Monday, May 29, 2023

Tunisia: Rights groups say 1,000 arrested in protests Human rights news

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Activists say that many arrests have made it “arbitrary”, including people who have been taken from their homes.

Tunisian security forces arrested at least 1,000 people over six nights of protests, human rights and other non-state groups said.

The North African country, where the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated already acute economic pain, has seen young people throwing stones and gasoline bombs at police who have deployed tear gas and water cannons at the crowd.

Wednesday night was relatively calm compared to previous evenings, although local media reported unrest in the central town of Sidi Bouzid, where the pro-democracy uprisings of the Arab Spring began 10 years ago.

Authorities said on Monday they had made 600 arrests, then reported 70 more over the next two days. But a coalition of Tunisian groups said their own tally was now much higher.

“There are 1,000 people arrested” including many minors, said Bassem Trifi of the Tunisian Human Rights League, who added that many arrests had been “arbitrary”, including of people inside. from their homes.

“Some have been arrested without having taken part in the protests,” he said Thursday at a joint press conference of ten groups.

Tunisian protesters shout a slogan during an anti-government demonstration on Avenue Habib Bourguiba in the capital Tunis on January 20 [Fethi Belaid/AFP]

Some activists had been arrested for expressing support for the protests on Facebook and other websites, and at least one of them now faces six years in prison if convicted, the groups said.

“We ask the court system to take a close look at the cases,” Trifi said. “We will not be able to resolve the crisis in this way. This can only worsen the gulf between the people and the government.

‘State rejection’

In a statement, the groups called on the justice system to investigate reports of violations by security forces, mistreatment of detainees and breaches of the confidentiality of their personal data.

They warned that “violent security practices would only worsen the crisis of state rejection.”

The unrest once again rocked several towns overnight, though clashes appeared to ease their earlier peaks when angry groups set fire to tires to block streets.

In the central town of Sbeitla, clashes erupted over rumors that a young man had died from injuries he sustained when he was earlier hit by a tear gas canister.

The interior ministry denied the man’s death, saying he was transferred to a hospital in the coastal city of Sousse and opened an investigation into his case.

Permanent economic woes

Last week, Tunisia celebrated the tenth anniversary of the flight of its longtime leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from the country amid mass protests, ending his 23 years in power.

The protests were sparked by the self-immolation of young fruit merchant Mohamed Bouazizi in Sidi Bouzid, sparking similar revolts across much of North Africa and the Middle East.

Ten years after the revolution, many Tunisians are increasingly irritated by poor public services and a political class that has repeatedly proven incapable of governing coherently.

Gross domestic product (GDP) fell 9 percent last year, consumer prices have skyrocketed and a third of young people are unemployed.


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