Tunisia: Creation of National Authority for Defense of Rights, Democracy amidst deteriorating situation

Tunisia: Creation of National Authority for Defense of Rights, Democracy amidst deteriorating situation

Several Tunisian personalities on Tuesday announced the creation of the National Authority for the Defense of Rights and Democracy, which seeks to “defend rights and democracy and fight against human rights violations in Tunisia.”

The authority’s objectives and working method were presented Tuesday by the constitutive committee at a news conference, reported TAP news agency.

The Committee is chaired by lawyer Ayachi Hammami and is composed of 5 members: Journalists Slaheddine Jourchi, Rachid Khechena and Zied El Heni, lawyer Ala Ben Nejma (former member of the Truth and Dignity Commission) and academic Chaker Houki.

Taking the floor on the occasion, Ayachi Hammami said that the general situation of rights and freedoms in Tunisia has led national personalities and human rights defenders to create this authority which proposes to monitor, record and list violations of human rights and freedoms for political considerations.

The aim, he added, is also to support judges and their movements for the independence of the judiciary and to contribute to the revival of the democratic process and the normal functioning of State institutions.

The authority will submit a file in line with the legal procedures and the law of associations, he explained.

Hammami also shared concerns that the country “is sliding towards a dictatorship in view of the general situation of rights and freedoms in Tunisia and after President Saied has arrogated full powers to himself since July 25, 2021.”

On 25 July 2021, Saied dismissed the prime minister, suspended parliament, before dissolving it at a later date, and assumed all governing powers, a move described by Tunisian opposition parties as a coup.

Answering a question on the degree of independence of the authority members, Ayachi Hammami affirmed that “work and practice will prove their independence,” noting that none of the members belong to a political party.

The authority, he underlined, will endeavor to ensure that the struggle for rights and freedoms is in keeping with the defense of democracy in Tunisia.

Several politicians belonging to the “Coordination of Democratic Parties” and the “Citizens Against the Coup” initiative were present at the news conference.

Part of the deteriorating situation of human rights in the country, four opposition lawmakers from the dissolved parliament were handed prison sentences from 5 to 3 months on Tuesday by a military court, their lawyer was quoted by Reuter as saying.

Saif Eddine Makhlouf, the head of the conservative Karama Party, and three other party members were charged with assaulting policemen last year during an incident at Tunis airport in which they said officers were preventing a woman from travelling. The MPs denied the charge.

Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of the Ennahda party and speaker of the dissolved parliament, said “the trials are a consolidation of dictatorship”.

“The coup authority continues the method of mass trials in order to strike and besiege different opinions,” he said.

Since Saied’s intervention, several senior politicians and business leaders have been detained or prosecuted, many of them on charges of corruption or defamation. The politicians lost their immunity from prosecution after parliament was dissolved.

Saied faces internal and external criticism that he uses the judiciary, including the military, against his opponents.

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