LONDON: Four human rights groups have petitioned EU foreign ministers to use upcoming talks to pressure Tunisia to stop its crackdown on government critics.


In a joint statement, Amnesty International, EuroMed Rights, Human Rights Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists urged the ministers not to contribute to the “ongoing undermining of human rights and of the independence of the judiciary” in the North African country.

In a letter, according to HRW, the four asked EU members to “press the Tunisian government… to halt the ongoing crackdown on dissent, and repeal or amend all laws that criminalize the legitimate exercise of free speech and freedom of association,” following an EU Parliament vote to condemn the activities in Tunisia on March 16.

Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa advocacy officer Hussein Baoumi questioned why European Union leaders were not sounding the alarm about the crackdown on political opponents by Tunisian President Kassim Saied.

EU leaders should urge the Tunisian government to release all arbitrarily detained lawyers, politicians, journalists, activists, and others to prevent further erosion of the rule of law. This is especially important for cooperation with the Ministry of Justice.

Said Benarbia, director of the International Court of Justice, has stated that, “in order to protect the right to a fair trial, Tunisian authorities must immediately stop their systematic interference in the judiciary and reverse all decisions that have undermined judicial independence,” including the reinstatement of judges who were summarily dismissed.

Authorities in Tunisia should prevent military courts from being used as a tool of repression and end the practice of trying civilians in them.

Philippe Dam, EU director at HRW, said: “In the past few weeks, President Kais Saied’s government has rounded up opponents, curbed judicial independence, crushed freedom of expression, and incited hatred against African migrants.

EU ministers should make it clear that repression of this kind is incompatible with closer ties to the EU and with Tunisia’s obligations under international human rights law.

The head of EuroMed Rights, Wadih Al-Asmar, expressed concern that civil society groups in Tunisia, both domestic and foreign, were being stifled in their efforts to do their work.

Specifically, the plan should be scrapped because “a leaked draft law would grant the authorities significant powers to control the activities of associations, including their funding sources, and would empower them to dissolve groups at will.”