GENEVA – The Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties condemns the arrest of a member of parliament and a journalist by the Tunisian security forces, and their trial in a military trial, and calls for their release and an end to the prosecution of the exercising of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
On Sunday, October 3, 2021, the Tunisian police arrested MP Abdellatif Al-Alawi (Al-Karama Coalition) and Amer Ayad, Zitouna TV presenter, and referred them to a military court.
The detainees’ lawyer, Samir Ben Omar, stated that the military judiciary had ordered the arrest of al-Alaoui and Ayad on charges of “conspiring against state security and insulting the army” after broadcasting a program on the “Zitouna” TV channel. During Ayad’s television program, MP Abdel Latif Al-Alawi attacked the exceptional measures of President Qais Said, and considered what happened as a coup and treason.Both were kept in pretrial detention.
This is not the first time that parliamentarians and journalists have been arrested by the Tunisian authorities while being brought to court, since the exceptional measures announced by the Tunisian President on July 25, which provided for the dismissal of the Prime Minister, the freezing of Parliament and the lifting of immunity from its members, as well as the assumption of the executive authority and the presidency of the Public Prosecution.
These developments are new evidence of the Tunisian authorities’ lack of respect for human rights and freedoms, despite the Tunisian President’s declaration to guarantee and protect human rights and to abide by the constitution at the moment of his declaration of exceptional measures.
The Geneva Council reiterates that protection from arbitrary arrest, the right to opinion and expression, press freedom, and the right to peaceful assembly are inherent rights guaranteed by law.
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, including basic fair trial requirements.
It considers that bringing civilians, especially parliamentarians and media professionals, to military trials on the grounds of freedom of opinion, constitutes a flagrant violation of fair trial principles. The Geneva Council calls on President Kais Said and the authorities to immediately release those detained in connection with freedom of opinion or political opposition and to ensure and respect Tunisia’s obligations under international human rights law.