Germany must take a stand for human rights in North Africa

Algerian human rights activists call for more protests

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) has appealed to the German government to do more for human rights in North Africa. "Europe must put more pressure on North African authoritarian governments to bring about a long-needed improvement in the human rights situation," stated the head of the Africa section at the STP, Ulrich Delius, on Monday in Göttingen. "Germany has done nothing so far to promote democracy in North Africa." Chancellor Angela Merkel did not even mention human rights when she met with Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika in December 2010. Bouteflika's governing Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) is said to be one of those responsible for the violent deaths of more than 120,000 people during the civil war from 1991 to 2001, as well as for the disappearance of more than 20,000 Algerians. To this day, nobody has been held accountable for the murders of 132 demonstrators, members of the Kabyle people, in April 2001.

Rather than human rights, Merkel spoke of expanding economic relations and energy cooperation. Other topics of discussion included measures to be taken against illegal immigration, although the FLN and leading security agencies are themselves involved in the flourishing business of human trafficking. Wikileaks recently published reports from the deputy US ambassador in Algeria, who was a witness to state-sanctioned human trafficking. Neither were human rights discussed during Merkel's Algeria visit in summer 2008.

"Nor has Foreign Affairs Minister Guido Westerwelle shown any inclination thus far to support democratization in North Africa." In talks with his Moroccan counterpart, Taib Fassi Fihri, on 15 November 2010, primary themes were the expansion of energy cooperation and Morocco's rapprochement with the EU – although Morocco has drastically violated the rights of Berbers, journalists and opposition politicians. At least Westerwelle did touch on the subject of the ongoing Western Sahara conflict. Berlin's efforts on behalf of the Western Sahara, however, occupied by Morocco in violation of international law, did not extend as far as preventing a new fisheries agreement between the EU and the Kingdom of Morocco that includes the territory of Western Sahara.

"Algeria human rights activists and democrats know that they are basically on their own when it comes to asserting respect for civil rights," lamented Delius. The Kabyle people have been the backbone of the democracy movement for years. In the past week, Algerian human rights activists established a coalition movement and, after a demonstration on Saturday was broken up by police, have called for another demonstration on 9 February 2011.