Tunisia: The rule of law on the brink
Statement from EuroMed Rights regarding the situation in Tunisia.
For several weeks now, Kaïs Saïed’s presidentialist regime has been conducting a relentless campaign of arrests, intimidation, denigration and targeted attacks against political opponents, journalists, trade unionists and civil society representatives, under the pretext of an alleged conspiracy to undermine state security, accusations of corruption or contacts with foreign diplomats. International trade union activists who have come to participate in activities of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), such as Esther Lynch, the General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, have been expelled and any other trade union representatives are now persona non grata in Tunisia.
“These arrests based on the crime of opinion and the widespread repression of freedom of expression in all its forms constitute a serious breach of the rule of law. They raise fears of a return to the practices of the authoritarian regime that preceded the January 2011 revolution. The national dialogue that the UGTT has initiated in partnership with the Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH), the National Bar Association and the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES), towards a roadmap to overcome the political, economic and social crisis, must be supported,” said Wadih Al-Asmar, President of EuroMed Rights.
A justice system at the orders
Accused of being “traitors” and “terrorists”, the opponents of the regime put in place, month after month, by President Kaïs Saïed since his power grab of 25 July 2021, are challenging the concentration of powers, in particular the supervision of the Ministry of Justice and the dismissal of many judges and prosecutors. Controlling the judicial power is a weapon that the Tunisian authorities no longer hesitate to use and abuse to silence critics.
“The rule of law in Tunisia is on the brink of collapse,” added Wadih Al-Asmar. “The presumption of innocence is being flouted. Moreover, to declare that anyone who exonerates those prosecuted would be considered an accomplice is a denial of the role and independence of judges and prosecutors. The ban on demonstrations and the desire to isolate Tunisian civil society from its international contacts are other symptoms of the regime’s autocratic drift.”
Attacks on migrants
On 21 February, President Kaïs Saïed continued his diatribe by calling for “urgent measures” against the “hordes” of sub-Saharan migrants, endorsing the conspiratorial theory of the “Great Replacement,” which asserts the existence of a plot to change the demographic composition of the country. As a result, racist and violent attacks, both official and unofficial, against migrants from sub-Saharan Africa continue, leading to arrests and deportations.
“Migrants have been expelled from their homes and fired from their jobs; children have been removed from their schools; women of sub-Saharan origin have been reportedly raped. Fear is growing among migrants who have been living in Tunisia, some for years, causing many families to leave the country to avoid facing violence,” said Rasmus Alenius Boserup, Executive Director of EuroMed Rights. “The European Union and its Member States, in their bilateral relations with Tunisia, must make clear that arbitrary repression and incitement to racial hatred are unacceptable, and should express solidarity with all those arrested, defamed and subjected to violence.”