Amnesty International Reveals Security Forces in Tunisia Shot at Protesters from Behind as They Fled

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

AIUSA media office, 202-544-0200 x302,
Laura Spann: lspann@aiusa.org

 

Amnesty International Reveals Security Forces in Tunisia Shot at Protesters from Behind as They Fled

Doctors Testimony Show Others Killed by Single Shots Suggesting Deliberate Intent to Kill

LONDON - Amnesty International today revealed
disturbing new evidence of the brutal methods used by Tunisian security
forces to stop anti-government protests, including doctors' testimonies
that demonstrators were shot from behind and others felled by single shots
suggesting deliberate intent to kill.

An Amnesty International research team returning
 from Tunisia found that security forces used disproportionate force
to disperse protesters and in some cases fired on fleeing protesters and
bystanders.

Doctors' testimonies seen by the Amnesty
International research team show that some protesters in Kasserine and
Thala were shot from behind, indicating that they were fleeing. Others
in Kasserine, Thala, Tunis and Regueb were killed by single shots to the
chest or head, suggesting deliberate intent to kill.

"This shocking evidence confirms that the
Tunisian security forces were using lethal methods to quell discontent
and to deter protesters," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director
of Amnesty International's Middle East North Africa Program.

"The fact that some of those killed were
clearly running away shows flagrant disregard for the people's lives.
It must be an urgent priority for the authorities to ensure that those
under their command show restraint and respect for public safety."

The organization also found evidence that
many of those arrested in connection with the unrest were tortured or otherwise
ill-treated in custody. Detainees were beaten with batons or kicked, while
others were forced to kneel facing walls for hours.

The research team found that while some protesters
acted violently, security forces used disproportionate force to disperse
protesters and resorted to lethal force when it was not strictly necessary.
Tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition were widely used even when
protesters were peaceful, and protesters were beaten with batons.

Witnesses told Amnesty International that
some of those killed could not have possibly posed a threat to the lives
of security forces. Other victims were not involved in the protests at
all.

Manal Bou'alagi, 26,   the mother of
two, was shot in the chest on January 9 in the city of Regueb in central
Tunisia as she returned home from visiting her mother. A doctor who examined
her  told Amnesty International that the angle of her bullet wounds
suggested she was shot by a sniper from a nearby building.

Manal's mother, Chadia, is determined to
see justice: "I have lost a daughter and my grandchildren have been orphaned.
I want the people responsible for Manal's killing to face real justice
for what they have done to us."

A 21-year-old man who wished to remain anonymous
told Amnesty International that after he was arrested in Tunis on January
14, he was detained in the Ministry of Interior with 30 others, including
10 young women.

He told an Amnesty International researcher
that security forces beat him with batons all over his body. He was eventually
released without charge but was warned not to take part in any more protests.
Former president Ben Ali had by this time already left the country.  

Amnesty International has welcomed the caretaker
government's announcement of an independent commission to investigate
human rights violations committed by the security forces during recent
weeks.

But  the organizationcalled this week
in a "Human Rights Agenda for Change" document for other urgent and far-reaching
action by the authorities, including fundamentally overhauling the country's
repressive security apparatus and justice system.

"The families of those killed must have
access to justice, which can only be achieved by a proper investigation
with the power to compel officials to testify," said Sahraoui.

"In the meantime, any official reasonably
suspected of human rights violations should be suspended from duties. Tunisians
need to see that the culture of abuse is a thing of the past."

Background

An Amnesty International delegation visited
Tunisia from January 14-22, meeting with families of those killed in the
unrest, individuals injured during protests, other witnesses, and former
detainees, as well as lawyers, human rights defenders, unionists and medical
professionals. Researchers travelled to Hammamat, Bizerte, Regueb, Thala
and Kasserine. The majority of the cases documented in this report took
place between January 8 and 13. The full report detailing their mission
will be released in February.

Amnesty International on January 24 released
its Tunisia:
Human Rights Agenda for Change
,
calling on the Tunisian authorities to make fundamental and lasting reforms
and to break with Ben Ali's legacy of decades of abuse.

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