A resolution targeted in particular Algerian Ordinance 06-03, which clearly discriminated against non-Muslim groups.
by Willy Fautré
On 26 November, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the deteriorating situation of human rights in Algeria, mentioning in particular the case of journalist Khaled Drareni, who was sentenced to two years in prison on 15 September 2020.
The resolution also raises the issue of religious freedom in Algeria. The Parliament is concerned about the administrative hurdles that religious minorities are facing in Algeria, in particular regarding Ordinance 06-03. It recommends that the Algerian Government revises it, to bring it further into line with the Constitution and with its international human rights obligations, in particular Article 18 of the ICCPR.
Ordinance 06-03, which regulates the activities of non-Muslim groups, restricts and criminalizes quite a number of them.
Ordinance 06-03 and Freedom of Worship
The Ordinance bans outright the practice of religions or religious groups that are not registered, and gives the Ministries of Religious Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Interior and Commerce dominion in approving both religious groups and disseminated materials. Consequently, disapproval from these departments has resulted in the effective strangling of many of the activities of smaller religious communities.
The approval for buildings as places of worship is similarly restricted. The Ordinance prohibits the use of any unregistered place of worship. This registration process is deferred to various government Ministries, which have made it particularly difficult, with a very low rate of success since the Ordinance entered into effect. Therefore, despite ostensible acknowledgement of other religions’ right to freedom of practice, non-Muslim groups can gain neither authorisation for new places of worship nor the use of other spaces to conduct their activities. The punishments for using an unregistered place of worship are set by Article 13 of Ordinance 06-03, as a fine of between 100,000 and 300,000 dinars (€740- €2,220), and between one and three years in prison.
Ordinance 06-03 and Freedom to Share One’s faith
Proselytising is illegal in Algeria. Article 11 of Ordinance 06-03 of 2006 on the regulation of non- Muslims reads as follows:
“Without prejudice of more serious penalties, the punishment is imprisonment from two years to five years and a fine from 500,000 dinars (€3,700) to 1,000,000 dinars (€7,400) for whomever:
1 – incites, constrains or utilizes means of seduction tending to convert a Muslim to another religion, or by using to this end establishments for teaching, for education, for health, of a social or cultural nature, or training institutions, or any other establishment, or any financial means,
2 – makes, stores, or distributes printed documents or audio-visual productions or by any other aid or means, which has as its goal to shake the faith of a Muslim.”
There is no corresponding prohibition against the proselytising activities of Muslims.
The possession or use of materials, both printed and audio-visual, that might be used with the intent of proselytism is banned by the Ordinance. This law has been used to prosecute Christians for carrying personal articles of their faith, such as copies of sermons for their own use and Bibles. Therefore, accusations of proselytism are used to restrict the ability of communities to practice their faith well beyond its stated purpose.
A comprehensive paper about the religious legislation in Algeria is available here.