Human Rights Watch slams Tunisia's 'secret detentions' under state of emergency

Human Rights Watch slams Tunisia's 'secret detentions' under state of emergency
Human Rights Watch have condemned Tunisia for their practise of using state of emergency laws to put civilians in secret detentions.
2 min read
09 February, 2022
Tunisians have been protesting regularly against the President's coup [Getty]

Tunisian authorities are using emergency laws to place people in "secret detention", Human Rights Watch said Wednesday, warning that the practice was becoming ever more common under President Kais Saied.

"The Tunisian authorities are using what they are calling assigned residences to conceal secret detentions on the pretext of a state of emergency," the rights group said in a statement.

"Assigned residences were already common under former president Beji Caid Essebsi. But abuses under this extrajudicial measure have increased since President Kais Saied granted himself extraordinary powers," the group said.

Saied on 25 July last year sacked the government, froze parliament and seized wide-ranging authority, later moving to rule by decree.

On Saturday, he said he would dissolve a key judicial watchdog.

HRW urged the authorities to "immediately" end arbitrary detentions "or use the legal, fully transparent route to allow for a judicial challenge".

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It cited the cases of former justice minister Noureddine Bhiri and former interior ministry official Fathi Baldi, both members of Saied's nemesis, the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party.

"More than a month after their arrest, neither Beldi nor Bhiri have received any written notification of their assigned residence", nor an arrest warrant or formal charge, the rights group said.

"Failure to reveal a person's place of detention is an alarming step toward a lawless state and is in no way justified by the state of emergency that has repeatedly been extended since 2015," said Salsabil Chellali, the group's Tunisia head.

The two men were arrested by plainclothes police officers on December 31 and later accused of possible "terrorism" offences.

HRW said Baldi was being held in a secret location and that his lawyers have still not been able to meet with him, despite several requests.

Bhiri has been on hunger strike since he was detained, and his wife told HRW he was receiving food via a drip.

Tunisia's anti-torture commission, the INPT, says the men are only allowed visits by family members, under police supervision.