(NEW YORK) – Amnesty International called for an immediate independent and impartial probe of today’s killing of Chokri Belaid, a leading figure of the leftist opposition in Tunisia, who was shot in the head as he was leaving home.
“Today’s shocking killing must serve as a wake-up call to the authorities,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa. “It is their duty to protect all individuals, including those who criticize the government or Tunisia’s leading Ennahda party, from violence. No group, regardless of its affiliation, can be above the law.”
Belaid was secretary general of the Democratic Patriots party and a vocal critic of the government. He denounced political violence and called for democratic values to be upheld in Tunisia.
It is the first time that such a killing has taken place in Tunisia. So far, no one has claimed responsibility.
Belaid’s murder takes place in a time of increasing polarization by the political parties in Tunisia. Members of the opposition have reported being targeted in attacks by individuals and that the authorities are not doing enough to protect them.
In recent months, there have been a number of incidents of violence against political activists and gatherings including one that Belaid attended last Saturday. He had reportedly been receiving threats.
“The Tunisian authorities should be under no illusion that they can condemn the killing and move on. Only a fully independent and transparent investigation can help shed light on the circumstances of the killing of Chokri Belaid. There is a need, today more than ever, for justice to be done and to be seen to be done,” said Hadj Sahraoui. “Two years after the ousting of former President Ben Ali, there is an increasing mistrust in the institutions that are supposed to protect human rights and Tunisians will not be satisfied with a sham investigation.”
Amnesty International has raised serious concerns over the lack of independence of the judiciary system and the need for reform within the security sector.
As news of the shooting spread, thousands marched in Tunisia to express their shock and condemnation. Amnesty International is calling on Tunisian security forces to refrain from unnecessary or excessive use of force, and to ensure that people can express their views peacefully and freely.
Four opposition parties have reportedly called for a general strike on Thursday and for a suspension of their participation in the National Constituent Assembly.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 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.