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Tunisia: UN Rights Office Calls for Release of Former Justice Minister

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We urge the authorities to immediately release or properly charge these two men in accordance with the rules of criminal due process.

NEW YORK, United States of America, January 11, 2022 / APO Group / –

Mr. Bhiri, a member of parliament for the Ennahdha party, was taken from his home on December 31 by men in civilian clothes. No explanation was given and no arrest warrant was provided.

The moderate Islamist movement Ennahdha has the highest number of seats in Tunisia‘s parliament, according to news reports.

No formal fees

Mr. Bhiri, 63, was transferred to different undisclosed places of detention for several hours and then placed under house arrest. Due to pre-existing health conditions, he was transferred to the hospital on January 2, where he remains.

Although officials have indicated that he is a suspect in terrorism-related crimes, OHCHR said his lawyers have not been formally informed of any charges against him.

A second unidentified man was also brought in and detained on the same day as Mr. Bhiri, and under similar circumstances. Its location was not known until January 4.

“We urge the authorities to immediately release or properly charge these two men in accordance with the rules of due process in criminal proceedings,” said Liz Throssell, spokeswoman for OHCHR in Geneva.

Serious concerns

The events have deepened the “already serious concerns” of the UN Office about the deterioration of the human rights situation in Tunisia.

Although the men’s families, as well as OHCHR staff in the country, have been able to visit them, Ms Throssell said that “these two incidents echo practices not seen since the Ben Ali era and raise serious questions about the kidnapping, forced disappearance and arbitrary detention. . ”

President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who ruled Tunisia for more than 20 years, was ousted in January 2011, in protests that sparked the Arab Spring.

The current president, Kais Saied, suspended parliament last July and assumed all executive functions, in a move that opponents called a coup.

Preserve rights gains

OHCHR said the actions of the Tunisian Internal Security Forces have long been a cause for concern, as they have repeatedly raised the issue in discussions with authorities over the past decade.

Following the violent dispersal of protesters on September 1, President Saied called on the forces to change their practices and act in accordance with the law. While it is “a positive step,” the UN office said public commitment to international human rights obligations has yet to be translated into practice.

OHCHR was also concerned about the stifling of dissent in Tunisia, including through the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation and the increasing use of military courts to try civilians.

Although the president has repeatedly promised to reform the judiciary, actions must be in line with Tunisia’s international human rights obligations.

OHCHR recalled the “tremendous progress” that the country has made over the past decade in promoting human rights, while highlighting the importance of preserving these achievements.

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