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Tunisia: civil society groups condemn interior ministry

Protest against Tunisian President Kais Saied in Tunis, Tunisia on 17 December 2021 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]
Protest against Tunisian President Kais Saied in Tunis, Tunisia on 17 December 2021 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

Twenty-one civil society groups in Tunisia condemned the Ministry of the Interior on Monday for its policies and practices, and warned of the growing sense of anger among large numbers of sports fans as a result of the recent violations committed by the internal security services. The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights, the National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists, the Tunisian Network for Transitional Justice and the Tunisian Coalition for Dignity and Rehabilitation are among the groups which issued a joint statement.

The issue at hand revolves around an incident on Sunday, when hundreds of Tunisians took part in a vigil in front of the municipal theatre in Tunis to commemorate Martyrs' Day, and to demand the return of the constitutional path. There was a large security presence at the vigil. The Interior Ministry then said that it had received information that money was paid to encourage people to participate in a protest sit-in on Habib Bourguiba Street.

"The Ministry of the Interior statement has stigmatised a group of Tunisian citizens who chose to express a political position in a peaceful manner," said the civil society groups. They added that the ministry also deliberately stopped a group of football fans in a "humiliating" way after a match.

Marzouki: Protests are a message from Tunisians

"The scenes videoed and shared on social media about the football match is a reminder of the sort of practices seen in January last year," they added. This was a reference to an incident when a young man in the Sidi Hassine area, west of Tunis, had been forced to take his clothes off in the street during social protests. "There have been frequent abuses in recent days against sports fans and young people who demanded that there be no impunity in the case of the Omar Al-Obeidi."

At the end of March 2018, Club Africain fan Omar Al-Obeidi drowned in the Oued Miliane River, south of Tunis. His legal team accused the police of forcing him to jump into the water after a football match. The authorities denied the allegation.

The civil society groups said that they hold Interior Minister Taoufik Charafeddine responsible for the recent violations, and stressed the need to respect the right of Tunisian women and men to express themselves freely.

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