Tunisia Tense on Anniversary of Assembly Elections
“Progress on human rights in Tunisia that followed the ousting of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali is being rolled back by the current Tunisian Government,” according to an Amnesty International press release issued on the one-year anniversary of Tunisia’s first free elections in modern history. A new report by the human rights organization highlights disconcerting recent developments in the country, including the failure “to fully outlaw discrimination against women,” criminalizing defamation, security forces using “unnecessary and excessive…force” against protesters with seeming impunity, a judiciary beholden to the executive branch, and the repeated renewal of the state of emergency law. Chapter Four of the report alleges that government-sanctioned torture is still in use in Tunisia, even though “the incidence of torture and other ill-treatment appears to be lower than in the Ben Ali era.” The outlook was not entirely bleak, however. Amnesty gave the interim and recently-elected governments credit for freeing political prisoners, ratifying a host of human rights treaties, and lifting restrictions on associations, which led to over 1,300 newly-registered organizations since September 2011.
Reporters Without Borders also released a critical statement on Tuesday, calling for the clarification and implementation of two long-delayed decrees aimed at protecting press freedom. Responding to a one-day strike by most of the Tunisian media last week, the government announced that the decrees are set to become official, almost a year after they were proposed. Reporters Without Borders said that the “announcement is positive even if belated,” but the press group expressed concern with the ambiguous Independent Broadcasting Authority that the decrees establish to licence and oversee “broadcasting freedom.”
In a sign of mounting tensions, more than a thousand Tunisians turned out on Sunday to protest the death of opposition politician Lotfi Nakdh, who died in the southern town of Tataouin after clashes between pro- and anti-government supporters. Thousands more demonstrated in Tunis on Monday against the current Ennahda-led government, and protests continue to roil university campuses throughout the country. Salafists also expressed anger on the election anniversary, as evidenced by a video [Ar.] in which Saif-Allah Benahssine, the leader of the Tunisian Ansar al-Sharia group, calls the government a stooge of the West. Finally, reports emerged [Fr.] on Tuesday of at least two Jihadi training camps operating in Tunisia.