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Amnesty International Calls on Tunisia to Rescind Permissions to "Shoot on Sight"

Wave of Protests led to the Departure from the country of President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali

WASHINGTON - Amnesty International
is today calling on the Tunisian authorities to rescind permissions to
"shoot on sight", after a wave of protests led to the reported
departure from the country of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and a state
of emergency imposed.
“Such license given to the army and security
forces, in a very volatile situation, could be a recipe for   further
violence and killings,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of
the Middle East and North Africa program. “Both the police and army should
know that they can’t hide behind orders to shoot at protestors, and that
they will be held accountable for their actions.”
Amnesty International’s investigative team
in Tunisia has reported media broadcasts warning that gatherings of more
than three people will not be tolerated, and that anyone breaking the curfew
exposes themselves to the risk of being shot.  After the announcement,
the team reported hearing shots.

“After more than two decades of ruthless
repression, Tunisian authorities must now realize that the time for accountability
has come,” said Hadj Sahraoui. “The license to ‘shoot on sight’ must
be rescinded and, if Tunisia is to move forward reform of the security
apparatus must be a priority.”

This power appears to grant official sanction
to the Tunisian security forces to commit extrajudicial executions – in
violation of Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights (ICCPR), which guarantees the right to life and prohibits arbitrary
deprivation of life.

"The Tunisian authorities have a responsibility
to preserve law and order and to protect the rights and safety of its population,"
said Hadj Sahraoui."However, human rights must be upheld even in situations
of emergency. Any action by the state, including invoking emergency powers,
must be in full conformity with international human rights standards."

Under Article 4 of the ICCPR, Tunisia may
not under any circumstances suspend basic rights notably the right to life,
the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment, as well as fundamental
principles of fair trial and freedom from arbitrary detention. Certain
other rights may be limited, “in time of public emergency which threatens
the life of the nation,” but only "to the extent strictly required”
and as long as this does not conflict with the nation's other international
obligations, and if the government immediately informs the UN Secretary
General about what rights have been suspended and why.  

“It is simply irresponsible to grant the
power  to ‘shoot on sight',” said Hadj Sahraoui
“It is not by continuing to shoot demonstrators that public order will
be restored. The bloody crackdown must end."

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning
grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters,
activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human
rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates
and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice,
freedom, truth and dignity are denied.


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