Tunisia: UN rights chief concerned over crackdown on opposition


The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, has voiced concern over the deepening crackdown in Tunisia targeting perceived political opponents of President Kais Saied as well as civil society, his Office, OHCHR, reported on Tuesday.

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Street scene in Tunisia.

Spokesperson Jeremy Laurence said that since Saturday, at least nine people have been reportedly arrested and some detained, on security and graft charges.

Among those arrested were two former judges, a lawyer, a prominent businessman, the head of a radio station and the leader of the Islamist Ennahdha political party, according to media reports.

Concern over military tribunals
OHCHR noted that Tunisia’s General Prosecutor has increasingly initiated criminal proceedings against the president’s perceived opponents, charging them with “conspiracy against State security”, causing offence to the Head of State or violating the decree-law to fight cybercrime.

“We are additionally concerned that some of those held on charges connected to criticising the Government have been tried in military courts. We call on the authorities to cease immediately practices of trying civilians before military tribunals,” said Mr. Laurence, speaking in Geneva.

OHCHR urged the Tunisian authorities to respect due process and fair trial standards in all proceedings, and to immediately release all those arbitrarily detained.

Undermining the judiciary
Mr. Laurence added that since July 2021, the authorities have also taken a series of measures that have undermined the independence of the judiciary, including dissolving the High Judicial Council and sacking 57 judges.

“We call on the authorities to work towards bringing justice sector legislation, procedures and practices into line with applicable international norms and standards, and through the separation of powers, to uphold the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law,” he said.