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UK asked to impose sanctions on Tunisia officials

March 22, 2023 at 3:00 pm

Former Tunisian Interior Minister Taoufik Charfeddine [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

A request was made to UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly to impose sanctions on high-level Tunisian officials for gross and persistent human rights violations.

The request was made earlier today against the Tunisian President Kais Saied, Interior Minister Taoufik Charfeddine – who recently resigned, Justice Minister Leïla Jaffel, Minister of National Defence Imed Memmich, and former Acting Minister of Interior Ridha Gharsallaoui.

Rodney Dixon KC submitted the request on behalf of the families of victims of the growing crackdown by the Saied regime, in particular on behalf of Noureddine Bhiri, a member of parliament and the former justice minister of Tunisia; Judge and former Public Prosecutor Bechir Akremi; Said Ferjani MP, a prominent opposition figure; and, opposition party member Ridha Bouzayene.

Rodney Dixon KC said: “The very purpose of the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations is to deter and provide accountability for the perpetrators of serious human rights violations. Our clients have suffered such abuse, as part of a wider pattern of systematic breaches of human rights laws. They have been targeted, detained and tortured and in the case of Ridha Bouzayene murdered. The UK Government should immediately act to sanction those in charge of this crackdown to condemn it and prevent it escalating even further.”

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Saied and his government have been accused of mass violations of human rights since July 2021 including the ongoing arrest, torture and in some cases killing, of anyone deemed to be in opposition to them.

Member of Parliament Noureddine Bhiri was violently taken from his home on 13 February and later appeared in court with a dislocated shoulder and injuries to his leg. He remains imprisoned and is being held under vague charges.

While Judge Akremi was violently arrested on 12 February. He was taken to an undisclosed site and held in a stress position for 25 hours. He is currently on hunger strike.

Former Member of Parliament Said Ferjani, who is 68, was taken without an arrest warrant on 27 February . He has not been charged with any offences and the intense interrogation he has been subjected to has produced no evidence. Ferjani has also launched a hunger strike in protest of his continued detention.

READ: Saied to EU Parliament: Tunisia is not under mandate or guardianship and refuses any interference

If sanctions are imposed on Tunisian officials they will not be able to travel to the UK and see their UK assets frozen, halting any business interests in the country.

Speaking in London at a press conference, Ferjani’s daughter Kaouther said: “My father and countless other Tunisians are paying a very high price for their belief in human rights and participation in democracy. The conditions in which my father is being held are most concerning. He was placed in an overcrowded cell with around 120 other inmates, and his health has begun to deteriorate.”

“He lost consciousness when doctors tried to do a blood test and could not take his blood as they were not allowed to uncuff him. There is no need for such cruelty and injustice. Democracy in Tunisia cannot survive if these are the repercussions for expressing an opinion. I urge the UK government to consider our request and place sanctions on those responsible.”