The African Court on Human and People’s Rights has taken a strong stance in asserting justice for imprisoned leaders in Tunisia.
In a landmark decision, the court has ordered the Tunisian government to remove all barriers and grant detained political prisoners, including former speaker of parliament Rached Ghannouchi, access to their legal representatives and doctors.
The court’s ruling came after a case was filed by Rodney Dixon, a British lawyer representing the family members of the detainees and those who have tragically passed away while in custody. This legal intervention is a significant development in the ongoing struggle for human rights and the rule of law in Tunisia.
In addition to allowing access to lawyers and doctors, the court also mandated that the Tunisian government inform the detainees, their families, and their legal representatives of the reasons for their detention. Furthermore, they must provide the detainees with adequate information and facts pertaining to their arrests, ensuring transparency and due process.
The case brought before the African Court stems from the plight of jailed Tunisian opposition figures who were targeted in a crackdown initiated by President Kais Saied. Since dissolving the parliament and consolidating power in July 2021, Saied has faced widespread criticism from human rights organizations and opposition groups.
Saied’s actions have been viewed as a power grab, allowing him to rule by decree and effectively bypassing democratic institutions. He has taken control of the judiciary, diluted the electoral commission, and drafted a new constitution that grants him near-unlimited authority. These measures have only intensified the concerns regarding the erosion of democracy and human rights in Tunisia.
Among the imprisoned individuals is Rached Ghannouchi, the 81-year-old leader of the Ennahdha party and a vocal critic of President Saied’s regime. Ghannouchi’s detention exemplifies the targeting of political opposition and the suppression of dissenting voices in Tunisia.
The decision by the African Court on Human and People’s Rights is a crucial step towards holding the Tunisian government accountable and safeguarding the rights of those unjustly detained. By demanding access to legal representation and medical care, the court seeks to ensure that the incarcerated leaders are treated with dignity and respect.
The lawsuit was also initiated on behalf of Said Ferjani, a well-known opposition figure, Ghazi Chaouachi, the leader of the party, and Noureddine Bhiri, a former MP and justice minister of Tunisia.
One of Ferjani’s family members, Kaouther, expressed concern about the inhumane conditions her father is currently enduring. At 69 years old, he is confined to an overcrowded cell with 105 other inmates. The sanitation facilities are shared among them, and the environment is infested and damp. Additionally, unrestricted smoking negatively affects his well-being.
In May, when the case was initially filed after Ghannouchi received a one-year prison sentence, his daughter Yusra stated that their families were hoping for justice and freedom.
Various other individuals who have been imprisoned face allegations related to security offenses. Experts argue that these charges are often fabricated as President Saied aggressively targets his critics.
President Saied has labeled those detained as “terrorists” involved in a “conspiracy against state security.”
According to the release, the African Court has granted the Tunisian government a period of 15 days to implement these measures and provide a response.