Amnesty calls on Tunisia to end 'restrictive' Covid measures
Amnesty International has called on the Tunisia to amend its "restrictive" Covid-19 laws, which ban all public gatherings, at a time when Tunisians are taking to the street to protest the coup of President Kais Saied.
The new restrictions came into forces on 13 January, and according to a statement on the president’s Facebook page, allegeding that they were designed to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and will remain in place for two weeks.
“Every January, Tunisians have commemorated Tunisia’s revolution by taking to the streets to voice their grievances,” Amna Guellali, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa said.
Police use water canons to prevent protesters from going to Avenue Bourguiba on 11th anniversary of revolution pic.twitter.com/QtQLE214JO— Ghaya Ben Mbarek غاية بن مبارك (@Ghaya_BM) January 14, 2022
“It is imperative that the Covid-19 health crisis not be used as a pretext to suppress rights in general or the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in particular,” she added.
In its statement, Amnesty International warned that there was a risk of Tunisian authorities employing an unnecessary use of force or arbitrary arrests to enforce the measures; tactics which have been used by the security forces in past demonstrations.
“We call on Tunisian authorities to amend the new rules to bring them in line with Tunisia’s international obligations,” Guellali said.
As Tunisians planned to commemorate #Tunisia's revolution, authorities imposed a blanket ban on all gatherings, impeding people’s rights to free expression & peaceful assembly.— Amnesty MENA (@AmnestyMENA) January 14, 2022
The #Covid19 health crisis must not be used as a pretext to suppress rights.https://t.co/8WoTQdkLAX
Tunisians have been protesting since July 2021, when Saied launched a power grab, disbanding parliament and dismissing the prime minister.
Many of the demonstrations have been plagued by excessive uses of force by the security forces, including the beating of unarmed protesters and indiscriminately firing teargas in residential areas.
“Over the past five months we’ve been seeing worrying indications of authorities’ increasing intolerance for dissent. President Kais Saied must rescind all restrictions that may implicitly violate human rights and publicly commit to respecting international law and standards,” Guellali said in the statement.
Tunisia has experienced a surge in positive Covid-19 cases since the start of January, with the seven-day average standing at 4,676 new positive cases per day.
To date, Tunisia has recorded 25,755 Covid-19 deaths, since the start of the pandemic.
While acknowledging the uptick are seriousness of positive Covid-19 cases in Tunisia, Amnesty International called on the Tunisian government to respond proportionally.
“While states may restrict the right to peaceful assembly to protect public health, restrictions must be necessary, proportional, and not imposed in a blanket fashion. Authorities should instead assess each assembly case by case,” it said.