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02/19/2021 Geneva (International Christian Concern) –  A letter sent to the Algerian government in December 2020 by three UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) rapporteurs has been made public. The 7-page document was sent to the president of Algeria, requesting “detailed information” about the closing of Protestant worship places around the country. The letter summarizes some of the latest developments in human rights breaches in Algeria, especially those related to the closing of worship places and churches affiliated with the Eglise Protestante d’Algérie (EPA) and actions of discrimination against the Protestant Christian minority within the country. In a joint statement along with the EPA and Christian organization Middle East Concern, the World Evangelical Alliance has denounced the forcible closing of Protestant churches by the Algerian government.

According to the statement, “the thirteen Protestant churches sealed since November 2017 remain closed. All other Protestant churches are still closed due to COVID-19 measures, while authorities allowed 183 mosques in Tizi Ouzou province and some Catholic churches to reopen.” The UNHRC letter identifies 49 other Protestant churches at risk of being shut down by the government. There have apparently been public statements made by officials on social media in which they allegedly refused to allow closed worship places to reopen, citing the need to close all “illegal” churches in Algeria. The rapporteurs expressed their concern over what seems to be taking the form of an administrative closure campaign, which they say will have serious consequences for the right of the Protestant Christian minority to freely manifest and practice its religion. The rights of religious persons to practice through worship and the performance of rites and teaching, as well as rights to freedom of expression are both guaranteed by international law and articles 18 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The letter ends with a series of requests for the Algerian government, including an explanation of the “factual and legal basis that justified the closure of 13 places of worship and churches,” along with a demand for information surrounding the delays in the re-registration procedure of the EPA. It also asks for “measures to be taken to investigate any violation committed against them [Protestant church leaders] and to identify and push any responsible person.”
This is the second letter of this kind sent by UN Human Rights rapporteurs to the Algerian government. Rapporteurs sent a similar letter in 2018 that highlighted the UNHRC’s concerns about religious freedom in the country and denounced the restrictions and discrimination against the Protestant Christian minority. The Algerian government did not respond to the 2018 letter.

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