Routine abuses in the name of security in Tunisia

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of people, including children, suspected of terrorism-related offences, have been arrested in Tunisia since the introduction of the Anti-Terrorism Law in 2003. Authorities use the broad definition of ‘terrorism’ in this law to criminalize legitimate and peaceful opposition activities.

Many have been tortured and otherwise ill-treated, held in incommunicado detention and subjected to enforced disappearances in the last five years. At least 977 people have been tried and sentenced since June 2006 - after unfair trials before military and other courts - to long prison terms or even death.

The Tunisian government continues to say that the human rights situation in the country is improving. The legal reforms that should offer better protection for human rights are, in practice, little more than hollow promises.

Abuses by security forces continue unabated and are committed with impunity, as the report In the Name of Security: Routine Abuses in Tunisia reveals.

Despite the record of violations, Arab and European governments and the US government have returned people they suspected of involvement in terrorism to Tunisia, where they have then suffered arbitrary arrest and detention, torture or other ill-treatment, and blatantly unfair trials.
A responsibility of all governments
The Tunisian government has a duty to protect its population from violent attacks, but when doing so it must comply with its obligations under international law. The government must condemn torture and other ill-treatment and bring to justice those responsible for authorizing and inflicting it.

Foreign governments should reject the rhetoric of the Tunisian government and face up to the reality of human rights violations in the country. Instead of forcibly returning Tunisian nationals, they should ensure that all cooperation in the context of counter-terrorism complies with human rights standards and put pressure on the Tunisian government to prevent torture and hold torturers to account.

Amnesty International