UNHCR Condemns Algeria’s Harassment of Christians

ICC Note: The United Nation’s Human Rights Committee (UNHCR) has completed a review of Algeria’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The UNHCR has found that there are some serious concerns regarding Algeria’s treatment of Christians, which has significantly worsened since November 2017. As a result of their findings, the UNHCR urges that Algeria stop harassing Christians and guarantee their religious freedom.         

08/01/2018 Algeria (World Watch Monitor) –   The UN Human Rights Committee has urged the Algerian government to stop harassing its Christian minority, after several churches and other religious institutions were closed down in recent months.

Since November 2017, six churches have been forcibly closed in the Maghreb country – three were later reopened – as well as a Christian bookshop and day-care centre for Christian children. Dozens of other churches also received notifications ordering them to close.

The UNHRC was reviewing Algeria’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and, in its concluding observations on 26 July, said it “remained concerned” over the closures.

The UNHRC called on Algeria to “guarantee the full exercise of their freedom of thought, conscience and religion to all”.

It also said the Algerian government should “refrain from obstructing the religion of persons who do not observe the official religion, in particular by the means of destruction and closure of establishments or refusal to grant registration of religious movements”.

The issues faced by churches in Algeria were presented in a new report by the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA).

In its report, submitted to the UNHRC in June, the WEA explained that the church closures were justified according to a 2006 ordinance, which stipulates that permission must be obtained before using a building for non-Muslim worship, and that such worship can only be conducted in buildings which have been specifically designated for that purpose.

But in practice, the authorities have failed to respond to almost all applications from churches for places of worship. In view of the authorities’ failure to respond to applications, it has become standard practice for churches to rent premises and inform the local authorities that they have done so.

The 2006 ordinance provided in principle for the establishment of a national commission for non-Muslim worship, which would be responsible for building regulations. However, such a commission was never created and the ensuing legal uncertainty about the status of churches has been used to justify their closure.

The WEA said the main body of Evangelical Christians in Algeria, the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA), has been specifically targeted, with most EPA member churches visited by committees to verify their legal status and building safety standards.

The WEA welcomed the UNHRC’s recommendations.

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