Annual Report: Tunisia 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Tunisia 2010

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  • On 4 April, the Tunis Court of Appeal confirmed the one-year prison sentence imposed on prisoner of conscience Sadok Chourou for "maintaining a banned organization". In interviews with the media he had commented on the political situation in Tunisia and called for Ennahda, a banned Islamist organization, to be authorized to resume its political activities. He had been conditionally released in November 2008 after serving 18 years in prison. Following his reimprisonment his previous conditional release was revoked so that he must complete the remaining year of the original sentence as well as the new prison term.
  • In August, the executive board of the National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (Syndicat national des journalistes tunisiens) was ousted after publishing a report in May which criticized the lack of press freedom in Tunisia. Government supporters within the syndicate held a special congress and elected a new executive board. The new board then obtained a court order requiring the ousted board members to vacate the syndicate's premises.
  • Hamma Hammami, spokesperson of the unauthorized TunisianWorkers' Communist Party (Parti communiste des ouvriers tunisiens), was beaten by men believed to be plain-clothes police at Tunis airport on 29 September. He had just returned from France, where he had publicly criticized the elections, President Ben ‘Ali and corruption.
  • In November, dissenting journalist Taoufik Ben Brik was sentenced to six months' imprisonment on politically motivated charges after an unfair trial.

Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders were harassed with oppressive surveillance, threats and assaults. Often, they were physically prevented by state security officials from attending meetings or gatherings where human rights were to be discussed. The authorities continued to block the registration of several human rights NGOs, impeding and restricting their activities, and prevented some registered organizations from holding public and other meetings.

  • Human rights lawyer Samir Ben Amor was not permitted to visit any of his clients in custody from August onwards. The authorities gave no reason. He acts for many suspects in terrorism-related cases.
  • In October, the car of lawyer and human rights defender Abderraouf Ayadi was damaged with a dangerous substance by unidentified people, believed to be security officials, when he was due to drive Hamma Hammami and Radhia Nasraoui, a lawyer and human rights defender, and the couple's daughter. The couple's home was placed under heavy police surveillance in October and they were summoned to appear before the criminal police to answer unspecified charges. They lodged formal complaints, but no investigations were known to have been opened.
  • In December, human rights activist Zouheir Makhlouf was sentenced after an unfair trial to three months' imprisonment and a heavy fine after he posted on a social networking site a video denouncing pollution as well as lack of infrastructure and basic services in the industrial zone of the city of Nabeul.

Counter-terror and security

In August, the government amended the anti-terrorism law of 2003 to strengthen its anti-money laundering provision and to remove other provisions requiring that the identity of judges, prosecutors and police officers investigating cases in counter-terrorism trials be kept secret.

The authorities continued to arrest and prosecute people suspected of involvement in terrorism-related activities. In most cases, uncharged detainees were held incommunicado for longer than the six days permitted by law, without their families and lawyers being informed, and their arrest dates were falsified to conceal their period of enforced disappearance.