The families of opposition members imprisoned in Tunisia have filed a complaint with the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Tanzania.
Relatives of the detainees Tunisian opposition figures, who were imprisoned as part of a crackdown launched by President Kais Saied, have approached the African Court of Human Rights as part of a global campaign for their immediate release.
More than 20 dissidents, activists, journalists and opposition figures were reportedly stopped since February, drawing condemnation from the international community and rights groups.
Saied dissolved parliament in July 2021 in a power grab allowing him to rule by decree. Since then, he has rewritten a new constitution, taken control of the judiciary and diluted the electoral commission to grant himself almost unlimited control – measures that will lead to the dismantling of the democratic gains of the 2011 revolution.
Among those imprisoned is Rached Ghannouchia virulent critic of Saied and the leader of the country’s largest political party, Ennahdha, a self-proclaimed “Muslim democrat”, aged 81.
According to Ghannouchi’s daughter Yusra, the case was filed by the families at the African Court on Human and People’s Rights in Arusha, Tanzania, in hopes of regaining their freedom.
“We are here to demand justice for our parents and all those who are fighting to restore democracy in Tunisia,” she said in a statement on Wednesday.
“We hope that the African Court will make clear that the systematic violations of the rights and freedoms of Tunisians by Kais Saied cannot continue with impunity and that he and his accomplices will soon face the consequences of their violations. »
Ghannouchi was sentenced to a year in prison on “terrorism-related” charges on May 15, weeks after his arrest. Yusra, his daughter, said her father was convicted on “politically motivated and fabricated” charges and as part of an attempt by Saied to “eliminate the opposition.”
Others imprisoned were accused of various crimes, some security-related, but activists and experts said the charges were often fabricated and Saied simply pursued his critics with abandon.
The president said those imprisoned during the crackdown were “terrorists” involved in a “plot against state security.”
Opponents called his actions a “coup” and a return to autocratic regime in the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings in the region more than a decade ago.
“No justice in the system”
Tunisia is one of six African countries to have fully joined the Arusha tribunal.
Rodney Dixon, the British lawyer for some families of Tunisian opposition figures, said he wanted the Arusha court to find that Tunisia’s actions violated the African Charter on Human Rights and that he issues a provisional order for the release of the detainees.
“They are trying to defend their case in Tunisia, but the obstacle is that all the doors have been closed,” he said, adding that the case in Arusha involved six of those arrested.
“There is no justice in the system there… that is why they have to approach the African Court to seek its intervention. »
He said people behind bars don’t have regular access to lawyers and have difficulty getting proper medical care.
“In the case of some detainees, the treatment was very bad and in the case of one of them, an allegation of torture will also be raised before the African court.”
Dixon said he expected the court to hear the case in June.
Yusra said she was worried about her father’s health because he suffers from hypertension and “he is not a young man anymore.”
She said those close to him were also calling on the United States, the European Union and Britain to impose targeted sanctions against Saied and several of his ministers who are “all implicated in human rights violations.”
In March, the families of imprisoned opponents filed a lawsuit calling on the UK to impose sanctions on Tunisian officials, including Saied, for gross human rights violations.
The daughter of opposition MP Said Ferjani and Yusra traveled to Arusha to file the petition in court.
“Even though we have already called for targeted sanctions in the West, it is appropriate that we begin our legal proceedings on our beloved continent,” said Kaouther Ferjani.
“I sincerely believe that solidarity within Africa is both important and necessary to support human rights, freedoms and stability in Tunisia. »