Annual Report: Tunisia 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Tunisia 2010

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Trials under the anti-terrorism law were unfair. Suspects were denied prompt access to a lawyer, and denied adequate time to consult their lawyers and prepare their defence. Confessions allegedly obtained under torture were accepted as evidence by the courts without question or investigation. Some defendants were reported to have been tried and sentenced for the same offence more than once.

At least four Tunisian terrorism suspects were forcibly returned to Tunisia by other states despite fears that they would face torture or other ill-treatment and unfair trial.

  • In April, the Italian authorities forcibly returned Mehdi Ben Mohamed Khalaifia, who had previously been sentenced in his absence to 10 years in prison on terrorism-related charges in Tunisia. On arrival, he was immediately detained incommunicado and held for 12 days, twice the legal maximum, during which he alleges that he was beaten, kicked and slapped by interrogators, suspended in contorted positions and threatened with rape. He appealed against his sentence, which in September was reduced to two years.
  • Sami Ben Khemais Essid, who was retried by civil and military courts and sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment following his forcible return from Italy in 2008, was taken from prison to the Interior Ministry in January and June, interrogated and, he alleges, tortured. New charges were brought against him and he was denied access to his lawyer.
  • The authorities failed to investigate the enforced disappearance of Abbes Mlouhi, who was arrested in 2005. Before his arrest he had been interrogated several times at the Interior Ministry in relation to his membership of al-Tabligh wa Daaoua, an Islamic religious group.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and other ill-treatment in police stations and detention centres, including the Interior Ministry's Department of State Security, continued to be reported. Some detainees were held incommunicado beyond the limit allowed by law, with their arrest dates falsified by police to cover this up. Detainees were at particular risk of torture or other ill-treatment when they were being held incommunicado. The courts, however, routinely disregarded torture allegations made by defendants and convicted them on the basis of confessions allegedly obtained under torture. No official investigations into torture allegations were known to have been carried out after complaints were filed, and security forces continued to operate with impunity.

  • Ramzi Romdhani, serving a prison sentence totalling 29 years imposed in 2008 after he was convicted under the 2003 anti-terrorism law in nine separate cases, alleged that he had been tortured and otherwise illtreated by guards at Mornaguia Prison in April. In August, he was taken to the State Security Department where, he alleged, security officials tortured him with electric shocks, suspended him by the limbs, hanged him by the neck for a few seconds and threatened him with death. He said that in December he was again tortured for two days by State Security Department officers. He sustained serious eye injuries.

Death penalty

At least two people were sentenced to death, but there were no executions. The government has maintained a de facto moratorium on executions since 1991, but prisoners remain on death row, where they are not permitted contact with their families or lawyers.

Amnesty International visit/reports

Amnesty International delegates visited Tunisia in September/October and met human rights defenders, journalists and victims and their relatives.

Tunisia: Routine muzzling of dissent mars upcoming presidential elections (23 October 2009)
Tunisia: Continuing abuses in the name of security (20 August 2009)
Behind Tunisia's "economic miracle": inequality and criminalization of protest (17 June 2009)