Tunisia: UN concerned over escalating repression against vocal critics

Tunisia: UN concerned over escalating repression against vocal critics

More than a dozen people—activists, judges, and journalists, among others—have been arrested over the past week. The UN has called on the Tunisian government to desist from cracking down on political opposition in the country and respect human rights and the rule of law.

In this connection, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, has expressed deep concern over the escalating crackdown against political opponents and civil society activists in Tunisia, denouncing the measures taken by the authorities that continue to undermine the independence of the judiciary.

In a press release issued Tuesday in Geneva, the UN official said at least nine people, including former civil servants, judges, veteran politicians and a major broadcaster, have been arrested lately on security and corruption charges.

The UN Human Rights Office has rebuked Tunisian authorities for launching criminal proceedings against opponents, charging them with “conspiracy against State security”.

“We are additionally concerned that some of those held on charges connected to criticizing the Government have been tried in military courts”, said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, urging the authorities to cease immediately trying civilians before military tribunals.

“We call on the Tunisian authorities to respect due process and ensure fair trial standards in all judicial proceedings and to release immediately all those arbitrarily detained, including anyone detained in relation to the exercise of their rights to freedom of opinion or expression”, he said.

Using long-term instability and the popular perception of corruption as a pretext, Tunisian President Saied suspended and later dissolved the parliament and dismissed the government in July 2021. Since then, he has taken a series of other measures, including a new constitution and new electoral laws with far greater centralization of power. His moves have also undermined the independence of the judiciary, including dissolving the High Judicial Council and the summary dismissal of 57 judges.

“We call on the Tunisian authorities to ensure that legal procedures are in line with international norms and to uphold the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law”, said the UN official.

The opposition has called Saied’s so-called political process a “presidential coup” and organized numerous protests demanding his resignation. Due to their boycott calls, the referendum in July last year for a new constitution and the national elections held earlier this year saw a historically low voter turnout.

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