LONDON: A group of four human rights organizations has urged EU foreign ministers to put pressure on Tunisia to end its crackdown on government critics at upcoming talks.
Amnesty International, EuroMed Rights, Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists called on the ministers to not contribute to the “ongoing undermining of human rights and of the independence of the judiciary” in the North African country.
In a letter, according to HRW, the four asked EU members to “press the Tunisian government… to halt the ongoing crackdown on dissent, and repeal or amend all laws that criminalize the legitimate exercise of free speech and freedom of association,” following an EU Parliament vote to condemn the activities in Tunisia on March 16.
Hussein Baoumi, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa advocacy officer, said: “The Tunisian president [Kais Saied] is cracking down on his opponents, so why are EU leaders not ringing the alarm?
“EU leaders must ensure that their cooperation with the Tunisian authorities, especially with the Ministry of Justice, does not contribute to undermining the rule of law even further, and EU leaders should call on the Tunisian authorities to release all lawyers, politicians, journalists, activists and any others who have been arbitrarily detained.”
ICJ Director Said Benarbia said: “In order to protect the right to a fair trial, Tunisian authorities must immediately stop their systematic interference in the judiciary and reverse all decisions that have undermined judicial independence, including by reinstating those judges who were summarily dismissed.
“The Tunisian authorities must stop trying civilians before military courts and ensure that the courts do not become a tool of repression.”
Philippe Dam, EU director at HRW, said: “In the past few weeks, President Kais Saied’s government has rounded up opponents, curbed judicial independence, crushed freedom of expression, and incited hatred against African migrants.
“EU ministers should make it clear that such repression is incompatible with Tunisia’s obligations under international human rights law and with closer ties with the EU.”
Wadih Al-Asmar, president of EuroMed Rights, said: “There are worrying signs that the ability of Tunisian and international civil society organizations to operate freely in Tunisia is being restricted.
“Specifically, if enacted in its current formulation, a leaked draft law would grant the authorities significant powers to control associations’ activities, including their sources of funding, and would empower them to dissolve groups at will; this plan should be dropped.”