The country’s leading human rights organisation has confirmed that 400 separate cases of torture were registered with it between 2013 and 2015.
President of the Nobel Prize winning, Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH) Abdessatar Ben Moussa presented the new report on torture at a press conference yesterday in Tunis. According to Ben Moussa, torture was not institutionalized and that, “cases of torture in Tunisia are not systematic.”
However, Ben Moussa pointed to conflict that existed between the existence of torture within Tunisia and the constitution, which outlaws intimidation and inhumane punishments, saying: “The situation of freedoms in Tunisia remain insufficient, despite the steps taken in this field.”
Ben Moussa placed particular emphasis on the examples of press intimidation detailed within the report, including some cases of physical and moral aggression committed against journalists. Referencing their recurrent appearance of journalists in court, he pointed to the repeated claims of denial of access to information and the destruction of their working tools.
Responding to Ben Moussa’s concerns over the treatment of journalists, spokesperson from the National Union of Journalists (SNJT) Zied Dabber told Tunisia Live “The cases of aggression (towards journalists) were high, certainly in 2012, 2013. However, now it is less common, with numbers reduced in 2015. There are cases of journalists being intimidated, but there has been no torture of journalists.” Dabber agreed that trials of journalists continued to occur, referencing the current case of a journalist who being prosecuted by the Military Court following a request for comment from the Ministry of Defence after a helicopter crash.
Recent high profile cases include the case of Lina Ben Mhenni who was acquitted after standing trial on September 19th this year for allegedly “insulting a police officer. However, another blogger, Yassine Ayari previously served six months of a jail sentence for alleged defamation of military officials as recently as 2015. Numerous physical assaults were also recorded against journalists, including Tunisia Live staff, after the November bombing of a bus carrying members of the Presidential Guard.
Zaineb is a journalist in the Tunisia Live newsroom. She speaks Arabic, French and English.