Respect for fundamental rights, including the right to freedom of expression and the press, is one of the five priorities of the EU-Algeria Association Agreement. However, the two-year sentence handed down to the journalist Khaled Drareni is illustrative of how the Algerian authorities continue to repress dissents, using national security laws to quell freedom of expression, thereby infringing the most fundamental of rights. This has occurred without any explicit condemnation on the part of the EEAS or the VP/HR. UN experts have called for the sentence to be annulled and for Drareni to be released and protected, in addition to having denounced the arrests and arbitrary detention of dissidents, protestors and supporters of the Hirak.
On 25 September 2020, Spanish Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Maria Soraya Rodríguez Ramos of the Renew Europe Group, tabled a written parliamentary question to the Vice-President of the Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell. MEP Rodríguez Ramos enquired “will the forthcoming political dialogue condemn the unjust sentence handed down to Khaled Drareni and call for his release, in line with the European Parliament resolution of 28 November 2019 on the situation of freedoms in Algeria (2019/2927(RSP))?”
MEP Rodríguez Ramos asked the Vice-President of the Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Borrell “how does he assess the human rights situation in the country?” and “what strategy does he intend to use with respect to Algeria in the new framework of the Action Plan for Human Rights and Democracy after 2020?”
On 27 November, the Vice-President of the Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Borrell responded on behalf of the European Commission stating that “the European Union is closely following the situation of fundamental rights and freedoms in Algeria, including the individual case of Khaled Drareni” and that “respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights, including freedom of expression, is guaranteed by the Algerian Constitution and lays at the heart of EU-Algeria relations, as reflected in the Association Agreement and reinforced by the Partnership Priorities”.
High Representative Borrell further reported that “fundamental rights and individual cases are regularly raised in the contacts with the Algerian authorities” and “clear messages on the importance of freedom of expression and the existence of independent and pluralistic media, and the need to protect journalists, have been passed at different levels, including during the recent sub-committee on Political Dialogue, Security and Human Rights”.
Finally, the Vice-President of the Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Borrell declared that “in line with the EU guidelines on human rights dialogues in third countries, a consultation was held with a large number of Algerian and international civil society organisations to better inform the Political and Human Rights Dialogue and the EU’s diplomatic actions”.
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