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  2. 2. 2 INDEPENDENT VOICES STIFLED IN TUNISIA ‘Tunisia can be a dangerous © Private place for anyone who defends human rights’ Radhia Nasraoui, human rights lawyer, March 2009 Anyone who is critical of the Tunisian authorities or speaks out for human rights in Tunisia is at risk. Human rights activists, NGOs, victims of human rights violations and their families, professional bodies such as the bar association and the journalists’ syndicate, and individual lawyers and journalists are in the line of fire of the authorities. They cannot set up or operate independent associations without fear of bureaucratic interference or harassment. above: Human rights defender Ali Ben Salem is prevented by plain-clothes security officers from They have been prosecuted and imprisoned greeting LTDH members in the organization’s offices in Bizerte in October 2007. on trumped-up charges. Their relatives, including children, have been interrogated protect human rights but also preventing those that are registered when they speak and harassed. Some have lost their jobs. them and their families from living a normal out against the authorities or the human Offices and homes have been visited by life. Through such practices, the authorities rights record of Tunisia. There are more security officers and ransacked. They are are sending a message to all in Tunisia to than 9,000 civil society organizations often followed and face intensive think twice before speaking out or defending registered in Tunisia, according to the surveillance. Their telephone lines, internet human rights. Centre for Information, Training, Studies access and emails are intercepted or and Documentation on Associations (Centre blocked. Harassment extends to physical Instead of addressing the issues raised d’information, de formation, d’études et de assaults – by police, plain-clothes by human rights defenders and others, documentation sur les associations, security officers and others acting at the the authorities attack the messengers. IFEDA), but only a handful are fully authorities’ behest. They face constant daily They refuse to grant organizations legal independent. None of these can operate harassment, impeding not only their work to registration, or interfere in the activities of free of government interference. INTERNATIONAL SCRUTINY The Universal Declaration of Human Rights The UN Human Rights Committee, which assembly and demonstration were compatible guarantees the rights to freedom of opinion oversees the implementation of the ICCPR, with the provisions of the ICCPR. and expression and freedom of peaceful called on the Tunisian authorities in April 2008 assembly and association. These rights have to “take steps to put an end to acts of UN experts on human rights defenders have been re-affirmed in Articles 19, 21 and 22 of intimidation and harassment and to respect requested a visit to Tunisia since August 2002, the International Covenant on Civil and and protect the peaceful activities of human but to no effect. In her February 2010 report, Political Rights (ICCPR) and Articles 9, 10 and rights organizations and defenders. Reports the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation 11 of the African Charter on Human and of acts of intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders expressed Peoples’ Rights. Tunisia, as a state party to should be investigated without delay.” It also continued concern over restrictions on these treaties, has the obligation to respect stated that Tunisia should ensure that any freedoms of assembly and association these rights. restrictions imposed on the right to peaceful in Tunisia. Amnesty International July 2010 Index: MDE 30/008/2010
  3. 3. INDEPENDENT VOICES STIFLED IN TUNISIA 3AlI BEN SAlEMAli Ben Salem is constantly care he should receive as a veteran of the Tunisian © Amnesty International war of independence. In 1999, the administrativewatched by security agents. He tribunal, which examines alleged abuses bytold Amnesty International that administrative bodies, ordered the authorities to restore Ali Ben Salem’s pension and grant him athey have physically assaulted medical card. Ali Ben Salem say that this has nothim several times. happened. Ali Ben Salem is constantly watched by securitySeventy-eight-year-old Ali Ben Salem, pictured at agents. He told Amnesty International that theyhis home in October 2009, has been continually have physically assaulted him several times.harassed and intimidated by the Tunisian Plain-clothes security officers are posted in frontauthorities because of his human rights work. He of his house day and night, preventing anyoneis a founding member of the Association for the entering except his close family, who sometimesFight against Torture in Tunisia (Association de have to show their ID cards. They follow himlutte contre la torture en Tunisie, AlTT) and the everywhere and stop him visiting other humanNational Council for liberties in Tunisia (Conseil rights activists and attending meetings wherenational pour les libertés en Tunisie, CNlT) and human rights are discussed. Sometimes, theypresident of the branch of the Tunisian league for physically bar him from accessing buildings;Human Rights (ligue tunisienne des droits de then taken to the El Manar 1 Police Station in sometimes, they block his car or prevent him froml’homme, lTDH) in the city of Bizerte, 66km north Tunis, where he was hit and kicked by several leaving Bizerte. His telephone landline andof the capital, Tunis. Amnesty International security officers, and dragged along the ground internet access were cut in 2005 and he believesbelieves that Ali Ben Salem is targeted by the and up stairs face down. He also had tear gas that his mobile phone is tapped.Tunisian authorities because he is a long- sprayed in his face. He was left for dead at astanding critic of Tunisia’s human rights record; construction site, around 15km from Tunis. He In June 2006, Ali Ben Salem was charged withhe has successfully lodged a complaint about later lodged a complaint about his treatment with “spreading false news likely to threaten publictorture against the Tunisian authorities before the the Office of the Public Prosecutor but no order” after he wrote a public statementUN; and he hosts – in his house – the office of investigation was opened. He also complained to denouncing torture in Tunisian prisons. The casethe lTDH in Bizerte. the UN Committee against Torture, which found, is still being investigated and Ali Ben Salem is not in November 2007, that these acts constituted permitted to leave Tunisia. He has been denied aAli Ben Salem is in poor health, with heart torture; that the Tunisian authorities should passport since 1995.problems, and continues to suffer from back pain investigate and bring those responsible toas a result of being tortured while in police justice; and that Ali Ben Salem should receive Ali Ben Salem exemplifies the relentlesscustody in April 2000. He was arrested by plain- compensation. To date, the authorities have harassment by the Tunisian authorities ofclothes security officers while visiting the home taken no steps to implement this decision. independent voices in the country. Sadly, he is notof journalist and government critic Taoufik Ben alone in this plight.Brik, who was on hunger strike at the time in He cannot afford to pay the cost of his medicalprotest at the authorities’ harassment and treatment as the authorities have blocked his civilrefusal to renew his passport. Ali Ben Salem was service pension and deny him the free medical Index: MDE 30/008/2010 Amnesty International July 2010
  4. 4. 4 INDEPENDENT VOICES STIFLED IN TUNISIA© CNLT © Private far left: Members of the CNLT prevented from accessing the administrative tribunal, where they sought a date for the organization’s appeal for registration, 10 December 2008. Image taken from a video. left: Human rights activists read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after being prevented from entering the LTDH premises in Bizerte in October 2007. Amnesty International has long documented between organizations’ members; those that elections, he referred to human rights violations against human rights defenders and they admit have occurred are, according to activists and journalists who sought to independent voices in Tunisia. This report is the authorities, only isolated cases. But expose human rights abuses and corruption based on interviews and other research carried Amnesty International believes that these by the Tunisian government. Then he out by Amnesty International in Tunisia and attacks are the direct result of the criticized the “tiny minority of Tunisians abroad over the years. The organization authorities’ laws, policies and practices and who… cast doubts upon its [Tunisia’s] has raised its concerns with the Tunisian their persistent efforts to control and stifle achievements and gains. This tiny minority authorities directly in meetings and in independent voices in the country. of Tunisians have relinquished the honour communications, as well as in public appeals. of belonging to Tunisia; this honour which Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali requires them to show a sense of propriety The harassment of critical voices and of has repeatedly stated that he is deeply and discretion vis-à-vis anything that can human rights activists is routine in Tunisia. committed to promoting civil society and cause harm to their country. They have not This report does not aim at providing an human rights. On 11 October 2009, at the respected the sacro-sanctity and inviolability exhaustive list of incidents, but rather opening of the electoral campaign for of the country”. outlines the most recent developments in example, he declared that his government Tunisia and shows how the authorities have had “been keen on continuously developing In April 2010, in their reply to the UN become more sophisticated and aggressive human rights legislation, institutions and Human Rights Committee, the Tunisian in their attacks. The authorities claim that bodies, and enhancing civil society acting in authorities claimed that they “encourage many reports of such attacks are either this field”. Later that month, however, on and protect human rights activists and fabricated or the result of internal quarrels the day of the presidential and legislative provide them with an appropriate legal framework to carry out their legal activities”. In June 2009, in response to statements LEGAL PROTECTION OF RIGHTS made by human rights lawyer Mohamed Abbou during a speaking tour in European The Tunisian Constitution guarantees the of public health or morals; or the capitals organized by Amnesty International, right to freedom of opinion, expression, protection of the rights and freedoms the Tunisian authorities denied impeding assembly and association. Article 8 states: of others, and; human rights defenders’ activities, telling “Freedoms of opinion, expression,  they must be “necessary in a the news agency AFP that human rights the press, publication, assembly and democratic society” for achieving one of defenders, members of all political parties association are guaranteed and exercised these purposes. and associations fully enjoy their rights and within the conditions defined by the law.” can carry out their activities without any The UN Human Rights Committee has hindrance, and can move around and Under Articles 21 and 22 of the ICCPR, specified that the reference to “democratic express their views freely. any restrictions on the rights to freedom of society” in the context of Article 22 of the assembly and association must meet three ICCPR on freedom of association indicates The reality in Tunisia, however, is that political conditions: that “the existence and operation of and economic life is under tight government associations, including those which control and only the official discourse of praise  they must be provided for by law; peacefully promote ideas not necessarily of the authorities is tolerated. The government  they must be imposed for one of the favourably viewed by the government or uses aggressive and repressive tactics to following purposes: national security or the majority of the population, is a extend that control to the few remaining public safety; public order; the protection cornerstone of a democratic society”. pockets of independent expression. Amnesty International July 2010 Index: MDE 30/008/2010
  5. 5. INDEPENDENT VOICES STIFLED IN TUNISIA 5 © Amnesty InternationalFrEEDOmS DENIEDDespite the protection afforded byinternational law and the TunisianConstitution itself, associations in Tunisiaface repression as soon as they raisehuman rights concerns or demonstrateindependence perceived by the government above: Amnesty International delegate greeting Sihem Bensedrine of CNLT on 17 November 2005,as hostile to its image and policies. after the Amnesty International delegation was prevented from entering the CNLT offices.BlOCKS ON REGISTRATIONThe Tunisian Law on Associations, Law No. Only a few of the organizations independently by the Ministry of the Interior. The founding59-154 of 7 November 1959, requires new reporting on human rights violations in members challenged this decision beforeorganizations to apply to the government to Tunisia have legal registration, and most the administrative tribunal. In August 2001,be registered in order to operate legally. of them face difficulties. Others are simply they were informed that the case would beAccording to this law, an NGO that has filed denied recognition by the authorities. examined by one of the chambers of thesuch an application may operate freely tribunal. This has not occurred, however,while the government processes its Since 1998, almost no independent and the case is still on the docket. Theapplication. If the Ministry of the Interior organizations have been allowed to register. CNLT continues to operate, but is in adoes not reject the application within 90 Registration has been denied to several situation of legal limbo.days with a reasoned decision, the NGO is independent human rights organizations,automatically registered. However, under including the International Association for The consequences of not being registeredArticle 4 of the law, the NGO can only start the Support of Political Prisoners can be drastic: organizations may not beto function legally when its name, goals and (Association internationale de soutien aux allowed to convene meetings of theirother information are published in the prisonniers politiques, AISPP); the members, hold public events or seek fundsOfficial Gazette, a legal periodical where Association for the Fight against Torture in within Tunisia. Members may not even belaws, decrees, statutes and other Tunisia (Association de lutte contre la torture allowed to enter the NGO premises or onlyadministrative decisions are published. en Tunisie, ALTT); the Tunis Centre for the in limited numbers. Their activities can Independence of the Judiciary (Centre de be criminalized, with their officials andIn practice, the government routinely Tunis pour l’indépendance de la justice, members open to charges of taking part inblocks the registration of certain new NGOs CTIJ); the Observatory for Press, Editorial an unauthorized meeting or membershipby refusing to accept their applications. and Creative Freedom (Observatoire pour la of an illegal organization.Without an official receipt proving that the liberté de presse, d’édition et de création,application has been submitted, NGOs are OLPEC); and Liberty and Equity (Liberté et For instance, no one was allowed to enterunable to counter the government’s équité), an organization supporting political the offices of the CNLT between Januaryassertions that they have not applied to prisoners in Tunisia. and August 2009, with one exception,register. Members of some new NGOs after the authorities had closed downhave been physically prevented by security The National Council for Liberties in Tunisia independent Kalima Radio, located in theagents from entering the registration office of was the only NGO to obtain a receipt when same building. Access to the CNLT officesthe relevant governorate; others have been it submitted its application to register back have been blocked several times, as notedconfronted by officials who have refused in December 1998. Its registration was by Amnesty International delegates in 2005to accept the application documents. refused without explanation in March 1999 and 2007. The offices of Liberty and Equity Index: MDE 30/008/2010 Amnesty International July 2010
  6. 6. 6 INDEPENDENT VOICES STIFLED IN TUNISIA The Tunisian authorities [are] using barely hidden subterfuge to weaken or co-opt independent organizations. are under constant, overt surveillance and elections. Its president received a phone manager that Amnesty International access to them is often blocked. Since its call from an official of the Ministry of the Tunisia could not hold its AGM without first congress in April 2008, the organization Interior informing her that the workshop first obtaining express authorization has not been able hold a new congress or was illegal but she was not given any from the district police. No legal provision even a meeting of its executive board. further clarification. In a separate incident requires such authorization; only a prior afterwards, the ATFD offices were declaration is required, which the In April 2008, the UN Human Rights surrounded by security forces and people organization had sent. Most recently, in Committee expressed concern “at reports were denied entrance. As a result, ATFD’s March 2010, international NGO Human that a very limited number of independent planned training sessions on gender Rights Watch faced the same treatment associations have been registered officially equality and women’s rights could not when attempting to launch a report on by the authorities and that, in practice, go ahead. harassment of former political prisoners several associations for the protection of in Tunis. human rights whose objectives and Law No. 69-4 of 24 January 1969 activities are not in violation of the [ICCPR] regulating public meetings, processions, Finding a hotel willing to rent its conference have encountered impediments when parades, demonstrations and gatherings facilities to a human rights organization applying for such registration (Articles 21 stipulates that the authorities must be to hold an event is similarly a challenge. and 22 of the [ICCPR])”. notified before a public meeting takes A circular issued by the Ministry of Tourism place and must be given information on in March 1997 says hotel managers must OFFICIAl INTERFERENCE the date, time and place of the meeting, inform the police of any meeting, seminar or Official registration provides no guarantee its object and purpose, as well as the other function to be held on their premises. that an organization can operate free from names of the organizers. A circular issued It instructs them to tell the police the name official interference. Amnesty International in January 1997 by the Ministry of Higher of the organization and the number and Tunisia; the Tunisian Association of Education requires that anyone organizing nationality of the participants. It also Democratic Women (Association tunisienne a meeting or conference in Tunisia must specifies that prior police authorization des femmes démocrates, ATFD); the submit in advance to the Ministry of the is necessary in all cases. Tunisian League for Human Rights; the Interior the list of participants, a copy of Association of Tunisian Judges (Association the agenda and the date, time and place of des magistrats tunisiens, AMT); the National the meeting. Seemingly, under the authority UNDErmINED FrOm WITHIN: Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (Syndicat of this circular, even meetings taking place FOUr OrGANIZATIONS, national des journalistes tunisiens, SNJT); in private homes have been disrupted ONE TACTIC and the General Union of Tunisian Students or banned. (Union générale des étudiants tunisiens, The authorities use a variety of tactics to UGET) are all officially registered. However, Owners of venues holding events undermine registered organizations whose they have had meetings prevented or concerning issues deemed sensitive by leaders or spokespeople have challenged or disrupted, when issues deemed sensitive the authorities, often cancel bookings at criticized government policies or demanded by the authorities are discussed, and their short notice, apparently following pressure greater respect for the rule of law and offices are under surveillance by plain- from the authorities. Just four days before human rights. One insidious tactic, for clothes security officers. Amnesty International Tunisia’s Annual example, is infiltration of an organization by General Meeting (AGM) was due to take government supporters with a view to In October 2009, the ATFD organized place in 2009, for example, the venue overtaking the organization. This weakens a workshop to discuss media coverage cancelled the booking. Security officers the independent base, and then allows during the last presidential and legislative are believed to have told the venue resistance to infiltrators to be portrayed as Amnesty International July 2010 Index: MDE 30/008/2010
  7. 7. INDEPENDENT VOICES STIFLED IN TUNISIA 7 © AFPinternal disputes. The management boardsof some organizations have been forcedaside in this way by disputes over their legalstatus. Some have faced calls for newelections after voicing criticism of thegovernment, apparently as a result ofbehind-the-scenes official manipulation.The following four examples show howdisputes presented as internal quarrels arein fact the result of the authorities usingbarely hidden subterfuge to weaken orco-opt independent organizations. above: Tunisian lawyer and President of the LTDH, Mokhtar Trifi, smiles as he opens theTUNISIAN lEAGUE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS League’s office on 28 June, 2001. The League’s activities had been stopped by the authoritiesThe publication in 1991 by the LTDH in February 2001.of two statements denouncing humanrights violations in Tunisia prompteda 1992 amendment to the Tunisian Lawon Associations. As a result, associations During the preparation for its Sixth National its regional offices and exclude membersregistered as of a “general nature”, Congress, the executive board made close to the authorities is rescinded.working on a wide range of issues, may not changes in the structure of the LTDH whichrefuse membership to anyone wishing to led to the closure of a number of regional These and at least 32 other courtbecome a member. The LTDH was forced offices. This prompted 22 members, cases against the LTDH have effectivelyto open its membership to all, allowing including heads of regional offices, to file a suspended the organization’s activities.government supporters to join and so case against the executive board. They On several occasions, the LTDH has beencreating internal pressures. This accused it of abusing its power and prevented by the security forces fromculminated, in October 2000, in four LTDH breaching the internal statute, alleging that holding meetings. Its offices in Tunis aremembers known to be close to the they had been unfairly dismissed in the constantly monitored and only membersauthorities filing a court case to complain course of the organization’s restructuring of its executive board and staff can enter.about irregularities in the election during and the merging of some of its branches. Members are also prevented from enteringthe Fifth National Congress. The four They also argued that the decision to close its offices outside Tunis. The telephonemembers requested that its result be regional offices was political, and aimed to line and internet in the Tunis premisesannulled and the ensuing executive board exclude members of the ruling political are not functioning and some maildissolved. In November 2000, a court party, the Constitutional Democratic Rally is never delivered. In May 2010, the LTDHruled in favour of the plaintiffs and (Rassemblement constitutionnel headquarters office in Tunis wasassigned a judicial administrator as head démocratique, RCD). surrounded by police. They preventedof the LTDH. In June 2001, an appeal members, civil society representatives andcourt annulled the results of the elections On 17 February 2007, the Court of First foreign diplomats from entering the buildingbut asked the executive board to organize Instance in Tunis confirmed the right of the to participate in the LTDH 33rd anniversary.the next congress. This decision was 22 plaintiffs and ordered the suspensionagain upheld by the Court of Cassation of the preparatory activities for the National In addition, since 2003 the LTDH hasin June 2009. Congress until the decision to restructure been prevented from accessing the second Index: MDE 30/008/2010 Amnesty International July 2010
  8. 8. 8 INDEPENDENT VOICES STIFLED IN TUNISIA The AmT’s board members were replaced in a special congress in December 2005 by newly elected members who are reportedly close to the government. instalment of a grant received through the lawyers were prevented – violently – by the Like many in Tunisia, they believe that their European Commission in 2002. The grant police from assisting him. The pressure phones are tapped and email accounts remains blocked at the bank, requiring increased later that year after the AMT intercepted. In 2005, the judges filed additional authorization from the Tunisian called for more independence for the appeals against their transfers and other authorities to release it. judiciary, criticized shortcomings of measures to the administrative tribunal, but the High Council of the Judiciary (Conseil nothing has happened to date. ASSOCIATION OF TUNISIAN JUDGES supérieur de la magistrature), which The Association of Tunisian Judges has responsibility for the appointment, In September 2006, Wassila Kaabi, a judge (Association des magistrats tunisiens, promotion, transfer and discipline, and member of the executive board of the AMT), whose aim is to defend the interests including dismissal, of judges. It is headed AMT, was prevented by security forces of judges and protect their independence, by President Ben Ali and has the Minister at the airport from travelling to Hungary to came under pressure from the authorities of Justice as its vice-president. It also participate in a meeting of the International after it criticized, in a public statement, suggested amendments to the draft law Union of Judges. Under Tunisian law, judges the heavy security presence inside the on the judges’ status to strengthen their require the permission of the Secretary of courthouse when lawyer and human rights security of tenure. Members of the AMT State for Justice to leave the country. defender Mohamed Abbou was arrested are reported to have been pressured However, Wassila Kaabi was on annual leave and brought before the investigating judge by the government to disavow the and did not require such permission. in March 2005 and the fact that his organization’s leaders. In August 2005, the AMT president was told to hand over In February 2009, Kalthoum Kannou, who the organization’s office keys to the Public was AMT Secretary General before being INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS Prosecutor, reportedly under orders from ousted, was assaulted in the Kairouan ON JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. Court of First Instance while performing her He refused to do so in the absence of a professional duties as an investigating The 2002 Bangalore Principles on Judicial court decision, so the locks were changed judge. Her assailant was sentenced to one Conduct affirm that: “judicial independence to bar AMT members from the office. The year’s imprisonment by the Kairouan Court is a pre-requisite to the rule of law and a AMT’s telephone, fax and internet access of First Instance but in October 2009, the fundamental guarantee of a fair trial. A were increasingly disrupted, then Sousse Court of Appeal acquitted him judge shall therefore uphold and exemplify effectively shut down. The AMT’s board despite the testimonies of other judges and judicial independence in both its individual members were replaced in a special court personnel incriminating him. and institutional aspects.” congress in December 2005 by newly elected members who are reportedly close In spite of statements trumpeted by the The UN Basic Principles on the Independence to the government. authorities on women’s rights in Tunisia of the Judiciary, state, in Principle 9, and the progressive status enjoyed by that “Judges shall be free to form and Judges active in the AMT executive board women in the country, four women judges join associations of judges or other seem to have been transferred to remote who were members of the original AMT organizations to represent their interests, areas, far from their families, in violation board have been particularly targeted. to promote their professional training of international standards guaranteeing They have been denied promotions or and to protect their judicial independence.” security of tenure. They continue to be transferred to remote locations far from It also reaffirms that members of the under close scrutiny from their superiors their families, raising fears that women judiciary are entitled to freedom of in an apparent attempt to intimidate and judges are being targeted in this way expression, association and assembly. silence them. Some have parts of their because of the perceived greater effect salaries seized without prior written notice. of such measures on women. Amnesty International July 2010 Index: MDE 30/008/2010
  9. 9. INDEPENDENT VOICES STIFLED IN TUNISIA 9 © Amnesty International right: Entrance to the National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (Syndicat national des journalistes tunisiens, SNJT).NATIONAl SyNDICATE OF TUNISIAN hundreds of other professional organizations.JOURNAlISTS In August 2009, the leadership of theThe National Syndicate of Tunisian SNJT was ousted. First, pro-governmentJournalists (Syndicat national des members of the Syndicate resigned andjournalistes tunisiens, SNJT) has been circulated a petition, reportedly backedsubjected to a campaign of destabilization by the Ministry of Communications,and intimidation since it published a report expressing no confidence in the electedin May 2009, criticizing the severe board. Members of the SNJT were forcedrestrictions on freedom of expression and to sign the petition, and some were Syndicate’s offices. In September, a courtthe press which prevail in the country. threatened with dismissal from their jobs. recognized the new, pro-government boardAhead of the October 2009 presidential A smear campaign against the original and ordered the ousted board to vacateand legislative elections, the SNJT board board members was launched. Then, the premises. Shortly afterwards, the newrefused to endorse any presidential government supporters within the SNJT SNJT board endorsed the candidacy ofcandidate, despite heavy pressure to follow held a special congress, elected a new President Ben Ali. The ousted boardsuit and endorse President Ben Ali as did board and filed a lawsuit to take over the members have faced smear campaigns in the media and reprisals from the authorities. Many of them were HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS interrogated by the Ministry of the Interior’s Department of Economic and The important role of human rights defenders and international levels: (a) to meet or Financial Investigations regarding the has been acknowledged by governments assemble peacefully; (b) to form, join fund of the SNJT. around the world. The Declaration on Human and participate in non-governmental Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General organizations, associations or groups; (c) GENERAl UNION OF TUNISIAN STUDENTS Assembly in December 1998 emphasizes that to communicate with non-governmental or Like other associations seeking to maintain everyone “has the right, individually and in intergovernmental organizations.” their independence, the General Union of association with others, to promote and to Tunisian Students (Union générale des strive for the protection and realization of Article 12 of the Declaration makes it clear étudiants tunisiens, UGET), a legally human rights and fundamental freedoms”. that states should protect anyone engaged in recognized organization, has been closely This includes the rights to “know, seek, such activities against violence, threats, monitored by the authorities. The obtain, receive and hold information”, to retaliation, adverse discrimination or organization seeks to represent students “freely publish, impart or disseminate pressure as a result of their legitimate work: and defend their demands for better to others’ views, information and knowledge “The State shall take all necessary measures studying and living conditions and to have on all human rights and fundamental to ensure the protection by the competent a say in the educational reform policies freedoms” and “to draw public attention authorities of everyone, individually and in proposed by the authorities. to those matters”. association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure The UGET has long been perceived by Article 5 of the Declaration provides that adverse discrimination, pressure or any other the authorities as a “rogue” organization “For the purpose of promoting and protecting arbitrary action as a consequence of his or to be brought to heel. In recent years, the human rights and fundamental freedoms, her legitimate exercise of the rights referred authorities have intensified their efforts to everyone has the right, individually and in to in the present Declaration.” weaken the UGET, seen by them as taking association with others, at the national political stands, and have used several tactics to do so, including harassment Index: MDE 30/008/2010 Amnesty International July 2010
  10. 10. 10 INDEPENDENT VOICES STIFLED IN TUNISIA © AISPP above: Activists in Tunis during a hunger strike Most recently, the UGET was not allowed to towards university staff or drunken and to call for political reform and respect of the hold its 25th Congress in April 2009, and disorderly behaviour. Some expelled rule of law ahead of the UN Summit on the there was a heavy police presence around students were on hunger strike for more Information Society which was held in Tunisia the city and university of Bizerte, where it than 50 days in February and March 2009, in November 2005. was scheduled to take place. This congress asking to be allowed back into university was supposed to unify different movements and claiming that they had been expelled within the union. because of their union activism. of active members and their families, their Protests organized by UGET to defend the All four organizations highlighted above are prosecution on trumped-up charges, their interest of students, including sit-ins, have targeted because they publicly challenge expulsion from university as well as barring been violently dispersed by security forces. government policies or practices or because the UGET from holding its meetings. In October 2009, after a three-week sit-in in they fail to provide unconditional support a dormitory in La Manouba, a suburb of to the government and the ruling party. The UGET has been unable to hold its Tunis, to demand accommodation, students Organizations are not the only ones to be national congress since 2003. This has were violently arrested. Twenty students targeted; individuals perceived as critical been the result of internal struggles were prosecuted for “robbery”, “disturbance by the authorities are also at risk. between different factions within the UGET of the peace” and “damage to others’ itself, as well as continuous interference by property”. UGET’s active members are often the authorities to support members close to targeted by the authorities and sometimes them and deal with them as the legitimate prosecuted on trumped-up charges representative of the UGET. unrelated to their activities within the student union, such as alleged violence Amnesty International July 2010 Index: MDE 30/008/2010
  11. 11. INDEPENDENT VOICES STIFLED IN TUNISIA 11 © CAPETACTICS OF HArASSmENTAND INTImIDATIONThe harassment of individual human rightsactivists and independent voices continuesunabated, despite repeated calls byinternational organizations and NGOsto put an end to these violations.CONSTANT SURvEIllANCE followed, questioned or assaulted by above: Tunisia press conference, June 2008.Human rights activists and independent security officers, as have their employers. From left to right: Anouar Kousri (Vice-voices are followed daily by security officers As a result, family members, friends and President, LTDH); Denys Robiliard, Hassibaor people working for them. They are neighbours who face harassment are Hadj Sahraoui and Said Haddadi (Amnestymonitored at home and at work. Some are sometimes scared to visit or contact International), and Samir Dilou (then Secretaryfollowed at doctors’ appointments or even their relatives. General, AISPP).during funerals. The surveillance varies inintensity. Security officers sometimes warn RESTRICTIONS ON FREEDOM OF MOvEMENT © Amnesty Internationalpeople not to attend certain meetings or Freedom of movement for independentconferences; other times, they physically voices and critics of the government isprevent them from doing so. Surveillance restricted within Tunisia. Activists are oftenincludes phone tapping, email hacking, blocked from travelling to another city toblocking of internet access and interception attend a meeting or court hearing.of correspondence. When AmnestyInternational delegates visit Tunisia, they are Human rights activists are also preventedkept under surveillance by plain-clothes from travelling abroad, through refusal tosecurity agents at all times, and are followed issue a passport or through an administrativeby a car or a motorcycle, day and night. ban. If they do travel abroad, they areThis warns off victims of human rights subjected to extensive searches of theirviolations and their families from talking to luggage and sometimes to intrusive bodyAmnesty International delegates. searches, at the airport upon return, and their documents and other belongings mayTwo Tunisian lawyers, Samir Dilou and be confiscated. Lawyer and human rightsAnouar Kousri, who described their defender Mohamed Abbou has beenexperience as defence lawyers for suspects denied permission to leave the countryof terrorism-related activities at an Amnesty seven times since his release from prison inInternational press conference in Paris on July 2007. He had served 28 months of a23 June 2008, were harassed by security three-and-a-half years’ sentence imposedofficials when they returned to Tunis. on him for denouncing torture in Tunisia in above: Passport action by Amnesty an article he posted on the internet in 2004, International UK, calling on the TunisianThe authorities have targeted the family and for allegedly assaulting another lawyer, authorities to lift travel restrictions onmembers of human rights activists, in a grossly unfair trial attended by Amnesty Mohamed Abbou.including their children. Some have been nternational observers. Index: MDE 30/008/2010 Amnesty International July 2010
  12. 12. 12 INDEPENDENT VOICES STIFLED IN TUNISIA © Al Mawkef © Private © Al Mawkef On 27 February 2010, upon his return from Casablanca, Morocco, Mohamed Abbou was physically and verbally assaulted and threatened with being sent back to prison. He was subjected to a full body search and insulted and then pushed by plain-clothes police after a customs agent searched his suitcase and confiscated a copy of a report on press freedom. At the same time, journalist and human rights activist Lotfi Hidouri also had books and documents confiscated. JUDICIAl HARASSMENT The authorities have prosecuted activists on trumped-up charges. Some have been imprisoned after grossly unfair trials. Others have been under judicial investigation for years, unable to travel abroad and living in the shadow of prosecution. Sometimes, they are given no information about the charges or the alleged plaintiffs. For years, the authorities have prosecuted activists by using provisions of the Penal Code and Press Code that criminalize defamation or the spreading of false news aiming at disturbing public order. They are now increasingly using trumped-up criminal charges. prevent them from attending meetings and top left and above: Ayachi Hammami demonstrations, or if they have raised surveys the aftermath of a blaze in his office, In November 2009, human rights activist human rights concerns in public. Some August 2007. Zouheir Makhlouf, a member of Liberty and have been pushed and manhandled, others Equity, was sentenced to four months’ punched and kicked. Some have been imprisonment for “harming others via the abducted and left in remote locations. public telecommunications network” after an Assaults are accompanied by insults and Tunisia and on alleged rampant corruption in unfair trial. He had posted a video on threats of reprisals and, sometimes, of the close family circle of President Ben Ali. Facebook which exposed pollution, lack of imprisonment or death. He was stopped in the street and forced into infrastructure and basic services in the city of a car that evening by five men in plain Nabeul, on Tunisia’s north-eastern coast. On 28 October 2009, three days after the clothes, all believed to be security officers. presidential and parliamentary elections, They forced his eyes shut, beat and insulted PHySICAl ASSAUlTS Slim Boukhdhir, an independent journalist him as they drove away, then stopped the Human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists who had previously been jailed for writing car, threw him out and kicked and punched and other activists have been assaulted by articles critical of the government, gave him until he lost consciousness. Before he security officers in plain clothes, usually to interviews on the lack of press freedom in did so, one of the assailants brandished a Amnesty International July 2010 Index: MDE 30/008/2010
  13. 13. INDEPENDENT VOICES STIFLED IN TUNISIA 13 © Amnesty Internationalright: Koll Ennas, a weekly newspaper close tothe authorities, described human rights andpolitical activists as traitors, agents and trashof history. This issue was published on 24October 2009, a day before the presidentialand legislative elections. A range of publicfigures including an Al Jazeera journalist,human rights defenders and heads of politicalparties were targeted.knife and threatened to stab him. He wasstripped of his clothes and his mobile phone,identity documents, and money and housekeys were taken, apparently to give theimpression that he was the victim of anordinary criminal mugging. He was dumpedin Belvédère Park in north Tunis. Threeweeks later, on 16 November 2009, OmarMestiri, managing editor of Kalima Radio andmember of the CNLT, was assaulted bysecurity officers in plain clothes, abductedand left in an isolated location about 15kmfrom Tunis. participating in the All Africa Human Rights preventing him from working as a lawyer Defenders Conference. On 1 May 2010, she or in any other job. Lawyer AbdelwahedNo action is known to have been taken discovered her office had been broken into Maatar had his car seized and was forcedagainst those responsible for these assaults. and her office computer taken. This is the to sell his house in March 2010, to pay theSome human rights defenders have fifth time her office has been targeted taxes which the authorities said he owed.recognized their attackers as individuals in this manner in the last few years. Other lawyers, such as Abdelraouf Ayyadiwho previously maintained surveillance and Ayachi Hammami faced further taxoutside their homes or workplaces. FINANCIAl STRANGlEHOlD investigations after they bought a house. People who voice criticism find it hard toSABOTAGE OF PRIvATE PROPERTy get a job. As most Tunisian media is state- SMEAR CAMPAIGNSSome human rights defenders report that owned, journalists critical of the government Virulent smear campaigns in the state-their property, including cars, have been face difficulties obtaining work. Lawyers controlled press and television denigratesabotaged. In one particular case, the office often lose many clients if they act in human rights activists and independentof Ayachi Hammami, a human rights lawyer, politically sensitive cases or raise human voices. Women activists are often accusedwas damaged in a suspicious blaze a few rights concerns. Their offices are closely of violating the country’s traditional view ofdays before an international conference on watched by security officers, who intimidate acceptable sexual behaviour and arethe independence of the judiciary was to their clients and pressure potential clients described as lesbians or “acting liketake place. A report he was due to present to engage other lawyers. prostitutes”. Sexual connotations are alsoon the lack of independence of the judiciary utilized for men, such as referring to theirin Tunisia was destroyed in the incident. Tax officers have targeted lawyers alleged homosexuality, which remains a perceived as critical of the authorities. taboo subject in Tunisian society. Both menCars, houses and offices have been broken Some lawyers face an investigation by tax and women human rights defenders areinto, searched and keys and documents officers every year, others after each of accused of serving the interests of foreignstolen. Lawyer and human rights defender their visits abroad. After he called for governments, including the USA and Israel,Radhia Nasraoui, a co-founder of the ALTT, greater protection of the independence of and of being paid by these governments tohas been harassed and intimidated over the the judiciary, Judge Mokhtar Yahyaoui, co- tarnish Tunisia’s image. Spokesperson foryears. Security officers visited her house founder of AISPP and CTIJ, was dismissed the CNLT, Sihem Ben Sedrine, has beenduring the night of 24 April 2009, and the from his job in 2001 for having “failed in accused of “acting like a prostitute”,keys to her house, car and office were his professional duties”. He has been “selling her soul” and serving the interestsstolen, while she was in Kampala, Uganda, continuously harassed since then, of the governments of the USA and Israel. Index: MDE 30/008/2010 Amnesty International July 2010
  14. 14. 14 INDEPENDENT VOICES STIFLED IN TUNISIA In December 2009, activists targeted by PrOFESSIONAL GrOUPS such defamatory statements included IN THE LINE OF FIrE Kamel Jendoubi, President of the France- based Committee for the Respect of Some groups are at particular risk of Freedoms and Human Rights in Tunisia harassment from the authorities because (Comité pour le respect des libertés et des they choose to defend their clients or to droits de l’homme en Tunisie, CRLDHT), report on abuses they witness in the Sihem Ben Sedrine, Sana Ben Achour, country. They use their voices to raise President of the ATFD, and Khemais concerns on the situation in Tunisia and, Chammari, member of the board of the as a result, are in the line of fire of the Euro-Mediterranean Foundation of Support authorities. to Human Rights Defenders (EMHRF). lAwyERS NO INvESTIGATION OF COMPlAINTS Lawyers involved in politically sensitive When those who have been harassed try cases or defending human rights are closely to obtain redress, the prosecutor routinely monitored, intimidated and harassed. In refuses to register their complaint. If addition to the measures described in the complaints are registered, in the majority previous sections, these lawyers are of cases they are not properly investigated. In prevented from exercising their profession some cases, an investigation is opened and a properly; restrictions are imposed on their few steps are taken, but no one is brought to activities, making it difficult for them to justice. On 31 August 2007 the office of defend their clients. Besides restricting lawyer and human rights defender Ayachi lawyers’ ability to adequately defend their Hammami was damaged in a suspicious clients, the Tunisian authorities also aim blaze a few days before he was due to attend to restrict the number of their clients, and a conference in Paris. He lodged a formal impugn their reputations. complaint and was heard by an investigating judge on 3 September 2007, but there have The frequent police presence near or in been no developments in the case since front of the offices of human rights lawyers then. On 4 October 2009, the car of lawyer deters their clients and potential clients who and human rights defender Abdelraouf do not want to have problems with the and subject visitors to questioning on the Ayyadi was damaged and inflammable and police. Such presence also deters potential purpose of their visit, including fellow explosive chemicals were put in its fuel tank, clients who want to seek redress for human lawyers. Lawyer and human rights defender allegedly by security officials. At the time, he right violations or family members of Mohammed Nouri, president of Liberty was expected to pick up Hamma Hammami, victims of abuse, as they see the police and Equity, has lost a large part of his a spokesperson of the banned Tunisian might further victimize them. Security clientele over the years; his office, like his Workers’ Communist Party (Parti officers have sometimes pressed home, is constantly under surveillance communiste des ouvriers tunisiens, PCOT), defendants to change lawyers if they want and security officers in front of his office lawyer and human rights defender Radhia their case to “progress in the right prevent some clients from entering. Nasraoui and the couple’s daughter. direction” or if they do not want to “worsen He lodged a formal complaint, but no their case”. Security officers also sometimes Lawyers have also reported having their investigation is known to have been opened. prevent people from entering the offices phone tapped, in breach of the right to Amnesty International July 2010 Index: MDE 30/008/2010
  15. 15. INDEPENDENT VOICES STIFLED IN TUNISIA 15 © Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Imageslawyer-client confidentiality. Clients have clients, despite receiving visit permits from above: Tunisian lawyer and human rightsreported being interrogated by security the Prosecutor’s Office. Lawyer Samir Ben defender Radia Nasraoui 24 May 2006, holds aofficers on issues they had discussed only Amor for example, Secretary General of placard, reading “19th Day of Sit-In”, in theon the phone or when meeting with their AISPP, was prevented from visiting any Lawyers’ House in Tunisia, where lawyerslawyer. Lawyers have also reported being clients for almost nine months between protested against a new law which they fearedlistened to while meeting their clients in August 2009 and March 2010. He received would undermine their independence.prison, or that the meeting took place authorization for these visits, but prisonwithin earshot of a prison officer. guards would not allow them. At first, he received no explanation as to why he wasSome lawyers defending human rights or not allowed to visit his clients. He was laterinvolved in politically sensitive cases have told by a prison guard that it was due to analso been prevented from visiting their order from the prison general authorities. Index: MDE 30/008/2010 Amnesty International July 2010
  16. 16. 16 INDEPENDENT VOICES STIFLED IN TUNISIA © AISPP above: Security forces surrounding lawyers THE ROLE OF LAwYERS demonstrating against the adoption of a law creating the Higher Institute for Lawyers The UN Basic Principles on the Role of lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional without proper consultation, inside the Tunis state that lawyers have an important role in functions without intimidation, hindrance, Court of First Instance on 9 May 2006. protecting fundamental freedoms. harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their Principle 14 specifies that “lawyers, in clients freely both within their own country and protecting the rights of their clients and in abroad; and promoting the cause of justice, shall seek (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, to uphold human rights and fundamental prosecution or administrative, economic or freedoms recognized by national and other sanctions for any action taken in international law”. accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.” Principle 16 adds that: “governments shall ensure that lawyers Amnesty International July 2010 Index: MDE 30/008/2010
  17. 17. INDEPENDENT VOICES STIFLED IN TUNISIA 17 © AISPPIt is very rare that lawyers are granted committed against their clients. When a above: Security forces blocking the streetauthorization from the prison administration group of lawyers represent defendants in between the court and the Bar Association atto visit their clients once the conviction has politically sensitive cases, the judge often the demonstration in Tunis, 9 May 2006.become final, in violation of Tunisian law. ignores them and does not give the floorUnder Article 17 of Tunisian Law No. 2001-52 to lawyers perceived as likely to raiseon Prison Administration, prisoners have human rights concerns. During politicalthe right to receive visits from their lawyers and security-related trials, plain-clothes The authorities have also reportedlywithout the presence of a prison guard and security agents are present in large pressured public and importantafter authorization from the competent numbers in the courtroom, in addition companies, such as banks, to changejudicial authority when not yet convicted or to the uniformed police officers in charge lawyers. Lawyer Adelraouf Ayyadi is onewhen the conviction is not yet final; and in of court security. The presence of this of many lawyers who have lost a large partpresence of prison guard after authorization additional security force is widely of their clientele as a result of theirfrom the prison and re-education authorities perceived as intimidating human rights activities.when the conviction is final. and undermining the impartiality and independence of the court. The authorities have also tried to bring theInside the courtroom, the lawyers are also Bar Association to heel. In 2002, it was putprevented from adequately defending their The smear campaigns orchestrated against under pressure by the authorities, whenclients; they are often interrupted or lawyers are designed to erode public pro-government lawyers challenged instopped by the judge when they seek to confidence in them and to stigmatize court the legality of the Bar Associationhighlight the human rights violations them in the eyes of fellow lawyers. Council decision to call for a strike. Index: MDE 30/008/2010 Amnesty International July 2010
  18. 18. 18 INDEPENDENT VOICES STIFLED IN TUNISIA ‘The country [Tunisia] does not condone blackmail. Betting on foreign [institutions] leads nowhere. It only leads to the criminalization of acts harmful to the interests of the nation and aimed at undermining development work and progress.’ Lazhar Bououni, Minister of Justice and Human Rights speaking in Parliament, 15 June 2010 The National Council had called for a one- possession with a view to distribute, sell of press pass, the difficulty to film and day strike on 7 February 2002 in protest or display pamphlets, bulletins, leaflets of send images to broadcasting media. against the unfair trial of members of the local or foreign origin likely to harm public banned Tunisian Workers’ Communist order or “good morality”. On 27 January 2009, police officers in Party, which had been marred with plain clothes surrounded the office of irregularities and the physical assault in Journalists who are perceived to be Kalima Radio, which had started to the courtroom of the defendants by criticizing the authorities in their writings broadcast via satellite the previous day. security officers. risk prosecution on trumped-up charges, After three days of blockades, the radio and other forms of harassment and premises were closed and sealed and all JOURNAlISTS intimidation, such as smear campaigns material seized. The blockade saw a The media is kept under close control seeking to discredit them. They may be number of incidents of intimidation and from the Tunisian authorities: most press dismissed from their jobs in Tunisian harassment. Human rights defender and and broadcast media companies are media or given minor assignments. editor-in-chief of Kalima Radio, Sihem owned by the state or by individuals close They are virtually banned from Ben Sedrine, was placed under to the government, while newspapers of employment in national media and face investigation for allegedly using a opposition political parties are denied hurdles when they work for foreign media, broadcasting frequency without a licence. public funding (in breach of the law on including the lack of accreditation and Naziha Réjiba, also known as Oum Ziad, the financing of political parties). Editors and journalists operate in a climate of FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION intimidation. Issues of independent newspapers which publish articles Article 19 of the ICCPR guarantees the right to particularly extensive definition of the offence critical of the authorities or denouncing freedom of expression. while this article admits of defamation, which is moreover subject to corruption are seized and suppressed. some limitations to this right, the restrictions severe penalties, including imprisonment, Foreign journalists who seek to expose must be necessary to protect national security, especially in cases of criticism of official the authorities’ clampdown on the public order, public health or morals, or the bodies, the army or the administration”. It political opposition and human rights or freedoms of others, and, according to called on the Tunisian authorities to take steps rights activists are barred from visiting the UN Human Rights Committee, “may not put to put an end to direct and indirect restrictions the country. in jeopardy the right itself”. Tunisia has ratified on freedom of expression and to bring Article 51 this instrument and is therefore obliged to of the Press Code in line with Article 19 of the The Penal Code and the Press Code ensure the rights specified in the ICCPR to all ICCPR, so as to ensure a fair balance between contain a number of vaguely worded individuals in its territory and subject to its protection of a person’s reputation provisions which criminalize the jurisdiction. Article 8 of the Tunisian and freedom of expression. spreading of false news aiming at Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of disturbing public order (Article 49 of the opinion, expression, assembly and association. UN bodies have also specified that “the use of Press Code), and the “incitement to criminal law is particularly inappropriate for rebellion” by speeches in public, posters The Human Rights Committee, in its 2008 alleged defamation against public officials in or written bills (Article 121 of the Penal Concluding Observations on Tunisia, expressed view of the fact that officials should be Code). There are also broadly defined its concern about “certain provisions of the expected to tolerate more criticism than private defamation offences in Article 245 of the [Tunisian] Press Code as well as [about] their citizens”, and that “the right to freedom of Penal Code and Article 50 of the Press application in practice, which is contrary to opinion and expression […] involves the right Code. Article 121ter of the Penal Code Article 19 of the [ICCPR]”. It specified that to freely criticize politic officials, public forbids the distribution, sale, display or “Article 51 of that [Press] Code contains a officers, public personalities and authorities”. Amnesty International July 2010 Index: MDE 30/008/2010
  19. 19. INDEPENDENT VOICES STIFLED IN TUNISIA 19is a journalist, co-founder of Kalima and trying to gag criticism abroad. On 15 June, THE ROLE OF JOURNALISTSOLPEC, and human rights activist. She the Tunisian parliament rushed through ahas been intimidated and harassed for new amendment to Article 61bis of the On 1 May 2009, the UN High Commissioner foryears. Some of her articles have been Penal Code which is designed to silence Human Rights and the UN Special Rapporteurcensored, and the newspapers where they government critics and human rights on the promotion and protection of the rightwere published were seized as the activists. Article 61bis of the Penal Code to freedom of opinion and expressionTunisian authorities claimed the articles deals with violations of the “external reaffirmed that “International recognition ofwere untrue. security” and criminalizes contacting the importance of journalists and the need “agents of a foreign power to undermine the for them to work free from unjust restrictionsIn November 2009, Taoufik Ben Brik, military or diplomatic situation in Tunisia”. and the threat of violence is essential.”a journalist and government critic, was Tunisians convicted of this crime currently “International legal instruments give everysentenced to six months’ imprisonment face up to 20 years in prison, with a citizen the right to receive information andon trumped-up charges of committing minimum sentence of five years. Under the ideas of all kinds, through any media of hisviolence, damaging property, harming new amendment the article now also or her choice. Governments, therefore, have apublic morality and defamation. He sanction those who contact foreign bodies legally binding commitment to protect a freedenied all the charges against him. with a view of harming Tunisia’s vital and independent media, and in doing soHe said they were manufactured by the interests, including its “economic security”. guarantee the rights of those working in theauthorities because of his criticism of media sector. Media independence andthe government. He was released after Such legal reforms are clearly intended to pluralism are fundamental to the process ofserving his entire sentence. target human rights activists who lobby democracy. Editorial independence should foreign bodies, such as the European be guaranteed by respect within governmentTunisia’s silencing of independent voices Union, to put pressure on the Tunisian and society at large for the independent,has so far escaped clear criticism from government over its human rights record, neutral status of journalists guaranteeingTunisia’s international partners. The including by making bilateral economic their right to freedom of expression.”European Union and the USA in particular relations subject to greater respect forhave largely been prepared to take the human rights and the rule of law. As a have been criminalized under the June 2010Tunisian authorities’ rhetoric of respect for result, the authorities can now prosecute amendments to Article 61bis of Penal Code.human rights at face value. Reports by human rights activists and journalists forAmnesty International, and others, which their advocacy work. Such a move by the A few days before the adoption of the law,catalogue serious human rights violations Tunisian authorities should be the UN Committee on the Right of the Childhave been largely sidelined by foreign unequivocally rejected by its European urged in its concluding observations Tunisiagovernments seeking to foster closer trade Union and other partners. “to take all necessary measures toties and security co-operation. Until these immediately halt … harassment andgovernments begin to exert meaningful In his reply to statements made by persecution against human rights defenderspressure on the Tunisian authorities to clean parliamentarians, Justice and Human and to release all persons detained becauseup their human rights record, it is likely that Rights Minister Lazhar Bououni said that of their activities in the field of human rights,the hounding of independent activists and “harming Tunisia’s vital interests” included including children’s rights.” In particular ithuman rights defenders will continue. “inciting foreign parties not to grant loans called on the Tunisian authorities to to Tunisia, not to invest in the country, to “withdraw the draft bill amending Article 61This report demonstrates the length to boycott tourism or to sabotage Tunisia’s of the Penal Code and review without delaywhich the Tunisian authorities would go to efforts to obtain advanced partner status laws, regulations and administrative practicessilence opposition. The authorities are now with the European Union.” These activities in order to facilitate activities of NGOs.” Index: MDE 30/008/2010 Amnesty International July 2010
  20. 20. 20 INDEPENDENT VOICES STIFLED IN TUNISIA © AP/PA Photo/Jean-Paul Pelissier, Pool right: French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, greeted by Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali during a welcoming ceremony in Tunis. President Sarkozy made a two-day visit to Algeria and Tunisia 10 July 2007. On another visit to Tunisia in April 2008 President Sarkozy said that “the space for freedoms is progressing in Tunisia”. cover: Plain-clothes security officers prevent members from entering the Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH) offices at Ali Ben Salem’s house in Bizerte in October 2007. Since September 2005, state security officers have been permanently posted in front of the house, to prevent LTDH members or Ali Ben Salem’s friends from entering the premises. © Private rECOmmENDATIONS Despite the risks and obstacles they face,  interfering in the internal affairs of civil exercise of the rights to freedom of human rights activists and independent society organizations and associations with expression, association and assembly; voices in Tunisia continue to speak out and a view to muzzling them.  allow the UN Special Rapporteur to work in many different ways to keep their on the situation of human rights defenders, concerns heard and to defend and protect Amnesty International calls on the Tunisian the Special Rapporteur on the independence human rights. The harassment they encounter authorities to take measures to: of judges and lawyers and the Special shows the Tunisian authorities’ intolerance of  repeal additions to Article 61bis of the Rapporteur on the promotion and protection independence. The tactics used by the Penal Code which in effect criminalizes of the right to freedom of opinion and authorities have combined to restrict freedom advocacy by human rights activists and expression to visit Tunisia and facilitate of expression, association and assembly. journalists and lobbying of foreign bodies their visits. such as the European Union. Amnesty International calls  uphold the rights to freedom of assembly Amnesty International calls on the on the Tunisian authorities to stop: and expression, including access to international community, including the USA  the harassment and intimidation information, as guaranteed in international and European Union to: of human rights activists and government human rights treaties binding on Tunisia as  press the Tunisian authorities to stop the critics immediately; well as in the Tunisian Constitution; harassment and intimidation of human rights  taking measures against individuals  repeal all provisions in the 1969 activists and government critics immediately and associations who defend human Law on Public Meetings, the 1959 Law and to uphold their international human rights, the rule of law or the independence on Associations, the Penal Code and the rights obligations. of their professions; Press Code which criminalize the peaceful Amnesty International is a global movement of 2.8 million supporters, July 2010 members and activists in more than 150 countries and territories who Index: MDE 30/008/2010 campaign to end grave abuses of human rights. Amnesty International Our vision is for every person to enjoy all the rights enshrined in the International Secretariat Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human Peter Benenson House rights standards. 1 Easton Street london wC1X 0Dw we are independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest United Kingdom or religion and are funded mainly by our membership and public donations.