UN Experts Condemn Violent Detention and Arrest of Tunisian Lawyers

“We are shocked that at his hearing, Mr. Zaghrouba bore marks from beating, bruises, and scratches on different parts of his body, including his right shoulder, back, legs, arms, and fingers,” the experts reported.


Devdiscourse News Desk | Geneva | Updated: 03-06-2024 13:44 IST | Created: 03-06-2024 13:44 IST
UN Experts Condemn Violent Detention and Arrest of Tunisian Lawyers
The experts demanded immediate medical attention for Zaghrouba and an independent investigation, stressing the absolute prohibition of torture. Image Credit: Flickr

The violent detention and arrest of lawyers Sonia Dahmani and Mehdi Zaghrouba at the headquarters of Tunisia’s bar association, along with the prevention of a prominent judge from attending an international meeting, represent unacceptable violations of fundamental rights that must be halted, UN experts declared.

“We are shocked that at his hearing, Mr. Zaghrouba bore marks from beating, bruises, and scratches on different parts of his body, including his right shoulder, back, legs, arms, and fingers,” the experts reported. “During proceedings, Mr. Zaghrouba’s health deteriorated rapidly, he started vomiting, and then he lost consciousness.”

The experts demanded immediate medical attention for Zaghrouba and an independent investigation, stressing the absolute prohibition of torture.

The experts also raised concerns regarding Judge Anas Hmedi, President of the Association of Tunisian Magistrates (AMT), who was denied leave to attend the International Association of Judges' annual meeting in Africa in May. They noted the refusal from the Ministry of Justice lacked justification and restricted AMT’s trade union activities.

“These detentions, the bar association raids, and the denial of leave for the AMT’s President represent excessive restrictions on the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly, and association for lawyers and judges in Tunisia,” the experts stated.

The experts voiced concerns that these actions might be reprisals against Judge Anas Hmedi for exercising his rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. They emphasized that, under international human rights law, members of the judiciary are entitled to these freedoms like other individuals.

“We are deeply concerned about the negative impact of recent actions by the Executive on judicial independence and the right to a fair trial and access to justice for all people in Tunisia,” they stated.

The Special Rapporteurs highlighted that the Ministry of Justice has been using work memoranda arbitrarily to alter court compositions, presidents, public prosecution judges, instruction judges, and judicial chambers, violating judicial independence and impartiality. They expressed particular concern that these changes, implemented mid-judicial year, appear to be punitive.

They also recalled the dissolution of the High Judicial Council by President Kais Saied in February 2022 and the summary dismissal of 57 judges in June 2022 as threats to judicial independence.

“We urge the Government to end all undue restrictions on the legitimate exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association of judges and lawyers in Tunisia. We remain available for meaningful dialogue on these critical issues,” the experts concluded.  

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