- Tunisian and foreign organisations today express their "outrage at the rapid deterioration of the human rights situation in Tunisia." After prohibiting the founding congress of the Tunisian Journalists' Union (SJT) on Wednesday, authorities prevented the Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH) from holding its annual congress, scheduled to begin today.
Tunisia is currently in the limelight of freedom of expression and other human rights groups as the country controversially is to organise the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) on 15-18 November. The decision to hold the summit in Tunis has been termed scandalous since Tunisian authorities prohibit any free circulation of information.
Rights groups had hoped to make use of the occasion to put pressure on the government to introduce basic human rights. This pressure, they now observe, has failed by the restrictions put on the SJT and the LTDH.
"This drastic decision, targeting the oldest human rights' organisation in the Arab World and Africa, aims to stifle the most important organisation for the defence of human rights in Tunisia," a broad-based coalition of rights groups from all over the world said in a statement released today.
"While processed through formal legal channels, this decision illustrates the manipulation of the law by authorities," the coalition added. 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 was said to be "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 was "unconscionable" to hold a summit in such dire circumstances, with the LTDH, pillar of independent civil society, under attack, the rights organisations added.
The large coalition today called upon the Tunisian government "to respect its commitments on human rights, particularly freedom of expression and association." They further called upon the governments that are to meet in Tunis in November "to fully recognise the severity of the situation and to bring pressure to bear on the Tunisian authorities to respect their international obligations."
The appeal was signed by Tunisian groups such as the LTDH, the SJT and other press and rights groups. The international signatories to the appeal include the International Federation for Human Rights and the world's leading press freedom organisations.
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