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Tunisia: Kais Saied’s power grab has ‘dramatically undermined’ human rights, says Amnesty 

July 24, 2023 at 1:22 pm

Tunisian President Kais Saied [TUNISIAN PRESIDENCY/Anadolu Agency]

Advocacy group Amnesty International said today that the Tunisian President Kais Saied’s two-year-long power grab has “dramatically undermined” human rights in the country.

In July 2021 Saied suspended parliament and dismissed the prime minister. Eight months later he dissolved the parliament and then fired 57 judges and prosecutors, accusing them of “financial” and “moral” corruption.

Tunisia has tumbled 21 places on the Reporters Without Borders Freedom Index as journalists report being interrogated by security forces and handed prison sentences.

At least 39 people have been investigated on charges of “insulting authorities” and “spreading fake news,” Amnesty International has said.

Political prisoners, state critics and perceived critics have been targeted, including 21 members of the country’s largest opposition party Ennahda.

Leader of Ennahda and former speaker of the now-dissolved parliament Rached Ghannouchi is being investigated for “conspiracy against the state.”

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In April, Ennahda’s offices were raided by police who also closed the headquarters of the main opposition coalition.

Earlier this year, Saied’s racist comments about black Africans triggered violence, discrimination and the forced eviction of migrants out of the country.

Many were left on the Algerian or Libyan border with no food and water. Some reported having suffered sexual violence, others were beaten and tortured by authorities.

Prior to Saied’s power grab Tunisia was considered an exception in the region that was heading towards democracy as its neighbours became engulfed in violence.

Tunisia was known for having the freest press in the Arab World, but over the course of his rule, Saied has set about reversing any of these gains.

“Decree by decree, blow by blow, President Saied and his government have dramatically undermined respect for human rights in Tunisia since his power grab in July 2021,” said Amnesty’s MENA Director, Heba Morayef.

“In doing so, he has stripped away basic freedoms that Tunisians fought hard to earn and fostered a climate of repression and impunity.”

“The Tunisian authorities must immediately cease their crackdown on human rights, which is steadily undoing the hard-won achievements of the 2011 revolution.”