Tunisia: The African Court of Human Rights questions the authorities on the fate of political detainees

The question of political repression in Tunisia is now before the African courts

Tunisia: The African Court of Human Rights questions the authorities on the fate of political detainees

The question of political repression in Tunisia is now before the African courts. The African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR), responsible for enforcing government commitments to protect human rights, took a first decision on Monday, August 28, in favor of the cause of four detained opponents for several months in Tunisian prisons: Rached Ghannouchi, historic leader of the Islamist-inspired party Ennahda, two of his executives, Saïd Ferjani and Noureddine Bhiri, and Ghazi Chaouachi, lawyer and former secretary general of the Attayar party (Democratic Current).

Based in Arusha, Tanzania, the ACHPR ordered the Tunisian authorities to "take all measures to eliminate all barriers that prevent the four detainees, as well as their families, from having access to and communicating with the lawyers and doctors of their choice", and to provide them with "adequate information and facts relating to the legal and factual basis for [their] detention". She believes that the detainees are in "imminent danger" and has given the authorities fifteen days to put these measures in place, said the interim order pending a final decision.

The African court had been seized in May following a complaint filed by the relatives of the prisoners so that it could rule on their detentions. Several of them then went on a delegation to Arusha to plead in favor of political prisoners and ask the ACHPR to demand their release. "We hope the African Court will make it clear that [President] Kaïs Saïed's systematic trampling on the rights and freedoms of Tunisians cannot continue with impunity and that he and his accomplices will soon face the consequences of their violations," Yusra Ghannouchi, the daughter of the leader of Ennahda, then declared in a press release.

"Persecution"

Tunisia is one of the eight States that have ratified the protocol establishing the ACHPR and recognizing its competence "to receive complaints lodged directly by NGOs and individuals". The families of the detainees are seeking support from continental and international institutions in the face of the wave of political repression launched by Kaïs Saïed in recent months. In March, the European Parliament called on the Tunisian authorities to release Noureddine Boutar, director of Mosaïque FM radio, and "all other persons arbitrarily detained, including journalists, judges, lawyers, political activists and trade unionists".

If, among the twenty activists and journalists imprisoned since February, some have been released, most remain in prison, such as Khayam Turki, Jawhar Ben Mbarek or Issam Chebbi. Mr. Ghannouchi, 82, former president of the Assembly of People's Representatives (ARP), was arrested on April 17 and then sentenced on May 15 to one year in prison for "apology for terrorism". He is also the subject of prosecution for "conspiracy against state security", for which he faces the death penalty. These accusations are "unfounded and amount to political persecution," said Soumaya Ghannouchi, another daughter of the imprisoned leader, in a column in Le Monde in June.

The day after his arrest, the offices of Ennahda, the main opposition force, were closed under the state of emergency in force in the country, and its meetings banned. Previously, Said Ferjani, Noureddine Bhiri and other leaders of the political party had also been arrested on charges similar to those against Mr. Ghannouchi. For more than two years, Kaïs Saïed has assumed full powers and dismantled some of the political institutions inherited from the 2011 revolution through the adoption of a new hyper-presidentialist Constitution.