A group of United Nations experts have condemned the US Guantánamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, calling it a site of "unparalleled notoriety." The statement came on the eve of Jan. 11, which marks the twentieth anniversary of the arrival of the first terrorism suspects at Guantánamo.
Five international rights groups are urging Algerian authorities to drop their effort to dissolve a prominent civil society group over alleged violation of the "law on associations." The five groups—Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies, the International Federation of Human Rights, and the MENA Rights Group—say the government's move "threatens freedom of association." On Sept. 29, a court in Algiers heard a petition to dissolve the Rassemblement Action Jeunesse (Youth Action Rally, or RAJ). The petition claimed that the group's political activities violated the purposes set forth in its own bylaws. Leaders of RAJ denied the charge and said that authorities targeted the association due to its support of the Hirak pro-democracy movement.
At least 90 people have been killed in wildfires that have swept through northern Algeria over the past weeks. The blazes have consumed some 100,000 acres, mostly in the northeastern Kabylia region and its central province of Tizi Ouzou. While remaining silent on the role of climate change, the Algerian government seems to be exploiting the disaster for political purposes. President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Aug. 18 said most of the fires were "criminal" in origin, and blamed them on regional rival Morocco. The two countries were already in a diplomatic tiff before the new accusations. "The incessant hostile acts carried out by Morocco against Algeria have necessitated the review of relations between the two countries," the presidency said in a statement, adding that there will be an "intensification of security controls on the western borders." Algeria's western border with Morocco has already been sealed and heavily militarized since 1994.
US-led forces are currently carrying out war games in Morocco, the periodic "African Lion" exercises which this year also involve troops from Tunisia and Senegal. The games are taking place near the disputed region of Western Sahara, which Morocco is trumpeting this as a re-affirmation of US recognition of its claim to the territory. Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani said on Twitter ahead of the exercises that the event "marks the consecration of American recognition of the Moroccan Sahara." (The Defense Post, Africa News, June 15)
Security forces in Algeria put down weekly pro-democracy protests in the capital and cities across the country May 21, detaining hundreds of would-be demonstrators. "March prevented and suppressed in Algiers and Annaba, confrontations in Bouira, arrests in several provinces," reported Said Salhi, head of the Algerian League for Human Rights (LADDH), adding that demonstrations had gone ahead in Bejaia and Tizi Ouzou. He said nearly 500 people had been detained across 15 provinces, but mostly in Algiers. Protests had been held every Friday since the Hirak pro-democracy movement emerged in February 2019. In early May, just as the weekly protests were starting to re-mobilize after a period of abeyance due to the pandemic, the Interior Ministry announced new rules barring unauthorized demonstrations. This past Friday marked a second consecutive week that police flooded the streets of the capital to head off the protests. Said one activist on the scene: "For the 118th Friday [since the first Hirak protests], 'Algiers the White' has turned police blue." (TRT World, Al Jazeera)
President Donald Trump announced Dec. 10 that Morocco and Israel have agreed to normalize relations, adding that the US will formally recognize Moroccan sovereignty over the occupied territory of Western Sahara. Trump's official proclamation states that "as of today, the United States recognizes Moroccan sovereignty over the entire Western Sahara territory." The blatant quid pro quo makes Morocco the third Arab state to join Trump's vaunted "Abraham Accords," which have already seen the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recognize Israel this year. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Morocco's King Mohammed VI for his "historic decision" to sign the deal, and pledged a "very warm peace" between the two countries.
Amid low turn-out and a boycott in regions of the country, Algerians approved a new constitution pushed by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune in a Nov. 1 referendum. The referendum took place on the anniversary of the start of Algeria's war for independence from France in 1954, with the government adopting the slogan "November 1954: Liberation. November 2020: Change." The preamble to the new charter actually invokes last year's Hirak or "revolution of smiles" protest movement, and the reform was clearly intended as a response to the movement's demands. But in the northeastern Kabylie region, heartland of the country's Amazigh (Berber) people and a bastion of support for the Hirak, demonstrators blocked polling stations to enforce a boycott. In response, election authorities annulled the votes from 63 of the 67 towns in the region.
An Algerian court on Aug. 10 sentenced journalist Khaled Drareni to three years in prison for speaking out against the government. Drareni, who is well known in Algeria and has a twitter account of roughly 150,000 followers, is editor of Casbah Tribune news website and correspondent for international TV5 Monde and media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF). He reported widely on the Hirak protest movement against the rule of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. At trial, prosecutors used as evidence a Facebook post Drareni shared, calling for a general strike. The court found him guilty of "endangering national unity" and "inciting" unlawful gatherings.