Annual Report: Tunisia 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Tunisia 2011

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  • Fahem Boukadous, a journalist, and Hassan Ben Abdallah, an unemployed graduate, were both serving four-year prison sentences in Gafsa Prison for their alleged participation in popular protests in 2008 against unemployment and high living costs in Gafsa province, south-west Tunisia. Fahem Boukadous was also convicted of "spreading information liable to disrupt public order" for reporting on the protests for a private TV channel. Both men were sentenced after unfair trials. They were first tried and convicted in their absence in 2008 but were retried in January and March after they requested retrials. In October-November, Fahem Boukadous staged a 39-day hunger strike to protest against his imprisonment and harsh conditions; he ended it when the prison authorities undertook to improve his prison conditions.
  • In March, the authorities prevented journalists and human rights activists from attending press conferences in Tunis at which the International Association for the Support of Political Prisoners and Human Rights Watch planned to publish separate reports on harassment of former political prisoners in Tunisia.

Restrictions on former political prisoners

Many former political prisoners continued to be under administrative control orders which required them to report frequently to police stations and usually involved oppressive police surveillance and restrictions on the exercise of their civil rights. Some were rearrested or returned to prison for resuming peaceful political activity or publicly criticizing the government; others were denied access to medical care. Most had their freedom of movement restricted within Tunisia and were denied passports. As a result, most were prevented from obtaining paid employment or leading normal lives.

  • Sadok Chourou was released from Nadhour Prison on 30 October. He had been released conditionally in 2008 but returned to prison for a further year after he gave interviews to al-Hiwar satellite TV channel and other internet media in November 2008, a few days after his conditional release. When released on 30 October, officials told him that he should not engage in any media or political activities but provided no official notification of this.
  • Abdellatif Bouhajila continued to be denied a passport to enable him to travel abroad for medical treatment. Conditionally released in 2007 from a 17-year sentence imposed after he was convicted of membership of an Islamist group, al-Ansar (the Partisans) in 2001, he was reported to be in poor health due to ill-treatment in prison and hunger strikes.

Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders faced continuing harassment by the authorities, including heavy surveillance and interference with or blocking of internet and telephone communications. They were also prevented from attending meetings or gatherings that focused on human rights. Some were physically assaulted. Most independent human rights organizations continued to be denied official registration. In February, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders called on the Tunisian authorities to cease their physical and psychological "campaign of intimidation" against human rights defenders.