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Africa court orders Tunisia to allow Ghannouchi to speak to lawyers

September 1, 2023 at 11:55 am

Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Ennahda in Tunis, Tunisia [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

The African Court on Human and People’s Rights has ordered the Tunisian government to “eliminate all barriers” to allow detainees to “communicate with lawyers and doctors of their choice”.

This came after a case was filed in May 2023 on behalf of four political detainees including former Speaker of the Tunisian Parliament Rached Ghannouchi, former Secretary General of the Tayyar Party Ghazi Chaouachi, former Justice Minister Noureddine Bhiri and former public prosecutor Bechir Akremi.

Though the court has not ordered the men’s release, it has ordered Tunisia to “take all measures to eliminate all barriers that prevent the four detainees, and their families, to have access to and communicate with lawyers and doctors of their choice”. They have also ordered the Tunisian government to inform the detainees, their families and lawyers of the reasons for their detention, specifically to provide them with “adequate information and facts relating to the legal and factual basis for the detention”. The Tunisian Government has 15 days to implement these measures and respond.

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The court found that the detention conditions could cause “irreparable harm” to the prisoners, placing them in “imminent danger”, adding that “the danger faced by the four [detainees] is real and not hypothetical.”

Responding to the court’s decision, Elyes Chaouachi, the son of Ghazi Chaouachi said: “This ruling by the African Court means that we can be optimistic about a better tomorrow for my father, all the detainees, and our country as well. The sun of freedom will shine on Tunisia soon again.”

Tunisia has been sliding into autocracy since July 2021 when the President Kais Saied shut down parliament and usurped all powers in a coup, pushing the country into an unprecedented political and economic crisis.

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