GENEVA- The Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties (GCRL) condemns the use of force by the Tunisian security forces to disperse a peaceful gathering and the attack on journalists in the capital’s main streets, Avenue Habib Bourguiba.
According to the council’s follow-up, on Wednesday, September 1, 2021, the Tunisian security forces dispersed the periodic peaceful protest that has been going on for 8 years to demand the disclosure of the truth about the political assassinations of the martyrs, Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi, in front of the municipal theater. Journalists were assaulted while covering the event.
Journalists who commented on the incident on their social media platforms reported that despite Tunisian President Kais Saied’s pledge on July 27, 2021, not to suppress freedom of expression, press, and freedom of demonstration, a group of peaceful protesting youths were beaten and dispersed using violence in Habib Bourguiba Street. They stated that the journalists who were present during the gathering were assaulted even though they were wearing a press vest and holding a professional journalist’s card, and they informed the security forces that they are journalists.
This attack comes amid a series of exceptional measures taken by Tunisian President Kais Saied on July 25, 2021, in the country, including the dismissal of Prime Minister Hisham Al-Mashishi, the freezing of Parliament, the lifting of the parliamentary immunity of all its members, heading the Public Prosecution, and other measures he said are necessary to address the months-long political crisis in Tunisia.
The Council refers to the precautionary measures taken by the Tunisian executive authority on August 5 against a number of judges, for reportedly being suspected of having committed cases of financial and administrative corruption and abuse of authority. A number of Tunisian judges were prevented from traveling, and others were placed under house arrest in the implementation of the “S17” border control measure without relying on judicial decisions that allow this measure to be applied against suspects.
The Geneva Council reiterates its concern over the repeated cases of repression of journalists and public freedoms, which indicate a backlash from the path of democracy and freedoms, especially after the extension of the exceptional measures by the Tunisian President without any legal basis, or a specific roadmap that restores the democratic path of the country.
The Council affirms that the right to demonstrate, peaceful assembly, and freedom of the press are among the fundamental rights that should be protected and not violated under any circumstances. Therefore, it calls for the opening of a serious investigation into this attack and other attacks that affected freedoms in the country.
It also calls for immediately reversing all arbitrary measures taken that affect the rights and freedoms of any group without legal basis and the work to stop the executive authority’s overreach by adhering to the principle of separation of powers that requires judicial independence. The Council reminds the Tunisian president of his pledge to guarantee and protect human rights and to abide by the constitution, especially since the practices on the ground indicate otherwise. It is noted that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Tunisia is a party, prohibits states from suspending certain human rights, even during a state of emergency.