The events in Tunisia over the past month have intensified our already serious concerns about the deteriorating human rights situation in that country.
On the morning of December 31, men in civilian clothes took Noureddine Bhiri, deputy of the Ennahdha party and former justice minister, in a car outside his home, without a warrant or explanation. He was taken to a number of undisclosed places of detention and for several hours his family and lawyer did not know his whereabouts.
He was then placed under house arrest and then, given his pre-existing health problems, he was transferred to hospital on January 2, where he remains under surveillance. Authorities have indicated that he is suspected of terrorism-related offenses. However, we understand that his lawyers have not yet been formally informed of any charges against him.
A second man was also taken and detained on the same day and under similar circumstances, with his whereabouts not known until January 4.
Although the men’s families and the UN Human Rights Office in Tunisia have since been able to visit them, these two incidents echo practices not seen since the Ben Ali era and raise serious questions about the victims. kidnappings, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions.
We urge the authorities to either quickly release or properly charge the two men, in accordance with due process standards for criminal proceedings.
The actions of the Tunisian Internal Security Forces have long been a matter of concern that we have repeatedly raised and discussed with the authorities over the past decade.
The call by President Kais Saied, after the violent dispersal of the demonstrators on September 1, for the Internal Security Forces to change their practices and act according to the law to protect citizens and respect their rights and freedoms, was a positive step . However, the authorities’ public commitments to Tunisia’s international human rights obligations have yet to be translated into practice.
In addition to the actions of the Internal Security Forces, we are concerned about the stifling of dissent in Tunisia, including the abuse of anti-terrorism legislation, and the increasing use of military courts to try civilians, which raises doubts. serious concerns about the fair, impartial and independent administration of justice.
The president, who on July 25 last year suspended parliament and assumed all executive functions, has repeatedly promised to reform the civilian justice system. Any measure in this area must comply with Tunisia’s international human rights obligations.
During the last decade, Tunisia has made enormous progress in the promotion and realization of human rights, which makes it all the more vital that efforts be made to preserve these gains.
To this end, we urge the Tunisian authorities to continue their dialogue with the United Nations Human Rights Office and other United Nations human rights mechanisms to ensure that security sector reforms and justice which are so badly needed are fully in line with Tunisia’s international human rights obligations.