Tunisia: Security forces suppress peaceful demonstrations on Revolution Day

ARTICLE 19 condemns the attacks perpetrated by the security forces against peaceful demonstrators and journalists commemorating the 11th anniversary of the Tunisian revolution on Friday, 14 January. Demonstrators also openly rejected the decisions taken by the President of the Republic last 25 July and the aftermath of that decision.

As soon as the demonstrators arrived on the streets leading to the center of the capital, security forces brutally suppressed them by beating and insulting them; used motorbikes and water cannons to disperse them and to prevent them from reaching Habib Bourguiba Avenue, which is regarded as a symbol of the revolution. Many demonstrators were arrested and taken to police stations.

The violations also extended to several journalists covering the demonstrations, including Zina Mejri, who was arrested and later released, Amira Jebali1, whose phone was seized by authorities who accessed the data on it, and the correspondent for the French newspaper Liberation, Mathiew Galtier2, who was physically assaulted and whose equipment was seized.

The Tunisian authorities argued that they prevented demonstrations on 14 January in line with their decision to ban all gatherings and demonstrations. The decision was made two days before Revolution Day on the pretext of the deteriorating COVID-19 situation. Many civil society organisations, political parties and public personalities had called for weeks for a peaceful demonstration to take place on 14 January 2022 to celebrate the anniversary of Revolution Day, and to express their rejection of the unilateral political path announced by the President of the Republic, Kais Saied, and to warn of its danger to democracy and previous human rights gains.

ARTICLE 19 considers the attacks on the demonstrators on 14 January as an additional indication of the authoritarian tendency of the existing authority and its hostility against its opponents and critics, including those who express their refusal to reverse human rights gains, and particularly the right to freedom of expression and demonstration.

While expressing its deep concern about the frequency of human rights violations, ARTICLE 19 calls on the General Attorney to track all those who have been proven to have been involved in these serious attacks and to stop the ongoing impunity for these perpetrators. We also call on the Tunisian authorities to faithfully and effectively respect their international commitments and obligations to human rights.