Developments in Tunisia over the past month have deepened our already serious concerns about the deteriorating human rights situation there, the spokesperson for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Liz Throssell, said yesterday.
In a statement, Throssell said that the Tunisian MP and former Justice Minister, Noureddine Bhiri, was detained on 31 December without warrant and no explanation has been given.
“He was taken to a number of undisclosed places of detention and for several hours his family and lawyer did not know his whereabouts,” she added, noting that he was subsequently put under house arrest.
In protest against his being put under house arrest, Bhiri went on a hunger strike. Then, his health condition deteriorated and he was moved to hospital and, according to the UN rights body, he is under security guard.
Throssell pointed to the detention of former interior ministry official Fathi Al-Balady, stating that he was taken away and detained on the same day and in similar circumstances.
“These two incidents echo practices not seen since the era of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and raise serious questions regarding abduction, enforced disappearance, and arbitrary detention,” Throssell said.
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She added: “We urge the authorities to either promptly release or properly charge these two men in accordance with due process standards for criminal proceedings.”
“The actions of Tunisia’s Internal Security Forces have long been a matter of concern and one which we have repeatedly raised and discussed with the authorities over the past decade.”
In the same statement, Throssell said: “We are concerned at the stifling of dissent in Tunisia, including through the improper use of counter-terrorism legislation, and the increasing use of military courts to try civilians, which raise serious concerns regarding the equitable, impartial and independent administration of justice.”
On 25 July last year, Tunisian President Kais Saied suspended parliament and assumed all executive powers. He has repeatedly vowed to reform the civilian judiciary.
Most Tunisians, including the majority parties in the parliament, rejected Saied’s measures calling them a coup.