Algeria’s growing clout?

GENEVA, July 27 (Reuters) – The United Nations decided on Monday to bar an Arab human rights group for a year after Algeria argued that it brought in a “known terrorist” to speak on its behalf at a meeting in Geneva.

The decision was taken without a vote, despite reservations voiced by Western countries, at the 54-member Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in what an official of the barred grouping said was a move to silence its voice.

The action against the Paris-based Arab Commission for Human Rights — which has been fiercely critical of Israel but also of what it argues is growing oppression in Arab countries — deprives it of the right to speak in U.N. bodies.

[ . . . ]

The Arab Commission, founded in 1998 and run by 15 human rights lawyers who mainly live in Arab countries although some are based in Western Europe, will now be barred from the Human Rights Council, its main U.N. focus.

In a complaint to the NGO Committee, Algeria said the group violated rules last year by putting up as a speaker Swiss-based lawyer Rachid Mesli, against whom Algiers has issued an arrest warrant as a member of an “armed terrorist group”.

Hani said Mesli was a lawyer who fled Algeria after being prosecuted for defending members of the now defunct Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) which fought the state in the 1990s.

Arab human rights group barred for year by UN,” Robert Evans, 27 July, 2009.

This is evidence of one of Bouteflika’s campaign promises from 1999, as well as 2004 and 2009: the restoration of Algeria’s international prestige and clout. On one level this represents not only its ability to play the “war on terrorism” chip — which Bouteflika has refined to a level his immediate predecessors could not even during the bloodiest days of the Civil War. It also is indicative of the way many “Non-Allied” governments view NGOs and especially the activists among them: as threats to their internal stability and the integrity of the order from which their authority is derived. Whatever the legitimacy of these organizations’ causes or the “oder” that these leader proport to uphold, censures such as this one are nevertheless evidence of the fundamental crises of legitimacy facing the more geriatric and centrist among the NAM and other weak states. It would be the behavior of any regime in a similar circumstance, indeed many of the other states supporting the motion were likely looking at it not so differently than Algeria.

Algerian diplomats would like to claim that this and the recent aversion on the part of the United States to undersigning its statements on the Western Sahara and letters to King Mohamed VI with declarations of support for Morocco’s autonomy proposal (as was the protocol under Bush) to be evidence of Algeria’s growing “prestige” and the righteousness of its policy. No doubt the Algeria of 2009 has more credibility and more influence internationally than did the Algeria of 1999 or that this is surely due to the good wits of president Bouteflika, or at least those very close to him. What remains to be seen is if Bouteflika’s domestic solution to the dark decade will be able to sustain the international designs he’s set up for the country. All the progress Algerian diplomacy has made over the last nine years was predicated on the re-establishment of order inside the country and at least the impression of a process of reconciliation between the state and its people. Without any real reconciliation between the people and the state, or at least certain powerful cliques therein, the possibility for open tensions between the youth and the authorities in the medium term remains quite powerful. While Bouteflika has put an end to broad macro-economic ills and macro-political disputes, he has not resolved any of the fundamental sticking points that make so many Algerians so restive.

2 thoughts on “Algeria’s growing clout?

  1. I believe that, more importantly, this event is a bad PR operation for Algeria which is shown as not only heavy handingly treating a non-violent opposition (again) but also as using the UN notorious inefficiency and lack of spine to further its own agenda. A bad day for Human rights, a bad day for the UN and of course, ultimately, a bad day for Algeria.

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