Amnesty International Urges Tunisia to Act Decisively to Break with Ben Ali’s Legacy of Abuse

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, strimel@aiusa.org

Amnesty International Urges Tunisia to Act Decisively to Break with Ben Ali’s Legacy of Abuse

Human Rights Advocates Present New Government with Action Plan Calling for Fundamental Reform of Repressive Security and Justice System

LONDON - Amnesty International today urged
Tunisia's new government to break with past abuse and repression and fundamentally
overhaul its security and justice system.  The human rights organization
issued a Human Rights Agenda for Change that demands urgent and
far-reaching reforms by the new government, including an end to torture
and crackdowns on free speech.

"Those now in power have an unprecedented
opportunity to make fundamental and lasting reforms and to break with Ben
Ali's legacy of decades of abuse," said Claudio Cordone, Amnesty International's
Senior Director for Research. "Tunisians deserve real, not cosmetic, change."

The call came as unrest and political uncertainty
continued to grip Tunisia and threaten its new caretaker government, formed
following the flight of the former president and his family 10 days ago.

"As a first step, the new government must
immediately rein in the security forces which have for so long harassed
and oppressed ordinary Tunisians, and make them accountable under the law,"
said Cordone. "Human rights cannot be optional but must be placed at the
very foundation if Tunisian institutions are to be made just and accountable."

Amnesty International has welcomed the new
government's pledge to release all political prisoners but its Human
Rights Agenda for Change
demands other urgent and far-reaching action
by the authorities:

  • The
    security forces must be fundamentally overhauled. From now on, no member
    of the security apparatus should be above the law. The continuing use of
    live fire to disperse protesters underscores the urgent need to publicly
    issue clear instructions on the use of force.
  • The
    authorities must publicly condemn torture and move swiftly to eradicate
    it, including by bringing to justice those who order, commit or try to
    cover up torture and by providing reparation to the victims.
  • Tunisians
    need to trust that the justice system will treat them fairly. Judges must
    be given independence and security of tenure for them to be able to protect
    Tunisians.
  • Tunisians
    must be allowed to speak and act freely. The authorities must repeal all
    laws which criminalize the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of
    expression, association and assembly, and stop harassing former political
    prisoners, including abolishing the restrictions that ban them from travelling
    outside Tunisia.
  • The
    root causes of the current protests must be urgently addressed by ending
    discrimination and abuse of power, and the inequality of access to essential
    public services and ensuring the minimum essential levels of economic,
    social and cultural rights for the whole population.

Amnesty International said reform would be
hollow unless an investigation into abuses under Ben Ali's rule is carried
out.

Amnesty International called for a full investigation
into the last two decades of human rights violations, including the events
of recent weeks, to provide Tunisians with truth, justice and reparations.

"Tunisians are looking forward to a
proper investigation, not toothless commissions with no power to compel
officials to testify," said Cordone.

"Tunisians must be told the truth about
the repression and abuse of power that occurred, and those who were its
victims must have access to justice and reparation."

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Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.

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