Tunisia: Authorities must release prisoners of conscience and repeal draconian laws

‘We expect the Tunisian authorities to repeal the draconian restrictions on freedom of expression’ - Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui

Amnesty International has reiterated its call on the Tunisian authorities to respect human rights amid a renewed wave of anti-government protests across the country today.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:

"Amid political uncertainty in Tunisia, the government must do all it can to protect Tunisians from further violence.

"After 23 years of abuses, human rights must be a top priority for any new unity government. It means first and foremost that the security forces that have been used as a tool of repression in Tunisia must be reined in.

“We expect the Tunisian authorities to repeal the draconian restrictions on freedom of expression, such as the right to protest and to form and join civil society organisations.

“As an immediate measure, all prisoners of conscience must be released, including journalist Fahem Boukadous, and all independent civil society organisations must be allowed to register.”

On Friday, security forces were granted permission to "shoot on sight", with anyone breaking the current 5pm curfew at risk. All gatherings of more than three people were also banned.

Police in the capital Tunis reportedly used tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrators calling for the party of ex-President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to relinquish power, ahead of the formation of a new coalition government. A state of emergency was imposed in Tunisia as Ben Ali fled the country on Friday.

Protests have persisted in Tunisia since mid-December following the death of Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old unemployed university graduate, who set himself on fire in the town of Sidi Bouzid when police confiscated his fruit and vegetable cart, taking away his only source of income. His suicide sparked protests among Tunisians, including trade unionists, students, human rights activists and lawyers, who took to the streets demanding jobs, better living conditions and the end of corruption.

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