Tunisia: Amnesty International Calls on Tunisia to Rescind Permissions to "Shoot on Sight"

Press Release
January 14, 2011

Tunisia: Amnesty International Calls on Tunisia to Rescind Permissions to "Shoot on Sight"

Amnesty International Press Release
For Immediate Release
Friday, January 14, 2011

Amnesty International Calls on Tunisia to Rescind
Permissions to "Shoot on Sight"
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Wave of Protests led to the Departure from the country of President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali

Contact: AIUSA media relations office, 202-509-8194

(Washington, D.C.) Amnesty International is today calling on the Tunisian authorities to rescind permissions to "shoot on sight", after a wave of protests led to the reported departure from the country of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and a state of emergency imposed.
 
“Such license given to the army and security forces, in a very volatile situation, could be a recipe for   further violence and killings,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa program. “Both the police and army should know that they can’t hide behind orders to shoot at protestors, and that they will be held accountable for their actions.”
 
Amnesty International’s investigative team in Tunisia has reported media broadcasts warning that gatherings of more than three people will not be tolerated, and that anyone breaking the curfew exposes themselves to the risk of being shot.  After the announcement, the team reported hearing shots.

“After more than two decades of ruthless repression, Tunisian authorities must now realize that the time for accountability has come,” said Hadj Sahraoui. “The license to ‘shoot on sight’ must be rescinded and, if Tunisia is to move forward reform of the security apparatus must be a priority.”

This power appears to grant official sanction to the Tunisian security forces to commit extrajudicial executions – in violation of Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which guarantees the right to life and prohibits arbitrary deprivation of life.

"The Tunisian authorities have a responsibility to preserve law and order and to protect the rights and safety of its population," said Hadj Sahraoui."However, human rights must be upheld even in situations of emergency. Any action by the state, including invoking emergency powers, must be in full conformity with international human rights standards."

Under Article 4 of the ICCPR, Tunisia may not under any circumstances suspend basic rights notably the right to life, the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment, as well as fundamental principles of fair trial and freedom from arbitrary detention. Certain other rights may be limited, “in time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation,” but only "to the extent strictly required” and as long as this does not conflict with the nation's other international obligations, and if the government immediately informs the UN Secretary General about what rights have been suspended and why. 

“It is simply irresponsible to grant the power  to ‘shoot on sight',” said Hadj Sahraoui. “It is not by continuing to shoot demonstrators that public order will be restored. The bloody crackdown must end."

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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