The conviction of five people for the charge of “public indecency” after smoking a cigarette or eating in public during the month of Ramadan is a clear violation of individual freedoms in Tunisia, said Amnesty International.
In the latest incident, a man was sentenced to one month in jail for “public indecency” in the town of Bizerte, northwest of Tunis, for smoking outside a courthouse on 12 June. A day earlier, dozens of protesters took to the streets in Tunis to demand their right not to fast during Ramadan. He is the fifth man to be sentenced by the same court to a jail term for breaking his fast during Ramadan this month. Four other men were sentenced to one month in prison after eating in public on 1 June.
Key legislative amendments approved by the Tunisian Parliament this week are a positive step towards ending some of the discriminatory and disproportionate restrictions on freedom of movement in Tunisia, said Amnesty International.
The changes to the 1975 Law on Passports, passed on 23 May, include new provisions requiring that reasons are provided for decisions to impose travel bans or withdraw passports, that people affected by a travel ban are informed of the decision promptly, and guaranteeing that they have the right to challenge the decision. The law also limits travel bans to a maximum of 14 months in all circumstances, after which the ban has to be lifted.
“The draft law adopted this week is a positive development that will help lift some arbitrary restrictions on the right of individuals in Tunisia to travel outside of the country and grants them the right to challenge such restrictions,” said Heba Morayef, North Africa research director at Amnesty International.
“Parliament should now go further and review the arbitrary application of orders by the Ministry of Interior which restrict freedom of movement inside the country.”
The Tunisian government must demonstrate its commitment to human rights by accepting recommendations on combating torture, ending discrimination and protecting women and girls from sexual and gender based violence, said Amnesty International.
The Tunisian government received recommendations from more than 50 states at the country’s third Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council today.
Tunisia has made some progress on opening up political and civil space and some legislative reforms have been introduced, the security sector has remained largely unchanged and in recent years there has been a resurgence of violations committed with impunity,” said Heba Morayef, North Africa Research Director at Amnesty International.
As Tunisia prepares to extend a nationwide state of emergency on 22 March, Amnesty International has highlighted the government’s disproportionate and repressive use of emergency laws to trample on human rights.
On 7 March armed men attacked military bases and a police station in the southern town of Ben Guerdane on the border with Libya. The attack and ensuing clashes killed around 68 people, including at least seven civilians and 12 security officers. This is the latest in a spate of deadly attacks in Tunisia over the past few months, which has prompted authorities to place scores of people under assigned residence orders, restricting their movements to specific areas, as part of measures that are, in some cases, excessive and discriminatory.
Posted at 0001hrs GMT 14 January 2015
New evidence of deaths in custody and torture collected by Amnesty International suggests that brutal repression is on the rise again in Tunisia exactly five years after the toppling of the previous authoritarian regime by the “Jasmine Revolution”, which sparked a wave of uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa.
During a visit to Tunisia in December last year, Amnesty International collected information about deaths in police custody as well as allegations of torture carried out in the course of police interrogations.
“Five years ago Tunisians rose up and threw off the shackles of authoritarianism. Torture and repression were hallmarks of former President Ben-Ali’s regime; they must not be allowed to become defining features of post-uprising Tunisia,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Program.
Five years since fruit-seller Mohamed Bouazizi sparked wide-ranging protests in Tunisia and the wider region after setting himself alight in protest at police harassment in the town of Sidi Bouzid, ongoing human rights violations across the region are increasingly reminiscent of repressive and abusive measures of the past, Amnesty International warned today.
In a fact sheet published today Amnesty International gives a brief overview of human rights developments in the countries where there were uprisings five years ago.
“Many dared to hope that the ‘Arab Spring’, as it became known, would augur real change in the relationship between the rulers and those they ruled – greater power-sharing, social justice, transparency, accountability, and greater respect for human rights. The reality is that across the region, conflict and harsh repression remain the order of the day,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme.
Security forces have carried out scores of arrests and detentions in the wake of last week’s suicide attack in central Tunis, in a troubling sign that the authorities are reverting to repressive and abusive measures, said Amnesty International.
The organization spoke to residents who suffered a series of night time raids by security forces wearing balaclavas and carrying rifles, who stormed homes in the La Goulette district of Tunis threatening residents, including women children and the elderly, at gunpoint and arresting dozens of people in the early hours of 27 November.
“The Tunisian authorities must protect the population, investigate attacks on civilians, and bring perpetrators to justice. However, they must not trample over human rights by subjecting terrified families to heavy-handed home raids, and conducting mass arbitrary arrests and detentions ,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.
By Sara Hashash, Amnesty International's MENA Press Officer, in Tunis.
After the suicide attack on a bus carrying presidential guards in central Tunis last night, life in the capital seemed to return to normal today. The streets were full of people heading to work, children on their way to school and crowds of commuters packed into the green trams crisscrossing the bustling streets.
But there’s no doubt that yesterday’s bombing, which killed at least 12 members of the security forces and injured 20, in the heart of the capital has shaken Tunisia to its core. The attack was the first of its kind targeting security forces on one of the city’s main thoroughfares, close to ministerial buildings, at the height of rush hour. In a sombre address to the nation last night, President Beji Caid Essebsi declared a state of emergency lasting 30 days, for a second time this year. A nightly curfew was imposed in the capital until further notice.
Released 10:01 CET (09:00 GMT) 25 November
Loopholes in Tunisia’s laws are granting perpetrators of rape, sexual assault and physical violence a way out while their victims are frequently punished and blamed when they dare to report the crimes against them, said Amnesty International in a new report published today.
The report “Assaulted and accused: Sexual and gender-based violence in Tunisia”, published on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, highlights how nearly five years since Tunisia’s uprising, the leading Arab nation for gender equality is still failing to protect women who experience violence and people targeted for their gender identity, sexual orientation or sexual activity, due to flawed laws and entrenched discriminatory attitudes.
The case of a 22-year-old student sentenced to one year in prison for engaging in “homosexual relations” has finally sparked public debate on same-sex relations in Tunisia. Yesterday, the Minister of Justice Mohamed Salah Ben Aissa made a ground-breaking public call for the decriminalization of same-sex relations.
A court in Sousse convicted the man, known under the pseudonym Marwan, on 22 September after forcing him to undergo an anal examination to establish “proof” of anal sex. Amnesty International considers people who are arrested and detained solely on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity to be prisoners of conscience.
On 6 September, police had summoned Marwan in relation to the murder of a man in Sousse. When he denied any involvement in the crime, but admitted to having sex with the victim reportedly after the police threatened to bring a murder charge against him, he was charged with “sodomy” under Article 230 of the Penal Code which carries a maximum three-year prison sentence. The article also criminalizes “lesbianism” although it is rarely used to detain lesbian women.
Tunisia’s new counterterrorism law imperils human rights and lacks the necessary safeguards against abuse, eight nongovernmental organizations said today. The law grants security forces broad and vague monitoring and surveillance powers, extends incommunicado detention from 6 to up to 15 days for terrorism suspects, and permits courts to close hearings to the public and allow witnesses to remain anonymous to the defendants. Tunisia’s parliament should reduce the risk of abuse that the new law has created, including by amending the Code of Criminal Procedures to ensure that all detainees have the right to see a lawyer, as soon as they are detained and also prior to and during interrogation, the organizations said.
“Terrorism endangers everyone in Tunisia, but so does a law that allows the police to interrogate suspects without a lawyer for 15 days,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
Today’s armed attack that killed at least 19 people, according to the Tunisian Prime Minister, and injured many more in a museum in central Tunis shows an utter disregard for the right to life, Amnesty International said.
The organization is calling on the authorities to ensure that all those involved in planning and carrying out this attack are apprehended and brought to justice.
“This deadly attack, which in itself is utterly deplorable, must not be allowed to derail what many regard as the region’s most successful transition from authoritarianism to the rule of law and respect for human rights,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.
“The best answer to this atrocity would be bringing those responsible to justice in fair trials. A return to the draconian measures of the Ben Ali years which trampled over human rights would compound the tragedy of this crime and is likely to play into the hands of those trying to undermine Tunisia’s transition.”
The decision by a military court to continue the detention of Tunisian blogger Yassine Ayari is a gross violation of the right to freedom of expression, said Amnesty International as his re-trial started today.
The organization called for his immediate release from prison, and for his conviction on charges that he had “defamed the army” in a series of Facebook posts to be quashed. Yassine Ayari was sentenced to three years in jail last November.
“It is unacceptable that Yassine Ayari has been imprisoned for criticizing state officials. As a civilian, he should never have been tried by a military court and he should be released immediately,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
“Tunisia’s new parliament, elected two months ago, should make it a priority to repeal laws that make defaming state officials and institutions a criminal offense, and that allow civilians to be tried by military courts.”
By Amnesty International’s research team on Tunisia
Horns honked, children waved Tunisian flags, old men posed merrily for cameras and queues of voters spilled into school yards yesterday as Tunisians went to the polls in the first elections under the country’s new constitution, nearly four years after they took to the streets to protest against years of repression and abuse. Their enthusiasm was palpable, yet the success of the electoral process so far should not mask darker realities that persist in Tunisia.
Since the 2010-2011 uprising that ousted the former president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, human rights violations have endured.
This has been evident since we arrived in Tunis, where we watched families protesting against the torture of their loved ones at the hands of the security forces and calling for justice and accountability. Their stories backed up the reports we had been receiving for several weeks of cases of torture and deaths in custody.
Little is still known about the structure of the Tunisian security forces, which have not been reformed since the uprising.