berber) translations of non-Islamic religious texts. The government stated that its purpose was to ensure that the number of texts imported was proportional to the estimated number of adherents of religious groups.

It is legal for citizens and foreigners to bring personal copies of non-Islamic religious texts, such as the Bible, into the country. Non-Islamic religious texts, music, and video cassettes were available, and two stores in the capital sold Bibles in several languages, including Arabic, French, and Tamazight (Berber). Government-owned radio stations continued to broadcast Christmas and Easter services in French. The government prohibited the dissemination of any literature that portrayed violence as a legitimate precept of Islam.

According to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, female employees of the government are allowed to wear the hijab (headscarf) or crosses but are forbidden to wear the niqab (Islamic veil that covers the face).

Ordinance 06-03 outlines enforceable restrictions, which stipulate that all structures intended for the exercise of non-Muslim worship must be registered by the state. The ordinance also requires that any modification of a structure to allow non-Muslim worship must have prior government approval and that such worship may take place only in structures exclusively intended and approved for that purpose. Officially, non-Muslim worship must take place only in a structure intended for such worship; however, examples existed where this was not enforced.

Executive decree 07-135 gives greater precision to ordinance 06-03 by specifying the manner and conditions under which religious services of non-Muslims may take place. The decree specifies that a request for permission to observe non-Muslim special religious events must be submitted to the wali (governor) at least five days before the event and that the event must occur in buildings accessible to the public. Requests must include information on three principal organizers of the event, its purpose, the number of attendees anticipated, a schedule of events, and its planned location. The organizers also must obtain a permit indicating this information and present it to authorities upon request. Under the decree the wali can request that the organizers move the place of observance of an event or deny permission for it to take place if it is deemed a danger to public order. No events were denied during the reporting period.

If an imam's sermon is suspected by a ministry inspector of being inappropriate, he can be summoned to a "scientific council" composed of Islamic law scholars and other imams who assess the correctness of the sermon. An imam can be relieved of duty if summoned multiple times. During the reporting period the government's right of review was not exercised with non-Islamic religious groups. The government also monitored activities in mosques for possible security-related offenses and prohibited the use of mosques as public meeting places outside of regular prayer hours.

The law requires religious groups to register their organizations with the government prior to conducting any religious activity. The Catholic Church traditionally has been the only officially recognized non-Muslim religious group in the country. In July 2009 the government accredited the first official Jewish organization. The Anglican, Seventh-day Adventist, and other Protestant churches have registration requests that have been pending with the government for up to five years but reported no government interference in holding services.

The Ministry of Interior (MOI) has the sole authority to grant association rights to religious or nonreligious groups. The difficulties faced by religious groups in obtaining legal status were the same as those faced by nonreligious civil society groups, nongovernmental organizations, and others, whose petitions to the MOI were generally met with silence rather than documented refusal. According to the government, applications to register associations have been deferred pending a revision of the 1973 law on associations. The revision has been pending since it was first announced in 2008. While the newly appointed minister of the interior pledged in June 2010 to reconsider applications of associations, the required legislative action had not been scheduled by the end of the reporting period.

Because the government has not registered any new churches since ordinance 06-03 entered into force in February 2008, many Christian citizens continued to meet in unofficial "house churches," which were often homes or businesses of church members. Some of these groups met openly, while others secretly held worship services in homes.


The Tandem Project a non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in 1986 to build understanding, tolerance, and respect for diversity of religion or belief, and to prevent discrimination in matters relating to freedom of religion or belief. The Tandem Project has sponsored multiple conferences, curricula, reference material and programs on Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights- Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion – and the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.

In 1968 the United Nations deferred work on a legally-binding treaty on religious intolerance as too complex and sensitive and passed a non-binding declaration in its place. The Tandem Project believes until a core legally-binding human rights Convention on Freedom of Religion or Belief  is adopted international human rights law will be incomplete. It may be time to begin to consider reinstating the 1968 Working Group to bring all matters relating to freedom of religion or belief under one banner, a core international human rights legally-binding treaty.

Documents Attached: Background - Human Rights & Freedom of Religion or Belief; Human Rights Lesson - Tolerance for Diversity of Religion or Belief; 1990 Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam & 1981 United Nations Declaration; Egypt - Role of Islam in Public Life; Somalia - Universal Periodic Review & Dialogue on Freedom of Religion or Belief