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Tunisia: Authoritarian Drift Erodes Rights

By Reliefweb

March 25, 2024

Credits @FFHR.CZ

Geneva - Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor expresses deep concern over the dangerous expansion of government repression in Tunisia, aimed at consolidating the ban on public freedoms and restricting various forms of peaceful assembly, whether on political or livelihood-related issues.

The Tunisian authorities continue their repressive measures, extending the deteriorating human rights situation in the country since 2021, when President Kais Said imposed "exceptional" measures, such as dissolving the elected parliament and isolating the government as "necessary steps to save Tunisia from years of chaos," according to a previous statement by the president.

The government repression practices, such as continued detention and summoning of journalists, political figures, and civilians on grounds of the right to protest constitute a serious violation of human rights guaranteed by the Tunisian constitution and the country's international obligations, especially the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Euro-Med Monitor points to the ruling of the Court of First Instance in the city of Ben Arous (north of Tunisia) issued on Monday, 18 March, sentencing journalist and editor-in-chief of the Inhiyaz website, Ghassan Ben Khalifa, to six months in prison for defamation through social media platforms, based on a lawsuit filed against him more than a year ago accusing him of being behind a Facebook page opposing Kais Saied.

The arbitrary imprisonment verdict against journalist Ben Khalifa was issued despite his repeated denial of any connection to the sued page, a fact confirmed by tests conducted by specialised security teams according to local media, marking an extension of a series of judgments against journalists in Tunisia facing charges with a terrorist nature due to their work, seemingly in an attempt to silence their critical voices on the economic, social, and political situation in the country.

Euro-Med Monitor closely followed the Tunisian authorities' summoning, two days ago, of the Secretary-General of the Republican People's Union Party, Lotfi Mraihi, to appear before the "Fifth Central Brigade for Combating Communication and Information Crimes of the National Guard in El Aouina" due to statements he made on a private radio station criticizing President Kais Saied.

This summons complements the ruling of the criminal chamber of the Court of First Instance in Tunisia, issued on 29 January, sentencing Mraihi to six months in prison with a suspended sentence as punishment for his public criticisms of the deteriorating situation in Tunisia, especially political exclusion policies.

The pursuit and targeting of Mraihi exemplify the systematic government crackdown that has been ongoing for two years against political figures in the country, especially before the presidential elections scheduled in Tunisia at the end of this year, while the arrests of potential competitors of Saied for the presidency who declared their intention to run continue, such as the Secretary General of the Republican Party, Issam Chebbi, and the President of the Free Constitutional Party, Abir Moussi, among others.

Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor condemns the authorities' detention of five Tunisians in the Beni Ayesh area of Garmbalia for more than 30 hours earlier this week, following their participation in protests organized by locals against the water crisis in their area, demanding to be saved from a humanitarian and health disaster.

The five detainees were released by a decision of the Grombalia court after their case was reviewed, amidst protests by locals outside the courthouse. Their arrest for participating in a peaceful demonstration to address livelihood demands constitutes a blatant violation of their constitutional rights.

Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor reiterates its call on the Tunisian authorities to respect their commitments under the Tunisian constitution and relevant international treaties and norms, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ratified by the Tunisian Republic in 1969.

This can be achieved by completely ceasing the persecution of journalists, opposition activists, politicians, and releasing all detainees on grounds related to freedoms and political affiliations, respecting individuals' rights to political participation, expression, peaceful assembly, and ensuring the principles of democracy and good governance.


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