Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2005 - Tunisia

Ongoing harassment of LTDH and its members

The Tunisian League for Human Rights (Ligue tunisienne des droits de l'Homme – LTDH) continued to be subjected to retaliation, notably aiming at preventing the organisation and holding of the League's Congress scheduled for September 2005.

Infringements of freedom of assembly and ill-treatment of LTDH members38

The congress of the local LTDH section in Nabeul was prevented from being held as scheduled on 19 August 2005 by a large number of policemen.

Similarly, police forces impeded the holding of LTDH members' meetings organised by eight LTDH local sections in Jendouba, Bizerte, Sousse, Gabès, Monastir, Kebeli, Mahdia and Mateur from 16 to 19 September 2005. On 19 September 2005, the police notably surrounded the Mahdia section's premises and banned its members from entering the office. Mr. Mohamed Ataya, president of the section, was violently hit on the throat, chest and abdomen by policemen and had to be rushed to hospital as he was struck down by a tachycardia crisis.

Another information meeting in the premises of the Bizerte section was once again impeded on 25 September 2005.

On 2 October 2005, large police forces similarly hampered the holding of meetings organised by the committees of eleven LTDH sections in Bizerte, Mateur, Sousse, Monastir, Sfax, Nefta-Tozeur, Kélibia-Korba, Kébili, Kairouan, Jendouba and Gabès. In Gabès however, the meeting could be held in the premises of the Progressive Democratic Party (Parti Démocratique Progressiste – PDP, opposition party), whereas a hundred of LTDH activists de facto organised the meeting on the street in Jendouba.

On the same day, police forces surrounded the homes of Mr. Abderhamen Hedhili, a board member of the LTDH section in Ksibet El-Madiouni, and Mr. Mongi Ben Salah, a trade unionist and member of the LTDH section in Monastir, who was ordered not to leave the city of Moknine, where he lives.

In Kairouan, Mr. Messaoud Romdhani, president of the LTDH local section, was taken by the local police commander to a deserted street and was then fiercely beaten. Moreover, the head of the emergencies department of the regional hospital refused to deliver him a medical certificate stating his injuries, and argued she had received orders from the police. Moreover, Mr. Taoufik El-Gaddeh, secretary general of the LTDH section in Kairouan, Messrs. El Ajili, Abdelaziz Serri and Mrs. Fathi El-Ltaïef, deputy secretary generals of the Regional Labour Union (Union régionale du travail), as well as Messrs. Mekki El-Aydi, Mouldi Romdhani and Mrs. Zakia Dhiffaoui were assaulted. Mrs. Dhiffaoui was notably called in for questioning and detained for several hours.

Lastly, in Mateur, the police refused to acknowledge the complaint filed by Mr. Mohamed Salah Nehdi, president of the LTDH local section, Messrs. Chedly Maghraoui, Abderrahmane Morsani and Mrs. Fethi Maghzaoui, LTDH members, and Mr. Chokri Dhouibi, president of the LTDH section in Nefta, who were all subjected to police violence.

Hindrances to the holding of LTDH Congress39

On 21 August 2005, the LTDH Executive Committee had to postpone the association National Council, as numerous police officers in plain-clothes and members of the Democratic Constitutional Rally (Rassemblement constitutionnel démocratique – RCD, ruling party) surrounded the LTDH headquarters in Tunis in order to prevent the LTDH local sections' presidents and members of the national Council from entering the building. The Council was rescheduled for 31 August 2005. On that day, police forces once again blocked the premises and notably attacked Messrs. Abderrahmen Hedhili, a member of the LTDH Steering Committee, and Ali Taghraouit, Bizerte section's secretary general. However, the Council could be held and decided that the LTDH National Congress be organised on 9-11 September 2005.

22 persons claiming to be LTDH members but known as RCD supporters then initiated judicial proceedings against the association in order to prevent the holding of the National Congress. On 2 September 2005, Mrs. Odile Sidem Poulain, a lawyer mandated by the Observatory, was denied access to the summary hearing held that day under the pretext of being a foreigner. The hearing was postponed until 5 September 2005, when the Tunis Court of First Instance ordered LTDH to "adjourn the Congress session scheduled for 9, 10 and 11 September 2005" as well as "all preparatory work aiming at facilitating such an event [...] until a definitive judgment is rendered in the procedure on the substance". The LTDH Congress could thus not take place.

On 8 November 2005, the opening hearing of the trial on the substance of the case, which was initially scheduled for 26 November 2005, was brought forward to 12 November 2005 with no official reason. On 12 November 2005, the hearing was postponed until 3, then 24 December 2005, when it was finally scheduled for 25 February 2006.

Finally, the appeal filed with the Supreme Court of Appeal to quash the proceedings against the LTDH Steering Committee appointed following its 5th Congress was still pending by the end of 2005. On 21 June 2001, the Tunis Court of Appeal had confirmed the verdict of the Court of First Instance to cancel the proceedings of the last LTDH Congress (October 2000), on the basis of a complaint lodged by four LTDH members, also RCD supporters.

Judicial proceedings against LTDH sections40

Judicial proceedings aiming at cancelling the merger of several LTDH sections

Following complaints lodged by RCD supporters, also LTDH members, in 2004 and February 2005, several congresses of LTDH local sections – during which the merger of these sections was to be officially announced – had been prevented from being held after summary judgements had been handed down. The LTDH branches planning to merge were as follow: the Korba and Kébili sections; the Hammam-Lif Ez-zahra and Radhès sections; the Sijoumi, Monfleury and El-Ourdia sections; the La Goulette – Le Kram and La Marsa sections; the Tozeur and Nefta sections; the Bardo, El-Omrane and El-Menzah sections; the Tunis Médina and Tunis Bab Bhar sections.

In 2005, these summary judgements were upheld by verdicts on the substance respectively handed down on 5 and 26 January 2005, 15, 22 and 29 June and 9 July 2005 in the case of the last two abovementioned mergers. LTDH appealed against these decisions, but none of these cases had been examined by the Court of Appeal by the end of 2005.

Judicial proceedings to prevent the creation of a second LTDH section in Sfax

In January 2003, two congresses of the Sfax branch aiming at establishing a second section in the city had been banned following a complaint lodged by four RCD members. This decision had been upheld by the Tunis Court of First Instance in 2003, and by the Tunis Court of Appeal in June 2004. By the end of 2005, the case was still pending before the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Legal action to cancel the proceedings against the Gabès section Congress

In December 2002, following the congress of the LTDH section in Gabès, one of the participants had filed a complaint to have the congress proceedings cancelled. The cancellation had been confirmed by a decision of the Gabès Court of First Instance in May 2003. By the end of 2005, LTDH had not been able to appeal against this decision since the association had still not been legally notified of the verdict.

Harassment of the Monastir section

In 2002, the owner of the premises of the section had obtained cancellation of the tenancy contract that had just been signed with the LTDH section in Monastir, arguing that she was not in full possession of her faculties at the time of signing. LTDH had appealed against the decision and had been able to rent another office from September 2003. However, the appeal proceedings were still under way as of the end of 2005 and LTDH was still not refunded the rents it had paid at the time.

Continued obstacles to LTDH funding41

In April 2001, the European Union (EU) had granted LTDH funding for its modernisation and restructuring, as well as for the development of a programme on the administration of justice under the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). Whilst the first volume of the grant had duly been allocated, the second volume has been frozen by Tunisian authorities since August 2003 under Law No. 154 (1959) and the decree of 8 May 1922 on charities "recognised of national interest", although LTDH does not come under this status.

By the end of 2005, LTDH funding granted by the EU was still frozen.

Moreover, since 2004, the Tunisian government has frozen a 15,000 US dollars (12,719 euros) subsidy granted to LTDH for the development of its website by the Global Fund for Human Rights headed by Mrs. Mary Robinson. By the end of 2005, LTDH had still not been able to receive this subsidy.

Without this funding, LTDH faced serious financial difficulties, thus restricting its activities. It was notably problematic for the association's headquarters and local sections to pay the premises rents, and some offices had to be closed down.

Judicial proceedings and harassment of LTDH leaders and members42

In December 2002, a RCD supporter and member of the LTDH Jendouba section lodged a complaint against Mr. Hamda Mezguich, a member of the Bizerte section, for alleged "acts of violence" during the Jendouba section Congress (September 2002). The proceedings were still under way in late 2005.

By the end of 2005, the judicial proceedings initiated against Messrs. Mokhtar Trifi and Slaheddine Jourchi, LTDH president and first vice-president, also remained pending. They had both been charged with "failing to abide by a court verdict" in December 2000 and with "circulating false information" in March 2001.

Lastly, Mrs. Safia Mestiri Chebbi, president of the La Goulette-Le Kram-La Marsa section, had been sentenced on 30 June 2004 by the Carthage Cantonal Court to a 60 dinars (37 euros) fine, on the fallacious charge of "insulting a civil servant". On 8 December 2004, the sentence had been upheld on appeal by the Tunis Court of First Instance. Mrs. Mestiri Chebbi had appealed against this decision with the Supreme Court of Appeal, and the proceedings were still pending by the end of 2005.

Defamation campaign against Mr. Khemais Ksila43

A large defamation campaign was launched on 8 June 2005 against Mr. Khemais Ksila, LTDH general secretary and a board member of the Arab Institute for Human Rights (Institut Arabe des droits de l'Homme – IADH). The day before, Mr. Taïeb Baccouche, IADH president, had made a statement denouncing the Tunisian authorities decision to freeze all IADH assets emanating from foreign funding on the basis of the Law to Combat Terrorism and Money Laundering.

In response, an official Tunisian source then stated to the Agence France Presse (AFP) that IADH was notably reproached that "one of its board members was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2002". This statement was broadly disseminated by a number of national and regional newspapers and websites such as Al-Sabah, Al-Jazeera Net, and the Haqâ'iq (Realities) magazine.

Mr. Ksila decided to resign from his position within IADH in late August 2005. Soon after, the measures against the association to freeze the assets were lifted.

Ongoing pressures against CNLT and its members

Obstacles to freedom of assembly44

On 16 January 2005, a large police force was deployed around the headquarters of the National Council for Liberties in Tunisia (Conseil national pour les libertés en Tunisie – CNLT) in Tunis to prevent the association general assembly from being held. Moreover, by the end of 2005, CNLT had still not been legally recognised by the authorities, in spite of numerous registration requests. Indeed, the Administrative Court did not scheduled any date for the opening hearing of a litigation trial initiated by the association, following a CNLT complaint lodged in April 1999 for abuse of power against the Ministry of Interior, who had refused without any official reason to deliver its legal consignment note as provided for by law.

The general assembly of CNLT had previously been impeded on 11 December 2004, when police forces had forcibly dispersed CNLT members.

On 28 January 2005, the police blocked the entrance of CNLT headquarters, although no particular meeting was scheduled for that day. On the next day, CNLT staff found the premises front door forced open and the computers damaged, whereas the Internet connection was shut down.

On 12 February 2005, over a hundred plain-clothes police officers surrounded CNLT headquarters and informed the association members they had received orders to prevent by any means the general assembly, which had been postponed on numerous occasions, from being held.

Similarly, on 3 September 2005, a large police force was deployed around the CNLT office and precluded members of the liaison committee from entering the building, which remained strictly barricaded until late 4 September 2005.

Lastly, a similar police force cordoned off the whole neighbourhood and prevented CNLT members from accessing the office and holding a general meeting on 29 December 2005. Police officers in plain clothes remained stationed at the building front door until late afternoon.

Death threats and harassment of Mr. Abderraouf Ayadi45

In early January 2005, Mr. Abderraouf Ayadi, a lawyer, a CNLT member and former secretary general, was informed by mail of the termination of the rental contract of his law firm premises, without prior notice. By the end of 2005, Mr. Ayadi was still at risk of being evicted from his office.

Besides, on 18 January 2005, Mr. Ayadi received an anonymous phone call threatening him with death if he did not give up his work as a legal counsel for Mr. Mustapha Ben Jaafar, general secretary of the Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties (Forum démocratique pour le travail et les libertés – FDTL, opposition party). Moreover, Mr. Ayadi was insulted and threatened by an offender within the framework of a civil case on 15 January 2005, in the presence of a police superintendent who refused to report on the incident.

Finally, his law firm was under constant surveillance of plainclothes police officers who regularly threatened his clients in order to dissuade them from consulting him. For instance, Mr. Belaaj, one of Mr. Ayadi's clients, was called in for questioning by the political police in January 2005 and interrogated about his motives to consult Mr. Ayadi as a counsel. Following these pressures, Mr. Belaaj removed his case from Mr. Ayadi's law firm.

Defamation campaign against Mrs. Sihem Bensedrine46

Mrs. Sihem Bensedrine, CNLT spokesperson and editor-in-chief of the online Kalima newspaper, banned by Tunisian authorities, was subjected for several weeks in May 2005 to a violent defamation campaign orchestrated by a number of national newspapers such as al-Chourouk, al-Hadith, l'Observateur and as-Sarih. The campaign started right after the World Press Freedom Day was celebrated by CNLT on 5 and 6 May 2005, and on the occasion of which the association released a report denouncing the disinformation fostered by some pro-governmental newspapers.

In addition, Mr. Abdelhamid Riahi, editor-in-chief of the al-Chourouk daily newspaper and author of numerous insulting, libellous and obscene articles against Mrs. Bensedrine, was commissioned officer of the national Order of cultural merit by the President of the Republic, Mr. Zine Al-Abidin Ben Ali, on National Culture Day on 27 May 2005.

By the end of 2005, the complaints for libel and insults lodged by Mrs. Bensedrine had still not been examined.

Death threats and assault against Mr. Ben Khémiss47

On 1 September 2005, Mr. Abdelkhader Ben Khémiss, CNLT secretary general, was attacked, insulted and threatened with death in Kef market (in the north of the country) by several delinquents close to the headmen of the city black market.

Mr. Ben Khémiss went to file a complaint at the closest police station, where he was insulted and beaten anew by six police officers. He was then put in police custody for two hours, before being violently kicked out of the station. Mr. Ben Khémiss, who could thus not lodge his complaint for assault, filed another action for violence and abuse of power with the Court of Kef. By the end of 2005, the case had not been examined.

These attacks followed the release of two articles written by Mr. Khémiss and denouncing the practices of certain criminal groups, as well as the protection they benefit from by the local authorities. These articles were published in July 2004 and August 2005 by the el-Maoukef weekly newspaper.

Harassment of Mr. Hédi Menai48

On 16 September 2005, police officers surrounded the law firm of Mr. Hédi Menai, a member of the Tunisian Bar Association, a CNLT founding member and former leader and coordinator of the Jendouba Federation of the Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties (Forum démocratique pour le travail et les libertés – FDTL, opposition party). Mr. Menai was then unable to enter his office.

Two days later, on 18 September 2005, Mr. Menai's driver, Mr. Fethi Taboui, was arbitrarily arrested. Mr. Taboui, who had previously been approached by the police asking him to collaborate and refused their offer, was finally released on 21 September 2005. The prosecution further closed the complaint for arbitrary detention filed against him. Mr. Taboui's arrest was most likely aimed at paralysing Mr. Menai's activities, as he cannot drive himself due to a handicapped leg. Similarly, Mrs. Leyla Ayadi, Mr. Menai's secretary, was recurrently harassed by the police who tried to convince her to quit her position.

The heavy surveillance under which Mr. Menai was placed significantly intensified after he was elected a member of the CNLT Steering Committee in 2001. In particular, officers in plain-clothes and State agents regularly surrounded his office in order to dissuade his clients to come and consult him, and also tried to discredit him in the Jendouba Governorate Courts, where he pleads.

Ongoing retaliation against Mrs. Neziha Rejiba and Mr. Omar Mestiri49

On 3 December 2005, Mrs. Neziha Rejiba, alias Om Zied, editor-in-chief of the online Kalima newspaper and head of communications for the CNLT liaising committee, was warned to "watch her steps" by a source close to the executive, who informed her of the authorities dissatisfaction with some of her articles denouncing the authoritarian excess of the regime and the corruption of the circles close to power. On 14 November 2005, shortly before the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), whereas she was to participate in a preparatory meeting to the Citizen's Summit on the Information Society, scheduled to be held at the Goethe Institute in Tunis, and banned afterwards, Mrs. Rejiba was violently told off by members of the security forces, and sustained a heart faint. Mrs. Rejiba was further kept under close, constant surveillance by the political police during the whole WSIS.

Similarly, Mr. Omar Mestiri, former CNLT secretary general, was taken away by police officers in plain-clothes and fiercely beaten as he was about to take part in the above-mentioned meeting at the Goethe Institute.

Harassment of Tunisian lawyers and magistrates

Adoption of the Law on the Tunisian Judicial System50

President Ben Ali promulgated the Law on the Tunisian Judicial System on 4 August 2005, after it was adopted by the National Assembly on 30 July 2005. This law considerably limits the independence and power of the judges and represents another attempt to muzzle any independent stance of the judiciary. It notably denies judges the right to contest administrative decisions before courts or to appeal against disciplinary sanctions with the Administrative Court. According to the new law, this right shall be restricted to a mere petition to an "appeals commission" (commission des recours) stemming from the Higher Council of Magistracy (Conseil supérieur de la magistrature – CSM).

AMT closed down and obstacles to freedom of association51

On 1 August 2005, two days after the aforementioned law was adopted, the Ministry of Justice ordered the disciplinary transfer of about thirty members of the Association of Tunisian Magistrates (Association des magistrats tunisiens – AMT) to towns sometimes located over 400 km away from their homes. For instance, Mrs. Kalthoum Kennou, AMT secretary general, was transferred to Kairouan (160 km away from Tunis), whereas Mrs. Wassila Kaabi, an AMT member, was transferred to Gabès (420 km away from Tunis).

These retaliation measures notably followed the adoption of a general motion carried by the AMT 10th Congress in December 2004, and presenting institutional demands on the independence of the judiciary. In addition, on 31 May 2005, an AMT memorandum underlined the urge to reform the CSM in order to establish a truly independent judiciary, notably by electing the majority of its members.

Lastly, on 29 August 2005, Mr. Ahmed Rahmouni, AMT president, was summoned by the Prosecutor of the Tunis Court of First Instance who asked him to hand over the key of the AMT headquarters. On the next day, the Prosecutor called in all members of the AMT office and reiterated his request. On 31 August 2005, the office staff members found the locks changed and could thus not enter the premises.

Intimidation and harassment campaign against Mr. Mohammed Abbou's lawyers52

On 29 April 2005, Mr. Najib Hosni, Mr. Samir Ben Amor and Mr. Ousama Bou Thalja, all three lawyers, arrived at the prison of Kef after having been authorised to visit their client, Mr. Mohammed Abbou, a member of the International Association for the Support of Political Prisoners (Association internationale pour le soutien des prisonniers politiques – AISPP), and former head of CNLT, sentenced to three years and a half in jail, in particular for having denounced the detention conditions in Tunisian prisons on the Internet.

Upon their arrival, Mr. Hosni was denied access to the prison, whereas Mr. Ben Amor, who was authorised to meet with Mr. Abbou, could only speak to him for a few minutes before she was violently taken away by the prison guards. The director of the prison, as well as one of the guards later lodged a fallacious complaint against Mr. Ben Amor for "property destruction" and "assault and battery against a prison guard". Mr. Ben Amor appeared before the examining magistrate in May 2005, and by the end of 2005 he had not yet been summoned to appear again.

On 3 May 2005, CSM further criticised "the abuses, excess and other drifts" of certain lawyers and requested the magistrates to "take all necessary steps to maintain order" in the courts.

On 5 May 2005, Mr. Abbou's lawyers – Mr. Ben Amor, Mrs. Radhia Nasraoui, president of the Tunisian Association Against Torture (Association de lutte contre la torture en Tunisie – ALTT), Mr. Ayachi Hammami, president of the Mohammed Abbou Support Committee, and Mr. Abderraouf Ayadi – were informed that they were to appear before the CSM disciplinary committee. Although the Tunis section of the National Bar Association decided to consider the matter closed, the Public Prosecutor appealed against this decision. By the end of 2005, the case was still pending.

Lastly, on 6 May 2005, police forces surrounded and forcibly dispersed a sit-in organised since 4 April 2005 in front of the Tunis Bar House by the lawyers and members of the Mohammed Abbou Support Committee, inflicting severe ill-treatment to some of the demonstrators.

Harassment of Mr. Lotfi Hajji53

On 4 May 2005, Mr. Lotfi Hajji, president of the Founding Committee of the Tunisian Journalists' Union (Syndicat des journalistes tunisiens – SJT), was detained for over four hours at the Bizerte police station. On that occasion, he was strongly warned against the consequences of holding the leadership of an "illegal" union and his stances in the international press.

On 9 May 2005, Mr. Hajji was once again summoned by the police after participating in a conference organised in Tunis on 6 May 2005 by local associations, and three days only after a SJT report on the situation of the press in Tunisia was published, on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day.

Mr. Hajji was further questioned about his activities within the union by the police department of the Bizerte district on 19 August 2005. He was then ordered not to publish any other article on behalf of SJT and informed that he would lay himself open to prosecution if contravening this order.

On 23 August 2005, Mr. Hajji was once again called in for questioning.

Lastly, he was interrogated by the Tunis security department on 24 August 2005. The security officers notably notified him the ban decision against the holding of the SJT National Congress, initially scheduled for 7 September 2005.

Continued pressures against AISPP and its members54

In spite of numerous requests submitted by the International Association for the Support of Political Prisoners (Association internationale pour le soutien des prisonniers politiques – AISPP), created in November 2002, to obtain legal recognition with the Ministry of the Interior, the organisation had not been recognised yet by the Tunisian authorities by the end of 2005.

Furthermore, the weekly meetings of the AISPP Executive Committee, held at the organisation head office or at the homes of its members, were systematically impeded by major deployments of police forces in 2005.

In addition, the movements and professional activities of Mr. Mohammed Nouri, AISPP president, were closely watched throughout 2005, and his clients were regularly intimidated.

Mrs. Saïda Akrami, AISPP secretary general, was similarly subjected to constant harassment by the political police, who for the past few years has daily surrounded her office and intimidated her clients. Mrs. Akrami was regularly trailed by police officers, whereas the Ministry of Finance imposed a tax inspection on her law firm.

Pressure on RAID-ATTAC55

By the end of 2005, the Assembly for Alternative International Development (Rassemblement pour une alternative internationale de développement – RAID-ATTAC) had still not been legally recognised by the Tunisian authorities.

The second Congress of the association,56 initially scheduled for 26 and 27 June 2004, then postponed until 24-25 October 2005 following a ban issued by the Ministry of the Interior, could not be held in the course of the year due to the intervention of police forces on two different occasions in 2005.

Continued harassment of the League of Free Tunisian Writers and its members57

The League of Free Tunisian Writers (Ligue des écrivains libres), established in 2001, had still not received legal status by the end of 2005, whereas its members and activities remained severely repressed in the course of the year.

Hunger strike of several activists and violent repression of a support demonstration58

On 18 October 2005, Messrs. Ahmed Néjib Chabbi, secretary general of the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), Abderraouf Ayadi, Hamma Hammami, spokesperson for the Communist Workers' Party of Tunisia (Parti Communiste Ouvrier de Tunisie – PCOT), Mohammed Nouri, Ayachi Hammami, Samir Dilou, a member of AISPP and of the Mohammed Abbou Support Committee, Mokhtar Yahyaoui, a judge and president of the Centre for the Independence of the Judiciary (Centre pour l'indépendance de la justice – CIJ), and Lotfi Hajji started an unlimited hunger strike in Tunis as a protest action against the deteriorating situation of fundamental rights and freedoms in Tunisia. These activists notably called for the respect of the freedoms of assembly, association, opinion, information and communication, and demanded the legal recognition of all political parties, the release of all political prisoners and unrestricted access to the Internet.

The authorities first deployed a large police force around Mr. Ayachi Hammami's office, where the strikers were gathered, then launched a vast defamation campaign, referring to the strikers as "a small, hostile minority", lacking "basic patriotic consciousness" and "seeking to be prejudicial to the interests [of the country] and its image throughout the world", right before Tunis hosted the WSIS.

The Tunisian authorities further described the Committee press releases about the strikers' health as "an additional stratagem aiming at manipulating public opinion". These statements were notably widely broadcast by the AFP on 1 November 2005.

On 8 November 2005, the police fiercely repressed a peaceful support rally organised in favour of the strikers in front of the Ibn Khaldoun House of Culture in Tunis. Mr. Mokhtar Trifi, in particular, was assaulted and dragged on the floor by his aggressors who brutally beat him in the eyes, right in front of his daughter and wife. Mr. Mohammed Jmour, a member of the National Council of the Bar Association, was also attacked while attempting to give assistance to Mr. Trifi. The police officers also took away the purse and video camera of a French journalist who was filming the whole scene. Moreover, Messrs. Mounir Fallah, Chawki Laarif and Salah Belhouichet, activists of the General Union of Tunisian Students (Union générale des étudiants de Tunisie – UGET), were also assaulted, arrested and briefly detained.

In addition, Mr. Abderahmane Bouzayyane, a bailiff, visited Mr. Hammami's law firm on that same day and notified him that the owner of the premises had issued an order to evict him within 24 hours, under the pretext that the actual use of the office was not the one specified by the rental agreement. This notification also requested the "immediate suspension, within 24 hours, of all activities inconsistent with the terms of the rental agreement".

Lastly, Messrs. Chabbi, Khémais Ksila and Khémais Chammari, former FIDH vice-president, were notably targeted by a defamation campaign, relayed in both Tunisia and France, and which slandered the persons involved in the "18 October National Association for Rights and Liberties" (Collectif national du 18 octobre pour les droits et les libertés) and the "18 October Forum for Debates" (Forum de débats du 18 octobre), established following the hunger strike.

Obstacles to the organisation and cancellation of the CSIS59

On 9 November 2005, a week before the Citizens' Summit on the Information Society (CSIS) was due to start in the fringe of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), the coalition of Tunisian and international organisations responsible for organising the CSIS was informed that the conference hall it had reserved for holding this 3-day event would not be available. Moreover, all hotel owners contacted by the CSIS Organising Committee were subjected to numerous pressures by the authorities to dissuade them from accepting its reservation requests.

As a result, the coalition was forced to cancel the whole event and parallel activities on 15 November 2005.

In addition, all leaders of independent Tunisian NGOs were prevented from communicating with foreign countries after their phone lines were taped and their Internet connections disrupted during a few weeks before and after the World Summit. By the end of 2005, many of them were still encountering similar problems.

[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

38. See Press Release, 29 August 2005 and Urgent Appeal TUN 005/1005/OBS 089.

39. See Press Releases, 29 August 2005, 1, 2 and 6 September and 10 November 2005.

40. See Annual Report 2004.

41. Idem.

42. Idem.

43. See Annual Report 2004 and FIDH Press Release, Tunisia and the World Summit on Information Society – a Chronology: April-November 2005, 10 November 2005.

44. See Annual Report 2004, Urgent Appeal TUN 001/0105/OBS 007 and Press Release, 15 February 2005.

45. See Annual Report 2004 and Urgent Appeal TUN 001/0105/OBS 007.

46. See Annual Report 2004 and Press Release, 1 June 2005.

47. See Urgent Appeal TUN 004/0905/OBS 079.

48. See Urgent Appeal TUN 006/1005/OBS 100.

49. See Annual Report 2004.

50. See Urgent Appeal TUN 003/0905/OBS 077.

51. Idem.

52. See Press Release, 6 May 2005.

53. See Urgent Appeals TUN 002/0805/OBS 072 and TUN 004/0905/OBS 079.

54. See Annual Report 2004.

55. Idem.

56. In 2001, the Ministry of the Interior attempted to prevent the first congress from being held, leading to police violence against the RAID-ATTAC members.

57. See Annual Report 2004.

58. See Joint FIDH-OMCT Press Release, 21 October 2005 and Observatory Press Release, 9 November 2005.

59. See CSIS Organisation Committee, which gathers 19 Tunisian and international organisations.


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