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President of the Tunisian Republic
Palais Presidential de Carthage
Route de la Goulette
On 12 March 2020, lawyer and human rights defender Najet Laabidi could face a prison sentence by a military court of up to two years for “insulting a public official while performing their duty.” The trial is related to a 2015 complaint filed by a judge presiding over the trial of high-level officials being prosecuted for torture during the Ben Ali regime. As a defense lawyer in this case, Laabidi raised a number of procedural irregularities undermining the right to a fair trial, such as failure to request necessary medical examinations to determine the permanent disability caused by torture, and failure to bring defendants to court. After the trial, Laabidi gave a statement in front of the military court in which she spoke of the persistence of corruption in the judicial system and accused the military judge of bias, all of which was captured on a video published on the internet. Laabidi later discovered that the military judge had filed two complaints, one at the military court since the speech happened inside a military court and one at a civilian court, accusing Laabidi of “accusing public officials of crimes related to their duty without evidence.” While Laabidi is awaiting a verdict from the military court on 12 March 2020, she has already been sentenced to imprisonment for six months in a civilian court for similar charges.
I therefore ask you to immediately and unconditionally quash any pronouncement rendered by a military court against Najet Laabidi. I ask you to take all measures in order to stop trying civilians in military courts as required by the Tunisian constitution and international human rights law. Finally, I call on you to reform Penal Code provisions and other laws to fully protect freedom of expression in Tunisia.