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Families Take Case Against Tunisia Regime to Arusha Court

Arusha. Family members of five prominent Tunisian detainees and one deceased opposition member have filed petitions at the African Court of Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) against the Tunisian regime.

The petition, filed early this week in Arusha, is requesting urgent provisional measures from the court to order the Tunisian government to immediately release political detainees.

They include Rached Ghannouchi, Speaker of the Parliament and Ennahdha Party leader; Said Ferjani MP, a prominent opposition figure and Ghazi Chaouachi former Secretary General of the Tayyar Party. The other is Noureddine Bhiri, a legislator and former Justice Minister of Tunisia. The application also calls for an investigation into the death of Ridha Bouzayene.

It asks for remedies as a result of the unlawful arrests and death, and for reparations and guarantees of non-repetition.

A separate individual filing has also been made on behalf of renowned judge and former public prosecutor Bechir Akremi asking that he be immediately released and reinstated as a judge.

The case has been filed at the ACHPR by Rodney Dixon KC on behalf of the family members of the detainees and deceased.

Dr Yusra Ghannouchi, the daughter of Rached Ghannouchi and Kaouther Ferjani, the daughter of Said Ferjani, travelled to Arusha to file the application.

Filing of the case comes only ten days after Mr Ghannouchi was handed a one-year prison sentence at a trial that took place in his absence.

Tunisia is one of only six African countries that have fully signed up to the Arusha-based legal facility and a judicial organ of the African Union. This means that individuals from Tunisia can make applications directly to the court. Decisions by the court are binding on the state party.

Tunisia has been sliding into autocracy since July 2021 when the President, Kais Saied, shut down parliament and took all powers. As a result, he has pushed the country into an unprecedented political, democratic, and economic crisis.

Attacks against the opposition have increased significantly since then. Since the beginning of 2023, over 20 opposition members from different parties have been arrested. Any Tunisian who speaks up is arbitrarily and unlawfully arrested. In addition to political figures, union members, journalists, lawyers and civil society representatives, judges have also been arrested. Dozens of them have been dismissed for refusing to hand out sentences in favour of Saied and his regime and some even face the death penalty.

Now that the application has been submitted, the Tunisian government will have the right to reply. The applicants have urged the court to consider the matter immediately, and it is hoped that the cases will be addressed when the court resumes its sessions in June 2023.

The ACHPR has ruled in favour of detainees in similar cases in the past.

Speaking here on Tuesday Yusra Ghannouchi said: “We are here to seek justice for our parents and all those struggling to restore democracy in Tunisia.

“We hope the African Court will make it clear that Kais Saied’s systematic trampling of the rights and freedoms of Tunisians cannot continue with impunity and that he and his accomplices will soon face the consequences of their violations.

“Tunisia is an integral part of Africa and we look forward to more support and solidarity from our fellow Africans. Tunisia’s success and stability are a strength for the whole continent.” For her part, Kaouther Ferjani remarked, “While we have already called for targeted sanctions in the West, it is fitting that we start our court proceedings in our beloved continent.

“I truly believe that solidarity within Africa is both important and necessary to support human rights, freedoms, and stability in Tunisia.” Rodney Dixon KC said since the Tunisian national courts were unable to safeguard human rights for their own citizens, it was imperative that the African Court steps in to protect those who languish in detention.

The African Charter guarantees these fundamental rights, and they should not be trampled on by a government determined to clamp down on those who oppose them.

Source: The Citizen