Annual Report: Tunisia 2010

Report
May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Tunisia 2010

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Head of state Zine El ‘Abidine Ben ‘Ali
Head of government Mohamed Ghannouchi
Death penalty abolitionist in practice
Population 10.3 million
Life expectancy 73.8 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 24/21 per 1,000
Adult literacy 77.7 per cent

Freedom of expression, association and assembly remained severely restricted. Government critics, including journalists, human rights defenders and student activists, were harassed, threatened and prosecuted. Hundreds of people were convicted following unfair trials on terrorism-related charges. Torture and other ill-treatment continued to be reported, and prisoners were subjected to harsh prison conditions. At least two death sentences were imposed, but the government maintained a moratorium on executions.

Background

President Zine El ‘Abidine Ben ‘Ali was re-elected for a fifth consecutive term in October amid reports of restrictions on political opponents and repression of dissent.

Political prisoners - releases

In November, 68 prisoners were released to mark the 22nd anniversary of the accession of President Ben ‘Ali. They included prisoners of conscience. In all cases, their release was conditional. Former political prisoners are usually placed under administrative control orders governing their place of residence. They are also required to report regularly to the police and denied passports and other official documents.

  • Among those released were Adnan Hajji and 17 others who had been sentenced on appeal to up to eight years in prison for protesting in 2008 against growing unemployment, poverty and rising living costs in the Gafsa region. Their trials were unfair. The courts disregarded and failed to investigate their allegations of torture and other ill-treatment.

The presidential pardon did not apply to prisoners sentenced in their absence who had yet to be apprehended.

  • Fahem Boukadous, a TV journalist sentenced in his absence to six years in prison for his reporting of the Gafsa protests, appealed against his conviction in November and remained at liberty.

Freedom of expression and association

People who criticized the government or exposed official corruption or human rights violations faced harassment, intimidation and physical assault by state security officers. They were also prosecuted and imprisoned on trumped-up charges and targeted in smear campaigns in the pro-government media. The abuses were committed with impunity, with complaints rarely investigated. Critics were subjected to overt and oppressive surveillance, and their phone and internet connections were disrupted or cut. The authorities blocked websites and maintained close control over the media.  The authorities shut down Radio Kalima, an independent radio station, on 30 January, four days after it began broadcasting from abroad by satellite. Police blockaded its office, harassed its staff and placed Sihem Bensedrine, the editor-in-chief, under investigation for allegedly using a broadcasting frequency without a licence.