Tunisia: The imprisonment of an opposition member is a blatant violation of the rights guaranteed by law
Stockholm - Skyline International for Human Rights expresses concern that the military justice system in Tunisia has issued an arrest warrant for former parliament member Seifeddine Makhlouf, head of Islamist nationalist party Al-Karama and a member of the political body of the opposition National Salvation Front. It stresses that the continued absence of the three authorities in Tunisia and their restriction by the President is a commitment to a monopoly of power and a blatant attack on international legal norms that guarantee freedom of opinion and expression and the exercise of the rights of political life without restriction or persecution.
In a statement released today, Saturday, Skyline says that on January 20, 2023, the Tunisian military court sentenced both Seifeddine Makhlouf to 14 months and Mahdi Zaqrouba to eleven (11) months imprisonment with immediate effect. The court also banned the lawyer (Zaqrouba) from practicing law for a period of five years. This was done in the case that became known in the media as the "airport case".
A member of the defendants' defense team, lawyer Enas Harath, shared via her "Facebook" account that "the court accepted the lawyers' plea as is" She added: "The military court decided today to issue a new bail card against Makhlouf, and of course this is not a verdict," she said.
In turn, "Skyline" reports that on March 15, 2021, a standoff occurred at the "Carthage" international airport in the capital, Tunis, between airport security personnel, lawyers, and deputies from the Islamic nationalist party Al-Karama, when Al-Karama's deputies tried to force authorities to lift an entry ban on a woman who was not allowed to board her flight under s17 procedure.
"S17'' procedure is applied to anyone the state suspects of intending to join a fighting group abroad, and was introduced during the era of former president "Zine El Abidine Ben Ali".
For its part, "Skyline" stresses that the human rights situation in Tunisia is steadily deteriorating after the Tunisian president decided on July 25, 2021, to freeze the work of parliament and lift the immunity of its deputies, as he has taken over all powers. These decisions also restricted freedom of opinion and expression, censored newspapers and websites, and unlawfully restricted the right to freedom of movement and travel, in clear and unjustified violation of a wide range of rules and conventions of international law.
Despite Tunisian President Kais Said's repeated statements that "there is absolutely no room for the violation of human rights and rights and freedoms," the constantly observed facts prove otherwise. These measures directly targeted a group of fundamental rights guaranteed under international law, including freedom of expression, freedom of opinion, and the right to assemble peacefully without being threatened or persecuted.
Skyline concludes its statement by calling on the President of the Republic, Kais Saeed, to reverse all unlawful decisions that violate the fundamental rights of individuals. It stresses, in the event that these decisions persist, that they will have disturbing consequences since they constitute a serious violation of the rules and conventions of international law.
Furthermore, Skyline calls on Tunisian authorities to stop using the judiciary, civilian or military, to deepen the violation of the rights of MPs, opposition members and activists. It emphasises that the authorities should initiate a comprehensive reform process by reactivating parliament and calls for a comprehensive national dialogue involving all political forces to guarantee that individuals are spared any violation and to discuss mechanisms to restore stability in the country.