- The Tunisian authorities have condemned reported alleged fears that the country would mistreat Tunisian nationals transferred from Guantanamo prison back to the country.
In a tough response, the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights said the allegations, including the suggestion that the inmates be transferred to neutral European host countries, were baseless.
“It is by no means acceptable that these detainees’ transfer to some so-called guest-countries be accompanied by allegations of violations of human rights in their native countries; such allegations are meant to conceal the violations which they had suffered from during their detention. These allegations would not either wipe out the active involvement of some recipient countries in the prisoners’ illegal transfers to the Guantanamo camp,” the ministry charged in a statement.
The statement further said Tunisia was dismayed at the allegations, saying as a state based on the rule of law, the fact of being a Guantanamo inmate does not by any means represent an evidence of guilt. “Detainees who were sentenced in absentia by Tunisian courts can, should the need arise, lodge an appeal to these sentences,” the statement added, further stating that the presumption of innocence, which governs the Tunisian penal system, could void the sentence handed in absentia and lead to the review of the case with all due guarantees of the law.
“In actual fact, two former Guantanamo detainees repatriated to Tunisia in June 2007 were able to appeal the sentences rendered against them in absentia. They have been entitled to a fair and public trial and their sentences were reduced. They are detained under normal conditions and receive regular visits from their families and lawyers,” the ministry said.
The statement gave as an example the case of Said Jaziri, who it said was not subject to any prosecution and was neither arrested nor brought to justice.
“Presently, he lives peacefully with his family,” concluded the statement.
Human rights groups have voiced fears that some ten more Tunisians still held at the US military detention centre of Guantanamo could face torture if they are returned home. Tunisia is known for its hard hand on opposition voices and its strict codes.
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