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Tunisia

    November 25, 2015

    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.

    October 01, 2015

    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.

    July 31, 2015

     

    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.

    March 18, 2015

    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.”

    January 06, 2015

    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.”

    October 28, 2014

    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.

    March 05, 2014

    Last night’s release of Jabeur Mejri, a prisoner of conscience who spent two years in prison for publishing online articles and cartoons deemed offensive to Islam, is long overdue and must be followed by the authorities quashing his sentence and conviction, said Amnesty International.

    The organization had campaigned heavily for his release, including as part of its annual Write for Rights campaign in December 2013.

    “Jabeur Mejri’s release is a huge relief for his family and a victory for all the activists who have campaigned on his behalf across the globe. Putting him behind bars for two years for the images he posted online was a travesty that risked crushing all hope of genuine progress on freedom of expression in post-Ben Ali Tunisia,” said Philip Luther, Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    October 08, 2013

    After years of uncertainty, the full facts in the iconic case of Faysal Baraket, a Tunisian student who died in police custody in 1991, are coming to light, bringing an end to years of denial and deception by the Tunisian authorities, said Amnesty International.

    A report published on the 22nd anniversary of his death details the ordeal faced by his family in their quest for truth and justice and the organization’s lengthy campaign to challenge the authorities’ claim that the 25 year-old died in a car accident rather than being tortured to death.  

    “Faysal Baraket’s case underscores how the security forces for years tortured dissenting voices then denied it and covered it up, as well as the urgent need to reform the security apparatus and judiciary which played a central role in how the case was handled,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    July 29, 2013

    Today’s decision by a Tunisian court to dismiss a defamation case against the 18-year-old FEMEN activist Amina Sboui is only a partial victory, Amnesty International said as it called for her release.

    Amina was arrested on 19 May after writing the word “Femen” – the name of an international network of feminist activists famous for staging topless protests – on a cemetery wall in Kairouan in central Tunisia.  Held since then, she has faced an array of charges including defamation, insulting a civil servant and desecrating a cemetery.

    “Imprisoning anyone for expressing themselves is inherently disproportionate. The fact that Amina has already spent two months in prison is an indictment of the state of free expression in Tunisia,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    “We believe the case against her constitutes a politically motivated attack on her right to freedom of expression and that she should be released.”

    July 25, 2013

    The Tunisian authorities must deliver justice to stem a worrying tide of political violence, Amnesty International said after Mohamed Brahmi was shot dead outside his home in Tunis today.

    The leader of the Tunisian leftist opposition party the Popular Current (Courant Populaire, El Tayyar El Chaabi), was also a member of the National Constituent Assembly and a critical voice against the ruling party Ennahda.

    His murder, on the anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Tunisia, comes just months after another opposition leader, Chokri Belaid, was shot dead in February – sending shockwaves through Tunisian society and prompting the resignation of the then Prime Minister.

    “The targeting of a member of the National Constituent Assembly is a blow to the rule of law in Tunisia,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

    “A truly independent and impartial investigation into the killing must be immediately opened. Delivering justice for these two killings and other violent attacks against individuals must be an urgent priority in Tunisia.  

    June 13, 2013

    Yesterday’s prison sentences against three activists from FEMEN, an international women’s movement known for staging topless protests, in Tunisia are an unacceptable restriction on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today. 

    The women, two French nationals, Marguerite Stern and Pauline Hillier, and one German, Josephine Markmann, were arrested on 29 May as they protested bare-chested in front of the Tunis Court building, demanding the release of a Tunisian FEMEN activist arrested days earlier.

    They were convicted of public indecency, undermining public morals, and making noise disturbing peace, and sentenced to four months and one day in prison. The three women intend to appeal their conviction.

    "Imprisoning people for expression is inherently disproportionate,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

    International human rights law allows limitations to the right to freedom of expression, but only for a legitimate aim and through the least restrictive means possible.

    June 05, 2013

    On 1 June, Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly (NCA) received the latest draft of the country’s Constitution and is expected to vote on it soon.

    Amnesty International has reviewed the latest version amended following discussions among political parties and found that – while there are some improvements over the drafts circulated in August and December 2012 and April 2013 – the text still undermines tenets of international human rights law. It includes restrictions of some basic rights such as the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association and to freedom of movement, as well as providing insufficient guarantees for the independence of the judiciary and to protect against torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

    If the entire draft Constitution is not approved by two thirds of the NCA, it will eventually be put to a national referendum.

    Amnesty International has published an analysis of the latest draft and has experts available for comment.

    May 31, 2013

    A 19-year-old Tunisian activist for the FEMEN network is facing further accusations after having been convicted and fined on Thursday for the possession of a self-defence spray.

    Amina Sboui – who has also been known as Amina Tyler – was remanded in custody yesterday on accusations of desecrating a cemetery, belonging to a criminal organization and undermining public morals, offences which carry punishments of several years' imprisonment under the Tunisian Penal Code.

    The charges she faces appear to stem from her having written the word "FEMEN" on a wall surrounding a cemetery in Kairouan on 19 May, the day when Ansar al Charia, a Salafist group that opposes equality for women, had called a rally for its supporters in the city.

    Amina Sboui was arrested outside the cemetery and charged with possession of a self-defence spray – for which she was convicted and fined 300 Tunisian dinars (about US$184).

    She is due to be interrogated by the investigative judge on 5 June for the new accusations.

    May 28, 2013

    The trial of a blogger before a military court in Tunisia after he peacefully expressed his opinion on the internet is worrying evidence of the state of freedom of expression in the country, said Amnesty International.

    The trial against Hakim Ghanmi begins on 29 May in Sfax Military Court, in south-eastern Tunisia.

    Amnesty International is calling for charges against him to be dropped as he appears to be prosecuted solely for peacefully expressing his views about the treatment of patients in a military hospital by the hospital director.

    Ghanmi is being charged with “undermining the reputation of the army”, “defamation of a public official” and “disturbing others through public communication networks” after he published a letter to the Minister of Defence on his blog Warakat Tounsia in April 2013. In the letter, he complained about the actions of the director of the military hospital in Gabes.

    April 26, 2013

     

    The upholding of a sentence against a blogger jailed for “insulting Islam” is yet another blow to freedom of expression in Tunisia, Amnesty International said.

    Jabeur Mejri's conviction was today upheld by the Court of Cassation.

    The blogger was sentenced in March 2012 to seven and a half years in prison and a fine of 1,200 Tunisian Dinars – US$757 - after a court in Mahdia, eastern Tunisia, deemed posts he made online insulting to Islam and Muslims.

    “There’s no reason for the Tunisian authorities to keep Jabeur Mejri imprisoned,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Director.

    “He must be immediately and unconditionally released and the authorities must urgently reform articles of the Penal Code that restrict freedom of expression."

    For further information, please contact Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations, 416-363-9933 ext 332

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