Algeria – Whistleblowing Protection, Overview

1. Background

The Algerian Corruption Law, 26 February 2006 Law No. 06-01 on the prevention of and fight against corruption, contains the legal protections for civil servant whistleblowers. The protections afforded to these whistleblowers are further explored below.

2. Present legal environment

The Corruption Law, Chapter 4 Article 45, protects public and private employees—as witnesses, experts, denunciators or victims—from acts retribution, or any form of intimidation. Whistleblowers are protected from acts of retribution and intimidation in accordance with Article 45. Breaches of Article 45 (acts of retribution and intimidation) are punishable by prison sentence, ranging from 6 months to 5 years, and a financial penalty of between 50,000 and 500,000 DZD (or around $643 to $6432 USD, as at 24 January 2014).
However, Article 46 moderates these protections, deeming it an offence for whistleblowers to make ‘abusive’ (scandalous) accusations. A breach of Article 46 can result in a prison sentence in the range of 6 months to 5 years, and a financial penalty of 50,000 – 500,000 DZD.

A punishment for those failing to denunciate infractions of the law when they otherwise should is established under Article 47. In practice this creates an explicit compulsion to expose corruption. Breaching of Article 47 can result in punishments including a prison sentence, lasting from 6 months to 5 years, and a financial penalty of 50,000 – 500,000DND.

Immunity for whistleblowers revealing acts of corruption, which they have engaged in personally or as an accomplice to someone else, is established under Article 49.

As can be noted from the above, Articles 45, 46 and 47 are a confusing minefield for a prospective whistleblower. The provisions seemingly create a constant obligation to report whistleblowing (albeit with some commensurate protection), however, a metaphorical dagger hangs over the whistleblower as they do this – to make sure that the wrongdoing reported is accurate (not scandalous). This potentially creates an unfair and dangerous burden on the whistleblower to make a determination about the wrongdoing.

3. Additional legal gaps

No civil right is afforded to whistleblowers to claim compensation for any loss or damage as a result of whistleblowing under the Corruption Law. Any offences committed are considered offences against the State rather than against the person and thus the proceeds of financial penalties are awarded to the State.
The IGF (the anti-corruption agency) is a perpetual regulatory body under the direct authority of the Ministry of Finance. It is responsible for controlling public finance a posteriori through audits and investigations, which may lead to prosecution1.

The government retains discretionary power to appoint and remove the head of the IGF without explanation and the body lacks any genuine independence. The IGF does not publish reports on their activities and thus determining the efficacy of the body is made virtually impossible.

Algeria’s Prevention and Fight against Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism decree2 lacks any whistleblowing mechanisms. In order to improve the financial integrity of the Algerian banking system the creation of a mechanism of this kind is desirable.

Additionally, Algeria lacks any legal protection of freedom of information.

4. Case examples of whistleblowing

In 2006, Bououni Achour, addressed an Algerian Association for Fighting Corruption conference and exposed maladministration at the National Group for Aerial Navigation (ENNA). Subsequently he was beaten, kidnapped and imprisoned for a week, where he has subjected to multiple forceful interrogations3. Following his eventual released ENNA failed to reinstate him and he has received no compensation.

The 2010 Sonatrach corruption scandal also had a significant impact on Algeria. An investigation by the Algerian state intelligence service—Departement du Renseignement et de la Securite (DRS)—into alleged corruption in the awarding of contracts, revealed around USD$1.2 billion in corruptly awarded downstream LNG contracts4. In 2011, former Sonatrach CEO, Mohamed Mezian, was imprisoned for two years—one of which was suspended—and fined approximately USD $7,000, for embezzling public funds5.

5. Political, economic, and cultural environment

Presently, journalists remain subject to State regulation. Freedom of expression has improved since the civil war spanning 1991 to 2002, but remains inadequate.

Journalists are unable to ensure the protection of their sources. Access to governmental information remains fraught with difficulty, either because of poor governmental record keeping or due to access restrictions.

As noted above, anti-corruption legislation obligations are contradictory, for example, penalties for ‘abusively’ exposing information, and for retaliations against a whistleblower, are the same. As a result individuals may find it difficult to determine whether they should disclose information in the public interest.

Due to the relatively recent enactment of the existing anti-corruption legislation and lack of motivation for anything further, additional reform is unlikely to occur in the near future.

Last modified: January 28 2014


2 Decree of the Central Bank of Algeria No. 05-05 December 2005: