Algeria: Churches remained closed amidst pandemic
Covid restrictions kept in place for churches when mosques opened again.
Themes: Freedom of religion or belief, legitimate limitations, public health grounds, COVID-19
An estimated 99 percent of the population of Algeria is Sunni Muslim. The remaining 1 percent of the population is comprised of Jews, nonbelievers, Muslim minorities (including Ahmadiyya and Shi’a Muslims) and Christians (including Roman Catholics, Seventh-day Adventists, Methodists, Evangelicals, Lutherans, the Reformed Church, and Egyptian Coptic Christians).
All places of worship were closed under COVID regulations. However, in February 2021 the Prime Minister’s office announced that, “All mosques on the national territory are opened, in strict compliance with health measures and protocols for the prevention and protection against the spread of the Coronavirus, in particular the preventive support system put in place for mosques.” Restrictions were kept in place for churches, even though the same social distancing and health protocols could apply equally to churches and mosques.
This is an example of how the COVID-19 pandemic was used disproportionately and as a pretext to restrict freedom of religion or belief of minorities in illegitimate ways.
You may find the following guidance from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights helpful in relation to this case:
Emergency declarations based on the COVID-19 outbreak should not be used as a basis to target particular individuals or groups, including minorities. Measures taken must not involve prohibited discrimination on any grounds such as race, colour, sex, sexual orientation and gender identity, disability, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom 2022 Annual Report
International Christian Concern
United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Emergency measures and COVID-19 : Guidance