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TUNISIA : Put an end to impunity

janvier 2010

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Tunisia – Put an end to impunity

Journalists, human rights defenders and members of the political opposition are frequently arrested, placed in arbitrary detention and convicted on false accusations such as offences against decency, holding unauthorised meetings, defamation, drunkenness or planning an act of violence. Similarly, the anti-terrorist law has to date been used to justify the arrest of more than 2000 young people since it was adopted in 2003. People are convicted after trials which do not respect the rights of the defence. Some defendants have simply been refused a lawyer, and magistrates continually interrupt speeches for the defence and bring trials to a speedy conclusion.

- Harassment and police violence
The political police systematically mark out the main opposition figures, who are constantly under surveillance at their homes and followed when they go out. The police prevent meetings between human rights defenders, particularly by barring their access to potential meeting places. Those who try to cross police barriers are subjected to acts of violence which security officials do not hesitate to carry out in full daylight. On 28 November activists who were visiting the human rights defender Ali Ben Salem at his home were violently attacked by police. On 16 November Omar Mestiri, a member of the National Council for Liberties in Tunisia was beaten up by a group of police while he was visiting a lawyer who is also a human rights activist. He was taken away in a car and left outside the city.

- The reign of impunity
Many political prisoners and ordinary prisoners are subjected to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by police and prison staff. Practices include humiliation and threats of death or torture, rape, beatings and electrocution as well as deprivation of food and toiletries. In violation of the Convention Against Torture to which it is a signatory, Tunisia refuses to prosecute the torturers and uses threats and economic pressure against victims and their families to make them withdraw their complaints. It also refuses to respond to requests for invitations made by the United Nations special rapporteurs or to collaborate with the Committee Against Torture.

In violation of the Convention Against Torture, Tunisia refuses to prosecute torturers and uses threats and economic pressure against victims to make them withdraw their complaints .

On 1 December, the journalist and human rights activist Zouhaier Makhlouf was given a three-month prison sentence and a fine of 6000 dinars for ‘molesting a third person through the telecommunications network’. Mr Makhlouf is accused of having filmed Mr Mourad Ladhib against his will during a video report on the environmental problems of the industrial zone of Nabeul. Mr Makhlouf was convicted even though the videos show that the people appearing in the report had agreed to be filmed. The hearing was evidence of manifest violation of defence rights. The judge continually interrupted the speech by Mr Makhlouf’s lawyers and suddenly cut it short and suspended the hearing. The most recent trials of human rights activists show that a further stage has been reached in silencing the opposition, as despite appearing in the media, judges no longer care about preserving the appearance of a fair trial.

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