Civil society protests deterioration of rights in Tunisia

TUNIS, Sept 9, 2005 – International and Tunisian civil society organizations expressed their outrage today at the rapid deterioration of the human rights situation in Tunisia just two months prior to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), to be held in Tunis, November 15-18, 2005. After prohibiting the founding congress of the Tunisian Journalists’ Union (SJT) on September 7, authorities prevented the Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH) from holding its 6th Congress, scheduled to begin today.

This drastic decision, targeting the oldest human rights’ organization in the Arab World and Africa, aims to stifle the most important organization for the defence of human rights in Tunisia.

While processed through formal legal channels, this decision illustrates the manipulation of the law by authorities. Another victim, the Association of Tunisian Judges (AMT) itself, was locked out of their offices for taking a public position in favour of the independence of the judiciary.

This dark week for Tunisian human rights is part of an ongoing attack on fundamental freedoms which has included police surrounding the offices of human rights defenders, physical and verbal aggression, libellous campaigns and harassment.

These provocative policies do not augur well for a successful Summit. It is unconscionable to hold a summit in such dire circumstances, with the LTDH, pillar of independent civil society, under attack.

We call upon the Tunisian government to respect its commitments on human rights, particularly freedom of expression and association guaranteed by international treaties ratified by the Tunisian Government and re-affirmed in December 2003 during the first phase of the WSIS.

We call upon the governments which will meet in Tunis in November 2005 to fully recognize the severity of the situation and to bring pressure to bear on the Tunisian authorities to respect their international obligations.

Signed,

TUNISIAN CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS:

International Association to Support Political Prisoners (AISPP)
League for Free Writers (LEL)
National Council for Liberties in Tunisia (CNLT)
Observatory of the Freedom of the Press, Publishing and Creativity (OLPEC)
Raid-ATTAC Tunisia
Tunisian Association for the Struggle against Torture (ALTT)
Tunisian Centre for the Independence of Justice (CIJT)
Tunisian Committee for the Respect of Human Rights (CRDHT)
Tunisian Journalists’ Syndicate (SJT)
Tunisian League of Human Rights (LTDH)

INTERNATIONAL CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS:

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Association des Journalistes Transfrontaliers (AJT)
Association for Progressive Communications (APC)
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
Communication Rights in the Information Society (CRIS)
Comunica-ch (Swiss coalition for WSIS)
Deutscher Journalisten-Verband
Egyptian Organisation of Human Rights
Euromed Network
Index on Censorship
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions/Free
Access to Information and Freedom of Expression (IFLA/FAIFE)
International PEN
International PEN – Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC)
International Publishers’ Association (IPA)
Journalistes en Danger (JED)
Ligue française des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen (LDH)
Ligue Tunisienne des Droits de l’Homme (LTDH)
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
PEN Norway
Rights & Democracy
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)
World Association of Newspapers (WAN)
World Organisation against Torture (OMCT)
World Press Freedom Committee