10/28/2021 Algeria (International Christian Concern) – Yesterday, Amnesty International, a renowned, secular human rights watchdog group, condemned the sentence of Foudhil Bahloul, an Algerian Christian convert convicted under laws regulating non-Muslim worship. This condemnation of the Algerian government comes at a time when religious freedom continues to deteriorate in the north African country, especially at the expense of the Algerian Christian community.
Algerian authorities arrested Bahloul on April 17 after a raid on his house, charging him with “illegal donations” and “collecting donations or accepting gifts without a license from the authorized departments.” Bahoul also faces additional charges under a 2006 Ordinance regulating non-Muslim worship, specifically targeting him as a Christian for distributing bibles.
Amnesty International officials called the law, and Bahloul’s conviction, discriminatory and urged for his release. “Algerian authorities must immediately quash Foudhil Bahloul’s conviction and drop all charges against him,” said Amna Guellali, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “This discriminatory law is being used as a weapon to repress those who do not follow Islam in an assault against their fundamental freedoms. Instead of targeting non-Islamic believers, Algeria authorities must work on protecting the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief – which includes the freedom to manifest that belief.”
Bahloul’s case is one of many examples of religious discrimination from the Algerian government in recent years. The government also has arrested several members of minority religious communities under its blasphemy law, a law whose enforcement the U.S. House of Representatives and the UN Human Rights Committee have both recognized as a human rights violation. Additionally, the Algerian government continues to prevent Protestant churches throughout the country from holding worship services and often ignores requests for information and attempts to have them reopen.
As documented by Amnesty International, International Christian Concern (ICC), and several other NGOs, Algeria’s human rights violations are blatant and need to be addressed by the international community. In its 2021 annual report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended that Algeria be placed on the State Department’s special watch list for countries that engage in and tolerate severe violations of international religious freedom. ICC affirms this recommendation and urges the State Department to use this designation to send a strong message to Algeria that the United States will not tolerate such persecution from the Algerian government.
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