NORTH AFRICA and the MIDDLE EAST by suchenfz


									          NORTH AFRICA and the MIDDLE EAST


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                                                                  NORTH AFRICA and the MIDDLE EAST

Defendings the Universality of Human Rights
At the first international conference of the Arab human rights movement, held in Casablanca, Morocco,
from 23rd to 25th April 1999, the final declaration contained an assessment of the political situation
in Arab countries, dividing them into three groups. As of today, the first group, Saudi Arabia and some
of the Gulf countries, have no “modern judicial structure, with neither constitution nor parliament;”
they still reject most of the international human rights treaties and instruments. Invoking their cultu-
ral and religious particularities as a reason, the governments of these countries deny any possibility of
action, however limited, to human rights defenders.

The second group is made up of countries which, like Syria, Iraq or Libya, have adhered to various
covenants and treaties but which, in practice, fail to implement most of their regulations. The restric-
tions on freedoms are so tight and the human rights situation is such that, it is nearly impossible to
carry out any investigating and monitoring activities in the human rights field. Human rights
organizations and the rest of civil society can only operate underground or from exile and, often,
putting their own and the life of their relatives at risk. While states in the first group usually reject
universality under religious pretexts, in the second group, governments often resort to the usual
nationalistic, all-Arab rhetoric, as well as to the need for national unity, even though, in some cases,
they are no longer holding back from invoking religion.

The third group is not exempt from human rights violations: torture, lack of independence of the
judiciary, and censorship, to give just a few examples, are routine. However, it can be argued that the
deterioration of the human rights situation in these countries has intensified the most during the
period covered by the present report (Egypt, Tunisia, Autonomous Palestinian Territories.) Particularly
active in these countries, human rights defenders have suffered the most from these increased viola-
tions, as we shall see in the Observatory’s urgent appeals. These three categories are obviously somewhat
simplistic, as each country has its own particularities. Yet, within each group, similarities between
national policies are a cause for concern.

On 9th December 1998, after many years of stalling, the General Assembly of the United Nations
adopted the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Only one day earlier, 26 Member-States published
an “interpretative declaration” announcing that, while they would support the existing draft, they
would only implement its provisions in as much as they agree with their own national legislations.
Signed by 14 Member-States of the Arab League, the interpretative declaration was presented on
behalf of all the signatories by the Ambassador of Egypt to the United Nations. While it has no legal

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value in international law, the declaration lays bare the motives of these governments, intent on restricting
the freedom of action of human rights defenders as much as possible.

A few months later, in May 1999, the Arab Covenant against Terrorism, adopted by the Arab interior
ministers in 1998, eventually came into force after it was ratified by seven countries. Extraditing
political opponents convicted of terrorism thus became legal, although this had long been a common
extra-judicial practice among some Arab states. In the name of the fight against terrorism, which is
perfectly legitimate under some conditions, this covenant took cooperation between national repressive
policies one step further. First, the definition of what constitutes a terrorist act is so wide that, in some
extreme cases, it can be interpreted to designate peaceful, dissident acts deemed dangerous by the
State. In addition, in this region, the independence of the judiciary remains a very relative notion.
According to the provisions of this new covenant, Mr. Rachid Mesli, a human rights defender who was
convicted in Algeria, would have been unable to find refuge in any other Arab country.

Another reason for concern during this period was the hasty adoption of a new Association Law in
Egypt and the failure of the Palestinian authorities to enact a similar law, although it had been adopted
by the Palestinian Legislative Council. In both cases, the authorities clearly revealed that their actual
goal was to restrict human rights Non-Governmental Organizations, hinting that they threaten national

Harassment against human rights defenders and their families, a practice culminating in Tunisia, or
the ban on human rights work as in Iraq and Syria, are thus the most radical and visible tips of a
systematic policy of distrust and repression against human rights defenders. At first sight, such policy
seems contradictory since, although all these countries have opted for economic liberalization, at the
same time, they oppose any genuine effort at political liberalization. Quite on the contrary, they emphasize
their own religious and cultural particularities in order to reject the universality of human rights and
to deny the indestructible link between civil and political rights and social and economic development.
Therefore, the fact that human rights defenders, however sparse and powerless, are the main targets
of these policies is not surprising, for they bear witness to the indivisibility of all human rights and
convey a sense of universality.

                                                         Driss El Yazami

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From Khémaïs Ksila, the Vice-Chair of the Tunisian Human Rights League, who
was released from two years in detention on 22nd September 1999

Gratitude and the duty to testify
After being arrested on 29th September 1997, I was sentenced to a total of three years’ imprisonment
on 11th February 1998, for «slandering public order and the authorities, circulating false news likely
to disrupt public order, and inciting the citizens to violate the laws of the country» (Criminal Law, Art.
42-51.) The court of appeal and the Supreme Court upheld the verdict without giving me the opportunity
to raise my own defence. All the trial monitors who were able to follow the proceedings corroborated
that I had been denied the right to a fair trial, although this right is enshrined in international covenants
ratified by Tunisia.

This patently unfair trial only followed a long period of harassment and threats (I was dismissed from
my job on 6th February 1996, and my passport was confiscated on 18th August 1996). The aims of
such repressive acts were, on the one hand, to curb the enjoyment of my rights to freedom of opinion
and expression as citizen and human rights defender, and, on the other hand, to undermine the
Tunisian Human Rights League, whose margin of manoeuvre was already extremely narrow.

Throughout the two years I spent behind bars, my wife, Fatma, and our three children experienced
constant harassment and all kinds of pressures. Yet, all of us were fortunate enough to benefit from a
steady advocacy effort, both at national and international levels.

Heartening news of such widespread concern on my behalf reached me in my prison cell, as well as
the decision, by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, to qualify my detention as arbitrary.

Advocacy on my behalf was mainly organised by NGOs. I am all the more indebted to them that,
thanks to their unwavering action, just a few days before I was released on parole, I had the great
honour to be nominated to the 1999 Sakharov Prize of the European Parliament, along with five other

I have at last been released from jail and, although I have been returned to my family and friends,
once again, I have to face what Taoufik Ben Brik referred to as the “human bars of an invisible
prison.” Yet, I shall not let this affect my happiness nor, and even more so, my feeling of gratitude.
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Fatma, our children and myself would like to extend our warmest and affectionate thanks to you all; to
all the staff and members of FIDH, OMCT and of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights
Defenders; through these organizations, we would also like to thank the Tunisian Committee for the
Respect of Freedoms and Human Rights; the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network; the Arab
Human Rights Program; and all the Arab organizations for the protection of lawyers. We are especially
thankful to Amnesty International for its relentless action, to the French, Belgian and Swiss Human
Rights Leagues, to International Prison Watch, to CETIM (Europe-Third World Centre), to the Inter-
national Commission of Jurists, and to the Service International des Droits de l’Homme. I have been
deeply impressed by the advocacy efforts made by African human rights organizations, and by the
campaigns launched in Canada and the United States by human rights networks, in particular, Human
Rights Watch and the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights.

I am also greatly indebted to the work of many European Parliamentarians of all nationalities, and of
elected officials in Belgium, Canada, France, Switzerland and the United States.

To all of them, and to all our friends throughout the world, in the South and in the North, from Africa
to Scandinavia, we would like to express our warmest thanks.

Thanks to this huge, international advocacy effort, inter-governmental organizations, and in particular
the relevant UN mechanisms, have adopted fair recommendations and positions on our behalf and
with regards to the human rights defenders and the victims of repression in our country. Those behind
the official repression have thus been clearly discredited. In particular, I would like to take this
opportunity to convey my deepest consideration to Ms. Mary Robinson, the United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights.

These efforts will undoubtedly continue with unswerving determination and in the same spirit until the
restoration of our labour rights, the rights to freedom of movement, to freedom of communication,
the right to enjoy a peaceful and stable family life, and the freedom to express different, non-conformist
views; In my opinion, these rights constitute the sine qua non conditions for the enjoyment of

Yet, gratitude is not enough, and one has the duty to testify. Anybody who has been a victim of
imprisonment and of prison harshness will bear physical and psychological scars for life. This painful
experience will have long-lasting consequences on their economic well-being and on their family life.
This is precisely why we all carry the duty to testify publicly. As far as I am concerned, I pledge to fulfil
this obligation, for I am convinced that exposing the harsh, insecure and violent conditions prevailing
in Tunisian prisons is an utmost necessity.

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Prison in itself is a painful punishment because it deprives one of one’s freedom. In the laws of
democratic countries - those that respect their people - prison sentences are to be avoided in the case
of those usually referred to as “political offenders.” Likewise, these same countries try not to resort
systematically to prison sentences or, at least, they try to enforce alternative punishments against
those usually referred to as common criminals.

Unfortunately, in countries like ours, the situation is quite different. The main characteristics of our
laws and regulations are their under-development, their arbitrariness, and, in many cases, their ruthless
cruelty. The deprivation of one’s freedom is thus exacerbated by a lack of prison structure, an
inconceivable over-crowding, and the use of ill-treatment and torture to such an extent that the growing
death toll in custody, detention facilities and prisons is a deep cause for concern.

The Tunisian government clearly disregards its international obligations and, in particular, the UN
regulations regarding the minimum standards on the treatment of prisoners. By the same token, the
government fails to respect the legal and administrative regulations which it has adopted.

Denouncing detention conditions in Tunisia also works as a reminder that, throughout history and
across the world, authoritarian and arbitrary regimes, those who reject the rule of law, were wrong to
believe that, thanks to prison, suffering, and humiliation, they would be able to curb, eradicate or
destroy their opponents and their victims, especially among outspoken activists and the defenders of
freedom and democracy.

For many years, our country, Tunisia, has experienced serious violations of the most basic freedoms
and human rights. The situation keeps deteriorating as the ruling authorities have strengthened their
position by tightening their all-powerful and unrelenting grip on the Tunisian society and all its insti-

Violating the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, suppressing human rights defenders, and
disparaging intelligence while promoting the most subservient forms of conformism and allegiance,
all this is a result of the authoritarian control of the country by the Tunisian government. This control
is based on coercion and the instilling of fear in a society whose citizens have been reduced to the
rank of subjects.

Determined and committed to carry on our peaceful and civil fight, within the broadest possible
union of the democratic and human rights movements in Tunisia, I am convinced that, with your help
and support, we will see political and institutional reforms in our country. These are crucial to ensure
that, at long last, the Tunisian people fully enjoy their rights to freedom, democracy and the effective
protection of their human rights.

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We will have, soon I hope, opportunities to meet and exchange views. Much more than with these few
words, you will then appraise the strength of the affectionate ties of respect and gratitude which our
common struggle and your spirit of solidarity have established between us.

                                                     Khémaïs Ksila

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The pervasive climate of violence has had serious consequences for the freedom of action of human
rights defenders. Recent events have been marked by attacks on the freedom of association and
harassment of certain human rights defenders and those close to them.

Even though the legal statutes of the National Association of the Families of the Disappeared (ANFD)
conform to national legislation and their application deposited in August 1998, they have still to be
granted legal status by the Ministry of the Interior. The ANFD emerged during the Summer of 1998
documenting more than 4000 cases of forced disappearance in the country.

Faced by official denial, the families formed “SOS Disparus,” a committee operating under the
Algerian League for Human Rights (LADDH). Having been hushed up for many years, the issue of
forced disappearances exploded onto the political agenda in the Summer of 1998.

Since that time, the Families of the Disappeared have gathered every week in Algeria at the headquarters
of the National Observatory for Human Rights (an official institution) and in front of the wilayas (the
prefecture) in cities like Oran or Constantine.

In the capital, several attempts to gather have been dispersed by force and in September 1999, the
Algerian press responded to the threats made to the Vice President of the ANFD. The threats were
made to Ms Kouidri following her meeting with several of the families of the disappeared with President
Abdelaziz Bouteflika during the referendum campaign on the Civil Agreement Law. After listening to
the families, the President asked them to close the file on forced disappearance and to stop their
public demonstrations.
Moreover, on 10 July 1999, during the Organisation of African Unity the authorities banned NGOs
from holding a parallel meeting. Finally, lawyers working for victims of human rights abuses are
subjected to harassment or intimidation like Mr Mesli.

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u        Sentencing of the lawyer
         Rachid Mesli
                                                       and close family allowed to attend the hearing
                                                       presided over by Mr. Amieur.
                                                       Mr Mesli was questioned on the nature of his
Mr Mesli, lawyer and human rights defender,            relations with his clients, notably those who the
was illegally confined at the end of July 1996 for     police were looking for in the months of June
several days at an unknown location. Following         and July 1995.
pressure from human rights organisations he was        He had to constantly underline the purely
eventually brought before the courts. Files,           professional character of his contacts with his
including clients being prosecuted for charges         clients, and that he had carried out his work with
relating to freedom of expression, found by the        the laws in force and notably the Law of the
police during searches of his offices and both         “Rahma” of February 1995 - authorising persons
his home and that of his parents, were returned        sought by the police to surrender themselves to
some days later.                                       the authorities accompanied by their lawyers. His
Mesli, visibly in a state of shock and bearing         lawyers laid out all the violations of the right to a
marks on his face, both suggestive of ill treatment,   fair trial that had occurred over the different sta-
was charged with belonging to a terrorist orga-        ges of his case including: the conditions of his
nisation. He was brought before the investigating      arrest and detention, the lack of follow up from
judge of the Rouiba Court on 10 August 1996.           requests of the defence and obtaining evidence
His lawyers were not allowed to support him            with the use of torture.
during the hearing. Concerns raised by the             Mr Mesli was given a three year sentence for
defence over his kidnapping, and the need for          belonging to a terrorist armed group in flagrant
an expert medical opinion to confirm the indi-         violation of international human rights instru-
cations of torture, were ignored. He was held in       ments most notably the right to a fair trial. One
solitary confinement in El Harrach Prison for          month before the sentence ended he was given a
nearly a year and then transferred to Tizi Ouzou       presidential pardon on 15 July 1999.
prison. He was finally judged on 15 July 1997
before a criminal court. The court found Mr.
Mesli not guilty of the original charges, but found
him guilty of being an apologist and encouraging       u        Obstacles to the freedom of
terrorism. He was sentenced to three years in
prison and three years of privation of his civil       On 10th July 1999, the Algerian government
rights and a fine.                                     banned a meeting of human rights defenders held
Mr Mesli’s lawyers appealed on the basis that the      in parallel with the summit of the Organisation of
charges had never been part of the original char-      African Unity (OAU) organised in Algiers. This
ges. He then had to wait until 20 June for a new       meeting was organised by the Algerian League
hearing.                                               for Human Rights (ALHR), member of FIDH, to
The Observatory gave legal support mandating
three lawyers to Mr Mesli. The process was held
in restricted conditions with only a few journalists   1 See press release 12th July 1999

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gather human rights defenders from NGOs from          Khelili had received a two year prison sentence
several African countries with senior                 for contempt of court. The initial charge of
representatives of international organisations.       “membership of a terrorist organisation”, was
None of the organisations, with the exception of      reformulated as “non reporting of terrorism”.
the Vice-president of the Burundian Association       The Observatory considers that this sentence is
for the Defence of the Rights of Prisoners, who       simply another act of intimidation against
was held for several hours by Algerian security       Mr Khelili.
services at the airport, was able to get a visa.      In addition no action was taken over the
The room, reserved and paid for in the hotel Dar      complaint brought by Mr Khelili over the exces-
Diafa, for the meeting was requisitioned at the       sive violence used against his son Karim Khelili,
last moment by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.       during his arrest in February 1998. The National
The perimeter of the hotel was closed down by         Observatory of Human Rights stated that Karim
the police. Moreover, the public meeting which        Khelili suffered no ill treatment.
was supposed to have been held in a private room
was equally banned.
On 11th July, in the early afternoon, many families
of the disappeared, who were to attend the
opening of the defenders meeting, were prevented
from holding a public march in Algiers.
Holding parallel human rights defenders
summits, at the margins of larger international
and regional conferences, is an established
practice at the sessions of the majority of
intergovernmental regional and international

u        Further intimidation of Mr
         Khelili and his family2

The two sons of Mr Khelili, lawyer and President
of the National Union of Algerian Lawyers, were
temporarily arrested in February 1998. Both were
threatened with torture and Mr Karim Khelili,
was actually subjected to ill treatment.
Mr Khelili was informed that his son Farid

2 See Annual Report 1997-1998 of the Observatory

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Four years after the accession of Bahrain to independence in 1971, the Head of State, the Emir,
dissolved the newly elected Assembly and suspended article 65 of the Constitution (1971) which
regulated legislative power. Since then, all powers has been concentrated at the hands of the Emir
and his Cabinet; for example, judicial power is placed under the direct control of the Department of
Secret Services. The exercise of fundamental freedoms is conditioned by a particularly repressive
legislative and legal arsenal.

The law on National Security (1974) permits the arrest and sentencing, up to three years, of all
persons suspected of endangering national security, without charges or trial. The restrictive orders
of the Penal Code of 1976 enables the Security Court of the State to reprimand all acts of ‘defamation
against the State, against its economic and social system and which weaken national unity’.

In these conditions, human rights defenders are unable to freely exercise their activities and are
forced into exile. The only persons who dare, individually, to defend Human Rights in Bahrain
(intellectuals, academics, journalists, lawyers...) are systematically harassed (phone tapping, following/
surveillance, confiscation of materials, campaigns of slander...). They have to bear wrongful dismissal,
arrests and imprisonment, or even forced exile with their families, with the confiscation of Bahrain
nationality and impossibility of returning to Bahrain. As refugees abroad, the defenders continue to
be surveyed by the Bahrain secret services, and pressure is exerted on certain governments in order
to create obstacles to their work in their new countries of residence.

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The attitude of the Egyptian government over the period highlighted not only a failure to guarantee the
freedom of action of human rights defenders, but actually an active will to protect themselves against
the action of human rights defenders.

During the adoption of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders by the General Assembly of the
United Nations, 9th December 1998, Egypt took the floor in the name of the 26 states to express
reservations on the text and laid out an interpretation that placed national legislation over internatio-
nal norms.

In 1999, Egypt replaced already restrictive laws dating from 1964, with new even more repressive
association laws.

The Egyptian Organisation of Human Rights has tried since its creation to get permission to carry out
its work. While neither explicitly refused nor expressly forbidden, the organisation and its activities
are tolerated.

This legal no man’s land allows the authorities to increase pressure on the organisation. The EOHR is
following the new administrative procedures so that it can have a clear legal status.

Contrary to the statements of the authorities at the international level, civil society has been paralysed
by the new law. The wording of the legislation is vague and gives the authorities wide powers to
control the internal workings of organisations. They can control their creation and, registration, they
can reject candidates for managing bodies and dissolve them for infraction.

As the previous laws in force did not allow organisations to register as associations, all were registered
as private businesses and consequently will be forced to re-register as associations.

The number that will obtain the new status and the time the process will take is uncertain. For the
moment the NGO sector is the target of a campaign of defamation on the part of a largely state
controlled media. They are increasingly calling for restrictions on their activities. In 1999 the authorities
refused to allow two human rights conferences the “first international Conference on the Arab

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Movement for Human Rights in the Arab World” (organised by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights)
and a Conference on “The Legal System in the Arab Region and the Challenges of the 21st Century
(organised by the Centre for the Independence of Justice and Legal Professions). Both were forced to
take place respectively in Morocco and Lebanon.

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u        Search and harassment of
         human rights NGOs3
                                                     the EOHR, Hafez Abu Se’da and the order to
                                                     arrest EOHR lawyer Mustafa Zidan by the At-
                                                     torney General of the Higher State Security
The Observatory was informed by the Arab             Prosecution
Program for Human Rights Activists, a member         On 1st December 1998, the Higher State Security
of the OMCT network, of the illegal search of the    Prosecution ordered the imprisonment of Hafez
offices and questioning of activists of the above    Abu Se’da, the Secretary General of the Egyptian
mentioned organisation in a dawn raid.               Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) for
It appears that on 15th October 1998, at around      15 days pending investigations in relation to case
3:00 a.m., members of the police illegally entered   n° 695/1998-state security investigations. In his
the headquarters of the APHRA and questioned         capacity as the EOHR Secretary General, Hafez
an employee about the activities of the organisa-    Abu Se’da was facing following charges: accepting
tion. It appears that the police were particularly   funds from a foreign country with the aim of
interested in a planned solidarity event in Cairo    fulfilling acts that would harm Egypt;
for Tunisian human rights defenders.                 disseminating false information abroad, that
The police returned in the morning of 16th           would harm the country’s national interests and
October 1998 and questioned the administra-          receiving donations without obtaining permission
tive Director over the solidarity event. They        from the competent authorities. Hafez Abu Se’da
remained in the building until 10:00 p.m.            was originally called as a witness based on a re-
Another member of the Police returned on 17th        port made by journalist Mostafa Bakri, editor-in-
October to ask further questions.                    chief of Al-Osbou’ newspaper, and on inquiries
According to the information APHRA has suffered      made by the State Security Investigations.
no further acts of harassment.                       The journalist filed a report to the Public
                                                     Prosecutor in which he accused the EOHR of
                                                     issuing a report on human rights violations in

u        Arrest of the the Secretary
         General of the Egyptian
                                                     Egypt in return for money from foreign
                                                     governments seeking to undermine Egypt. The
         Organisation for Human                      incidents refer to a report published by EOHR
         Rights (EOHR)4                              on an incident in the Al-Kosheh village which
                                                     documented gross violations committed by the
The Observatory was informed by the Egyptian         authorities. According to the report, following a
Organisation for Human Rights, a member of           murder in the village, collective punishment was
both OMCT and the FIDH, of the detention, as of      meted out to the villagers: this included hundreds
1st December 1998, of the Secretary General of       of arbitrary arrests and the use of torture on men,
                                                     women and children.
                                                     Following the publication of the report, an article
3 See urgent appeal EGY 003/9810/OBS 072             appeared in the London based newspaper the
4 See urgent appeals EGY 004/9811/OBS 085; EGY       Sunday Telegraph alleging that the attack was part
004/9811/ OBS 085.01; EGY 004/9811/OBS 085.02
                                                     of a campaign of religious discrimination on the

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part of the Authorities (against the Christian         The Observatory put together and dispatched an
Minority known as the Copts). It further wrongly       urgent international mission to visit Egypt. The
implied that members of the village were crucified.    mission was able to document the inhuman
Following accusations of treason in Egyptian           treatment inflicted on Hafez Abu Se’da. The fifteen
newspapers, the EOHR immediately issued a              days of detention revealed an intention to
statement that the crucifixions had not taken place    undermine his dignity. He was placed in the
and any suggestion linking the violence to religious   disciplinary area of Tora prison, he was put in a
action was not part of their report.                   cell of two metres by two, his head was shaved
As regards to the allegation of foreign funding of     and he was forced to wear prisoners clothes.
the study, the EOHR has categorically stated that      Moreover, his lawyers were denied access to their
the report was not funded from external sour-          client. On 6th December 1998, the Higher State
ces. A check for US$ 25,703 from the British           Security Prosecution finally ordered the release
Embassy, on behalf of the Human Rights                 of Hafez Abu Seada, the Secretary General of the
Committee of the British House of Commons, was         Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR)
given to EOHR for a project for women and              on a bail of EP 500.
handicapped persons. The same embassy funded           On 9 December, Zidan was heard by the
the same project in 1996 without comment on            prosecution service and freed under caution.
the part of the authorities.                           The Observatory reminds that, in August 1998,
Following the arrest of the Secretary General, the     M.Hafez Abu Se’da was arrested during more than
Attorney General of the Higher State Security          24 hours, accused of not having payed a 1500
Prosecution then ordered the arrest of EOHR’s          Egyptian pounds fine. The policemen admitted
lawyer Mustafa Zidan, the lawyer who carried out       afterwards that it was a mistake. The Observatory
the mission to investigate the events of Al-Kosheh     underlines the fact that this arrest intervened just
village. In the morning of 1 December 1998, a          after the EOHR had published a report dealing
force from the State Security Investigations went      with the violations of the rights of detainees in
to his house but he was not there.                     Egyptian prisons.
The detention of the Secretary General of the          Until the present day, there are no conclusions
EOHR and the detention order on Mustafa Zidan          concerning the investigations regarding the two
are clearly aimed at sanctioning the activities of     members of the EOHR.
this organisation which just publicly denounced
the use of violence by the Egyptian police.
The Observatory then received further reports that
Hafez Abu Seada may be being held in Al-Ihtyat         u        Adoption of a Restrictive
Prison, which has, in addition to unsanitary li-
ving conditions, a very poor human rights record       President Hosni Mubarak signed into law “on
where prisoners regularly face inhuman
treatment and are exposed to physical injury.
All efforts by the EOHR and the family to obtain a     5 See urgent appeals EGY 001/9905/OBS 032; EGY
visit permit failed.                                   001/9905/OBS 032.01

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Associations and Private Institutions”, which          already weakened civil society.
restricts the work of human rights organisations       Professional Unions (Law 100/1993), political
[- see below-]. The law was adopted by the             parties (Law 40/1997) and the press, are already
Parliament on the night of 27th May 1999. A            under heavy restrictions. In the space of a year,
copy of the law appeared on the 1st June in the        four journalists have been sent to prison,
Official Gazette.                                      independent newspapers closed and magazines
The law, is very vaguely formulated giving the         forbidden to print. The rights to publish are
authorities a great deal of latitude to control the    subject to further restrictions of the law 3/1998,
creation, registration and suspension of associa-      which gives power over new licences to the Cabi-
tions (articles. 3, 6 et 8), reject candidates for     net. All these laws are based on the “emergency
the administrative council (article. 34), annul        law” (in force since October 1981) which grants
decisions, dissolve them for infraction (art. 23)      considerable power to the Executive, and which,
– infractions which are very vaguely defined (art.     it seems, has effectively become the new consti-
42). In addition, the law makes it possible to turn    tution.
down funds coming from outside the country (art.
17) and equally to join international networks.
In short, the law allows the authorities to maintain
a tight grip over the activities of civil society.     u        Intimidation of the
                                                                Sudanese Human Rights
The text took no account of the repeated concern                Organisation6
for civil society. Outside the dialogue between the
government and Egyptian NGOs, the authorities          The Observatory was informed by the Sudanese
introduced very restrictive amendments. It             Victims of Torture group and the Regional
appears that outside the dialogue between the          Program for Human Rights Activists, both
government and Egyptian NGOs, the authorities          members of the OMCT network, of the concerns
introduced very restrictive amendments, so much        over the potential closure of Sudanese Human
that, not only did the government present the text     Rights Organisation and the possible extradition
as a compromise, but it is even more restrictive       of its Secretary General.
than existing association legislation. During the      According to the information, the Egyptian Fo-
last meeting of the United Nations Human Rights        reign Minister Amr Moussa sent a letter to his
Sub Commission, the Egyptian represen-tative, in       Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail
his right to respond to the intervention of the        saying the SHRO was operating without a licence
Observatory, stated that Egypt had reconsidered        and had been asked to stop. This information
the law and once again justified the ratification of   originally appeared in Egyptian newspapers on
the law which contravenes the UN Covenant on           11th August but was confirmed by the Sudanese
Civil and Political Rights and other regional and      Ambassador Ahmed Abd el-Halim Mohamed to
international instruments ratified by Egypt.           Egypt.
Governmental action, adopted against a climate
of rising social tension, is yet another resort to
repressive law which will affect the totality of an    6 See urgent appeal EGY 001/9908/OBS 053

                                                                                               Page 223

The Sudanese authorities apparently also            The Observatory is concerned that these events
requested the extradition of the Secretary          may be linked to a recent report by the SHRO on
General of SHRO, Dr Hamoudah Fath El Ra-            slavery in Sudan. These moves appear to come at
hman to Sudan or expel him from Egypt. Dr El        a time of warming relations between the two na-
Rahman was the subject of attacks on Sudanese       tions and are a subject of considerable concern
Radio, apparently describing him as a traitor to    should they be used to further repress human
the nation.                                         rights work in Sudan.
The SHRO, however, has yet to receive any con-      According to recent information, the harassment
firmation of this decision. They have stated that   has ended. The threats appear to have been
they have been operating with the knowledge of      politically motivated.
the government for seven years.

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                                                                 NORTH AFRICA and the MIDDLE EAST

The relative improvement of the human rights situation has been accompanied by important
developments in the work of NGOs from a great number of sectors including the civil and political,
social and economic. While human rights defenders can carry out their work without concern, the
exercise of freedoms of association, meeting and demonstration are subject to very restrictive legal
dispositions such as the Code on Public Freedoms of 1960 and 1973, which remain in force. The
powers of the Ministry of the Interior equally hang over civil society like the sword of Damocles.

The Government and the administrative authorities are in a position to suspend or indeed ban an
organisation or demonstration if they are considered to be of “a nature to undermine public order.”
The vague character of the law gives the authorities effectively unlimited discretionary powers and, in
practice, demonstrations are almost completely forbidden or repressed.

Three section members of the Khouribga section of AMDH, an affiliate of FIDH, were arrested along
with numerous demonstrators in September 1997, while monitoring a sit-in held in the headquarters
of the Moroccan Labour Trade Union, when the demonstration was violently broken up by the police.
An activist from the section, Mr Fekak Mohamed, was condemned to 4 months imprisonment and the
President had to pay a fine following a trial where witnesses were not allowed to testify. This sentence
was upheld by the appeal court in April 1999. The decision was taken when the legal representatives
were not present. Defence lawyers protested that the right to a fair trial had not been respected.

During 1998 and 1999, several peaceful gatherings, notably held by “the educated unemployed,”
were violently broken up. Public meetings are also subject to high level legal and administrative
restrictions. In 1995, the Ministry of Interior increased its control when it was given the right to ban
any meeting.

Recently numerous trade unionists were arrested and jailed in Agadir and Rabat for having exercised
their right to strike. Human rights organisations continue to push for the reforms in the code of
freedoms, that President Youssoufi has committed himself to, to ensure they are carried out quickly.

                                                                                              Page 225

u        Action restricting freedom
         of association7
                                                     sentenced by Rabat’s Magistrate Court from 1 to
                                                     8 months of jail, while 7 of them were sentenced
                                                     to a 4-month suspended sentence. Some of them
At the beginning of the year, the Ministry of the    declared having been ill-treated during their
Interior formally forbade all public meetings of     custody. All of them were sentenced to pay a 500
political parties and organisations in all public    dirham fine. These unionists were sued under
buildings.                                           article 288 of the Penal Code that suppresses the
As almost all organisations meet in buildings        right to strike, considering as an offence the
owned by the local authorities and buildings for     «bringing up or the attempt to bring up any
youth activities, this represents a very serious     concerted ceasing of work, in order to force the
restriction on the freedom to meet and their         rise or the drop of wages or to undermine the
freedom of action.                                   free exercise of industry or work through vio-
This action was communicated by the Minister         lence, accomplished facts, or «swindling,» vague
of the Interior by telex to all local governors on   term which can be subject of various
23rd February 1999. The action was without           interpretations.
precedent and appears to run completely counter      According to the AMDH, who had commissioned
to the clearly expressed commitment of the           lawyers to defend the unionists during their trial,
Government to undertake legal reform with re-        the right to a fair trial was not respected. The
gard to fundamental freedoms.                        Court refused to hear the defence witnesses and
The move provoked a powerful reaction amongst        rejected medical expertise to attest evidence of
Moroccan civil society and international organi-     torture. Only, the police minutes of the
sations and it appears, according to the most        cross-examination, that included irregularities,
recent information, that the measure was never       were taken into account.
implemented.                                         Moreover, the General secretary of the Union of
                                                     the Inshore Fishermen Sailors and two other
                                                     unionists were sentenced on 24th September by
u        Unionists sentences8                        the Agadir Court, to a month of jail and to pay a
                                                     5000 dirham fine for having undermined the
The OMDH, member of FIDH and OMCT, as well           freedom of work, having participated to an
as the AMDH, member of FIDH, the CISL, member        unauthorised meeting and having insulted a po-
of OMCT, informed the Observatory about the jail     lice officer on duty. These persons had been
sentences of 20 members of the UMT (Syndicat         arrested during a strike launched on 15th
Union Marocaine du Travail), employees of the        September 1999.
EVITIMA factory, on 23rd September 1999. On
2nd September, 13 of the 20 workers were

7 Urgent appeal MAR 001/0399/OBS 011
8 Urgent appeal MAR 002/1099/OBS 070

Page 226
                                                                  NORTH AFRICA and the MIDDLE EAST

Human rights defenders share the problems of other Palestinians who are regularly the victim of
restrictions of movement imposed by Israel. Unable to travel to other areas, under the control of the
Palestinian authorities, they are also restricted in their ability to travel overseas.

For their part, the Palestinian authorities placed a great number of restrictions on the work of human
rights defenders, removing prison access to the legal representatives of certain NGOs, censuring the
official press on their work, except when they condemn human rights violations committed by Israel.
The attacks culminated with a defamation campaign launched by the Minister of Justice against
Palestinian NGOs accusing them of publishing false information, of financial impropriety, etc.

Into this hostile atmosphere, President Arafat imposed restricting amendments to the association law
voted on by the Palestinian Legislative Council and which had been originally welcomed by the Palestinian

                                                                                               Page 227

u          Intimidation of NGOs9
                                                       u        Rerouting laws that
                                                                guarantee the rights of
From the end of May 1999, attacks on human                      associations to carry out
rights NGOs intensified. This campaign appeared                 their work without
to be led by the Minister of Justice, Frieh Abu                 restriction
Meiden and centres on attempts to undermine
the long awaited new law of association and NGO’s      On 12th August 1999, the Speaker of the House
(the Law of Charitable Associations and                announced that the PLC accepted the changes
Community Organisations in Palestine known as          proposed by President Arafat. In essence, the
the NGO law). The law is widely viewed as posi-        changes involved transferring responsibility for
tive: providing legal protection to NGOs, while        the administration of NGOs to the Ministry of
equally ensuring their accountability.                 Interior instead of the Ministry of Justice, as
Human rights organisations and other sectors of        provided in the Draft Law.
civil society have contributed to the development      On 25th May 1999, the Legislative Council voted
of the law and the Palestine Legislative Council       against the changes proposed by the President.
voted in favour of the law. It is presently awaiting   However, concerns were raised over the validity
implementation into law. Even though it was            of this vote as it did not meet the quorum
adopted by the Legislative Council of the              requirements in Article 71 of the Council by-laws.
Palestinian Authorities on the 21st December           The matter was referred to the Council’s Legal
1998, it has not entered into force as President       Committee for a legal opinion. On 12th August
Arafat has yet to sign it into law.                    1999, the Speaker announced that the
The campaign of intimidation led by the Minister       Committee’s opinion affirmed that the vote was
of Justice appears to confirm moves by the             not valid. Accordingly, the Speaker announced
Palestinian executive to keep NGO’s under the          that a revised Draft Law, incorporating the
control of the Ministry of Interior, which would       proposed changes, would be considered valid.
undermine the new law. This is of serious concern      The Observatory supports the concerns
as the Ministry of the Interior has undertaken acts    expressed by the PCHR and underlines that this
of harassment and defamation against human             procedure raises the following concerns:
rights organisations.                                  While the 25th May vote did not meet the
The proposal to keep control with the Ministry         requirements of Article 71, and therefore not a
of the Interior was rejected by the democratically     valid rejection of the President’s proposal, this
elected legislature, which accepted that NGOs          cannot equally amount to a valid approval of his
would act with greater independence if                 actions. Indeed, Article 71 section 2, states that if
responsibility for regulation of NGOs were with        the head of the Palestinian National Authority
the Ministry of Justice.                               returns the Draft Law to the Council with
                                                       comments, the Draft Law shall be re-debated. It
                                                       will be considered valid and published in the
9 See urgent appeals PAL 002/9906/OBS 039; PAL
                                                       Palestinian Gazette immediately if voted upon with
002/9906/OBS 039.01                                    an absolute majority of the Council in favour,

Page 228
                                                                  NORTH AFRICA and the MIDDLE EAST

whether the Council rejects or accepts the
proposed changes.                                      u        LAW begins defamation
Finally the Speaker made these announcements
on 12th August 1999 at a time when many of the         Following an article that appeared in the maga-
members of the Legislative Council had already         zine “Al-Hayat al Jadidah” 1st July 1999,
left the hall. It suggests that attempts arbitrarily   accusing LAW and its members of partiality and
close the file. This is particularly regrettable as,   financial impropriety etc., the organisation took
as stressed by the PCHR, the Draft Law represents      the author and the owner of the magazine to
a real test case for the PLC to stand firmly against   court, who proved to be the Minister for
attempts of the Executive to undermine the will        Parliamentary Affairs.
of the Council and its members.                        At LAW’s request, the Observatory mandated a
The Draft Law was passed by the third reading on       mission of legal support for the hearing on 11th
21st December 1998, and was transferred to the         October 1999.
President on 27th December 1998. Although
according to Article 71, the President then had
30 days in which to either ratify the Draft Law, or
to return it to the PLC with comments, he did          u        Prison Access Denied to
                                                                Lawyers of Human Rights
neither. In this case, Article 71 provides that the             Organisations10
Draft Law is valid as law, and it should have been
published in the Palestinian Gazette.                  The Observatory was informed by LAW, of the
The initial draft law, passed by the third reading,    denial to human rights lawyers to access
represents a model for the organisation of the         Palestinian prisons. According to LAW, the
work of Palestinian NGO’s, as it guarantees their      Palestinian National Authority has moved to deny
independence while ensuring their accountability.      lawyers from human rights organizations, access
It is much more liberal than other laws on asso-       to Palestinian prisons.
ciation in the region. The changes proposed by         According to the information received, the
the President, which shift the responsibility of       announcement of the ban came through a Reuters
administering NGOs from the Ministry of Justice        report from an unknown source within the
to the Ministry of Interior, risks restricting the     security services. Al Quds Arabic Newspaper of
work of NGOs, as has happened in neighbouring          16th June 1999 published the Reuters informa-
countries, such as Egypt, where the newly adopted      tion, which quoted the security source as stating
law on association seriously breaches interna-         that the decision was taken up because,
tional human rights standards on freedom of as-        “Palestinian groups falsely described the actions
sociation.                                             of the Palestinian police.“
                                                       Hamdi Al-Rifi, the Director General of the Prison
                                                       Service, officially informed LAW of the decision

                                                       10 See urgent appeal PAL 002/9906/OBS 040

                                                                                              Page 229

of Ghazi Jabali, the Palestinian Civilian Police       secretary telephoned Dr Sarraj, who arranged for
Chief, to deny human rights lawyers access to          a lawyer to accompany him to the Gaza Police
Palestinian prisons.                                   Headquarters. Reports indicated that the events
LAW has been informed that the Addamir Asso-           were possibly linked to an article “The Battle
ciation for Human Rights-Gaza, as well as the          Goes On,” which was written by Sarraj and was
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, a member          published in the August edition of People’s Rights
of FIDH, received similar notice.                      magazine, a LAW publication, and distributed in
LAW and PCHR lawyers are still being denied            the Occupied Palestinian Territories on 1st August
access to detention centres.                           1999. The article criticised the attacks carried
                                                       out over the past two months by the Palestine
                                                       National Authority against human rights and other

u        Harassment of Dr Eyad
                                                       non-governmental organisations. The article gave
                                                       special mention to the Minister of Justice, who
                                                       led the campaign against NGOs.
The Observatory was informed by LAW, of res-           Although a lower-ranking officer (Moussa Abdul
trictions on the activities and harassment of          Nabi) was involved in calling Dr Sarraj to the
Dr Eyad Sarraj, human rights activist and              police headquarters, it is strongly suspected that
director of the Gaza Community Mental Health           Police Chief Ghazi Jabali would have issued such
Programme.                                             an order against a high-profile Palestinian figure
On 5th August 1999, at 11:30 a.m., Dr Eyad             as Dr Eyad Sarraj. Dr Sarraj has been arrested
Sarraj, was called in for questioning by Moussa        on three previous occasions for criticising the
Abdul Nabi, a senior officer in the Civilian Police.   actions of the PNA. On 7th December 1995 and
At 14:00 hours, Dr Sarraj went into the Civilian       18th May 1996, he was arrested, unlawfully
Police Headquarters. He was released later on          detained and released without charge. On
that day. He has been banned from leaving the          10th June, he was arrested, detained and
city limits of Gaza.                                   eventually accused of a (seemingly fabricated)
A telephone call requesting Dr Sarraj attend the       drugs charge and later for striking a police officer.
police headquarters was made by the office of          Upon being released, he was clearly bruised and
Moussa Abdul Nabi to Eyad Sarraj’s office at the       reported having been beaten. He was released
Gaza Community Mental Health Programme. Dr             on bail and the charges against remain
Sarraj was out of the office and his secretary, Iman   outstanding.
Fathi Al Madaqqa, took the message. She told LAW
that the police had said that they would prefer Dr
Sarraj to come in rather than “sending someone:”
it seems that the police were suggesting that unless
he came in personal, he could be arrested. The

11 See urgent appeal PAL 001/9901/OBS 050

Page 230
                                                    NORTH AFRICA and the MIDDLE EAST

u        Arrest and Temporary

On 11th August 1999, at 22:30, 26 year old Saed
El-Zain, Programme Coordinator for the Cen-
tre for Democratic Advancement in Ramallah, was
arrested without warrant and had his home
searched by the Palestinian Preventative Security
Services. He was released from custody an hour

12 See urgent appeal PAL 001/9907/OBS 052

                                                                            Page 231

The state of emergency proclaimed on 8 March 1963 is still in force and the free exercise of
fundamental freedoms is suspended by the maintenance of martial law. Syrian human rights defenders
have been effectively muzzled. In 1991, the entire membership of the directors of the CDF, the only
non-governmental organisation, were arrested and imprisoned. For the last two or three years, the
Government has made gestures of opening: the release of a few prisoners of opinion, including
human rights defenders and a loosening of the grip of the security services. Since the release of their
spokesperson in 1998, the CDF has been able to carry out some activities which are, nonetheless,
under extremely difficult conditions. Their spokesperson is still not allowed to leave the country and
continues to be denied his passport. The organisation works with neither offices nor legal status.
These positive signs must, however, be placed in context. All sectors of civil society remain under
heavy censorship, five members of the CDF remain arbitrarily detained. Finally, Syria, along with
another twelve arab states, have taken a restrictive interpretation on the Declaration on Human Rights

Page 232
                                                                NORTH AFRICA and the MIDDLE EAST

u        Five members of the
         Committee for the Defence
                                                      u       Release of two Defenders
         of Human Rights and                          The Observatory was informed on 30 May 1998
         Freedoms (CDF) remain in                     of the release of Naif Al-Hamoui and Riad
         detention13                                  Turk.

Mssrs Afif Mizher, Muhammed Ali Habib,
Bassam al-Shaykh, Thabet Murad and Nizar
Nayouf, members of CDF, member organisa-
tion of FIDH and OMCT, remain arbitrarily
detained since their imprisonment in December
1991. They were sentenced in 1992 by a special
court, under conditions that raised concerns over
the fairness of the trial, for their work for human

13 See the Annual Report of the Observatory 1997-

                                                                                           Page 233

The seizure of the human rights discourse by the Tunisian authorities, in its attempts to promote an
image of a state that respects freedom and pluralist democracy, have been accompanied by a multifold
increase in attacks on fundamental freedoms, as well as a hardening of laws with no regard for
international norms. Under the pretext of the fight against Islamic fundamentalism, the authorities
have adopted increasingly sophisticated methods of intimidation and harassment to silence any
dissenting voices. Human rights defenders are on the front line of these human rights violations.
While genuine human rights organisations are marginalised and gagged, several “NGOs” created by
the authorities have obtained consultative status with the UN.

In order to silence human rights defenders, the authorities have used an arsenal of sophisticated tools
of repression; unfair trials, arbitrary detention, repeated interrogations, harassment of close family
including children, bullying in the workplace, telephone surveillance, confiscation of passport, threats,
theft (cars, office equipment, personal items), press defamation using defamatory, insulting and
degrading language and questioning of their patriotism.

Information on the Web is also tightly controlled, many internet sites are regularly blocked, notably
those of international human rights organisations – creation of sites pertaining to be the work of non-
governmental organisations paint a picture of human rights observance in Tunisia.

There is even a false Amnesty site portraying Tunisia’s human rights record in a somewhat different
light. The suppliers of internet access are controlled by those near to the family of the president of the
Tunisian Republic.

It is also noteworthy that, for the second year running, the resolution by the United Nations Sub
Commission on Human Rights retained the name of the Tunisian Human rights defenders Ms Nasroui
amongst those persons that the High Commissioner for Human Rights is called upon to open an

Page 234
                                                                 NORTH AFRICA and the MIDDLE EAST

u        Legal Persecution of Ali
                                                     motivated by his relation to Dr. Marzouki and that
                                                     this action was part of systematic campaign by
                                                     the authorities against the Doctor, since he be-
On the 14th February 1999, the Kebili Contonal       came candidate to the presidential election in
Court has upheld the sentencing of Mr Ali            April 1994.
Bedoui, brother of Dr Marzouki, ex-President
of the Tunisian Human Rights League, member
of both FIDH and OMCT, to six months
imprisonment; a sentence made on the basis of        u         Refusal to Legally
                                                               Recognise the CNLT and
the accusation that he was sentenced previously.               Systematic Muzzling of the
Mr Ali Bedoui was arrested by the Police on 5th                Tunisian Human Rights
January 1999 whilst he was in a market in Kebilli              League15
(in the South of Tunisia) with his wife. After be-
ing handcuffed, the Police ordered him to fol-       The Observatory expressed its concern over the
low them to a Court. The judge then issued a         decision of the Ministry of the Interior (adopted
summons for his appearance before the court          on 6 March 1999) not to recognise the legal
on 12th January. The charges were the same as        status of the National Council for Liberty in
those he faced in January 1998.                      Tunisia, an organisation which is made up of
He was brought before a court on 6th of January      recognised human rights defenders. This orga-
1998 for “infringing obligations related to the      nisation declared its mandate on 10 December
management of administrative surveillance.” This     1998 and began the necessary administrative
sentence was imposed after another for “sup-         procedures.
porting an unrecognised association.”                The Minister of the Interior justified the decision
Following his trial in 1999, the Observatory man-    of the failure of the mandate (in particular with
dated an international mission to observe his        respect to association law) to comply with natio-
appeal hearing on the 25th February 1999. The        nal law. The objective of the organisation is “to
mission confirmed that the charges were un-          ensure vigilance over the state of individual and
founded and the lack of respect for the rights of    collective liberties in Tunisia, in order to protect
the defence.                                         them to keep watch that the mechanisms of power
On 11th March, the Kébilli Court confirmed the       and that the laws of the country conform with the
initial sentence and Ali Bedoui served his sen-      demands of a free society.”
tence between March and September 1999.              According to the law in force, the creation of an
The Observatory expressed its concern that there     organisation must obtain the authorisation from the
were serious grounds for suggesting that the ar-     Interior Ministry. The Ministry can also dissolve an
rest and the sentencing of Mr Ali Bedoui were        organisation. The Ministry classes organisations
                                                     under 4 categories: cultural, social, sport or general.

14 See urgent appeals TUN 001/9801/OBS 001.01;
TUN 001/9801/OBS 001.02; TUN 001/9801/OBS            15 See urgent appeal TUN 001/0399/OBS 012

                                                                                                 Page 235

Other organisations have been victims in the past
of restrictive legislation that violates Article 22 of   u        Detention of senior member
                                                                  of the CNLT16
the International Covenant on civil and political
rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of         The Observatory expressed its grave concern over
association. In the course of the past few years,        the disappearance of Dr Moncef Marzouki
one fifth of associations, between groups and            from Tunis, on 5th June 1999.
political parties, have been ruled unconstitutional.     Dr Marzouki was thought to have disappeared
The Tunisian association of democratic women             on 5th June at 14:30 in Tunis whilst he was on
and the Amnesty International office in Tunisia          his way back from Gaafour, 110 km from the
have had to wait for a number of years before,           capital. He was returning to take part in the
finally, they were given administrative                  commemoration of the death of Nabil Barakati
authorisation.                                           who died under torture in 1987.
Because of official classification as a general          He was brought before a Judge and charged with
organisation, The Tunisian League of Human               “forming an unrecognised organisation,
Rights, member of the OMCT network, was forced           maintaining an unrecognised organisation,
to accept all applications for membership without        distributing false news and distributing docu-
any consideration of the motives of the applica-         ments likely to disturb public order.”
tion. The LTDH felt it could not accept these terms      Moncef Marzouki was freed on 7th June. He was
and the authorities consequently dissolved them.         then brought once again before the investigating
As a result of international and national action,        judge on 5th July and was freed.
the LTDH was able to organise their congress in
1994 and 1996 and the administrative court
annuled their designation as a “general” organi-
sation. The league and senior figures of the orga-       u        Indictment of the Secretary
                                                                  General of the CNLT17
nisation - notably the vice President who was
arbitrarily detained for two years - and members         Omar Mestiri, Secretary General of the Natio-
have since been victims of harassment and                nal Council for Freedoms in Tunisia (CNLT), was
muzzling of other forms which has effectively            arrested in his home in Tunis on 12th May 1999.
prevented the organisation from carrying out its         He was detained overnight and released the
work.                                                    following evening. The Interior Ministry
                                                         interrogated him about his work for the CNLT.
                                                         He was brought before the investigating judge on
                                                         31st May and then on 3rd July 1999, who charged
                                                         him with diffusing false information and

                                                         16 See urgent appeals TUN 002/0399/OBS 037; TUN
                                                         002/0399/OBS 037.01
                                                         17 See the press release of the Observatory 26th May

Page 236
                                                               NORTH AFRICA and the MIDDLE EAST

maintaining an unrecognised organisation. He        conducted without regard for a fair trial with the
was forbidden from leaving Tunis.                   defence lawyers being prevented from effectively
                                                    carrying out their job.
                                                    The Observatory was then informed of the

u       Sentencing of Abderraouf
                                                    sentencing of Mr. Abderraouf Chammari to a 12
                                                    month prison sentence for “defamation of the
                                                    authorities and diffusing false news.” The sen-
Mr. Abderraouf Chammari, Director of the            tence followed a trial hearing held on the 29th
public Tourist Planning Board and brother of Mr     July 1999. The sentence was upheld by the Court
Khemais Chammari, eminent human rights              of Appeal of Tunis on the 10th August 1999.
defender and laureate of the Nuremberg Human        On Tuesday 31st August 1999, Mr Chammari was
Rights Prize winner of 1997, was given notice on    freed on humanitarian grounds after two months
Friday 2nd July 1999 by the President of the Ad-    of detention.
ministrative Council of the Tourist Board, that
his assignment with the Ministry of Public Works
was at an end (the Ministry responsible for his
posting to the Tourist Board). He consequently      u        Sentencing of the Lawyer
                                                             Ms Radhia Nasraoui
had to leave the office.
On Monday 5th July, agents of the judicial police   On 15th May the trial of Ms Radhia Nasraoui,
arrived at Mr Abderraouf Chammari’s house and,      and 20 co-defendants, students and members of
having formally delivered a search warrant, they    the Tunisian Workers Communist Party, took
asked him to go with them. From Monday 5th          place. At the beginning of the year Radhia
July 15:30 until Wednesday 7th July 9:30, Mr        Nasraoui took on the defence of the above
Chammari was held at a secret location in the       mentioned people.
building of the Interior Ministry and then in the   Having denounced the torture and ill treatment
Military barracks of Boucloucha.                    suffered by these people, and filed cases and
On Wednesday 7th July, he was brought before        requests for inquiry, she found herself facing the
the Procurer of the Republic and was presented      same charges “helping a meeting of an organisa-
with charges of “defamation of the authorities      tion advocating hatred.”
and diffusing false news.” It would appear that     Although she was released since the indictment
these charges relate to a statement made by three   on 30 March 1998, she has not been allowed to
engineers on his team alleging that, during the     leave the greater Tunis area.
course of a work meeting, Mr Abderraouf             For the first time, the Observatory dispatched a
Chammari had criticised the entire family of the    legal defence mission represented by a very se-
head of state. Mr Chammari denied all these         nior French lawyer (le Bâtonnier de l’Ordre des
allegations and maintained this position when he    Avocats à la Cour d’appel de Paris). However, the
faced his accusers.                                 President of the Court refused to allow the lawyer
The representative of the Observatory, who was      to speak or to wear the official clothes.
observing the trial, noted that the session was     The mission was jointly mandated with other in-

                                                                                            Page 237

ternational human rights organisations (Human         At 10 o’ clock in the morning, the Prison Director
Rights Watch, the Lawyers Committee for Human         informed Mr Ksila that he was going to be
Rights, the Dutch Lawyer for Lawyer Foundation,       released. He was then driven home. No motive
and during the appeal hearing, Amnesty Inter-         was given for his release.
national) to monitor all stages of the trial of       Following his arrest on 29 September 1997,
Nasraoui. The observers of the trial confirmed        Khemais Ksila was condemned to a cumulative
that the only reason that Ms Nasraoui was             three year prison sentence on 11 February 1998
charged was because of her work as a defender         for “defamation of law and order and the
of human rights and her legal work to defend          authorities, distribution of false information
fundamental freedoms.                                 which would disrupt law and order and incite
The Observatory notes that Ms Nasraoui has            members of the public to break the law of the
been, for a very long time, a victim of harassment    land”[Free Translation](articles 42 to 51 of the
clearly directed by the authorities. Her office has   Penal Code). This judgement was confirmed by
been ransacked on three occasions in 1994,            a court of appeal on 25 of April 1998, even
1997 and February 1998. Her car was stolen in         though Khemais Ksila was not heard.
1994 and an attempt was made to burn down             The Observatory stated that it had serious grounds
her apartment in 1995. Moreover in June 1998,         for believing that all these acts, including his
an attempt was made to kidnap her daughter of         arbitrary arrest, were motivated by the work
nine when she was returning home. Finally, on         Khemais Ksila does to defend human rights in
the 24 May 1998, Ms Nasraoui avoided an               Tunisia. These actions, moreover, confirm the
attempted attack by a person on a motorbike .         existence of a systematic pattern of repression
Since her sentence, the intimidation has              directed at human rights defenders on the part
intensified: she is tailed on a daily basis and her   of the Tunisian Authorities.
co-workers questioned on their activities.            For a number of months prior to his arrest,
                                                      Khemais Ksila was subjected to different forms of

                                                      harassment and threats. He was sacked on 6
         Release of Khemais Ksila                     February 1996 from the national railways board,
                                                      his passport was confiscated on 18 August 1996,
The Observatory published news of the release,        and he was put under constant police sur-
on 22nd September 1999 of Mr Khemais Ksila,           veillance. During his incarceration, the
Vice President of the Tunisian Human Rights           harassment of his family, particularly his wife,
League, affiliated to FIDH and OMCT, after two        continued with the family being tailed. During one
years of intense international action. Khemais        encounter, his wife’s passport was stolen,
Ksila, is currently one of six candidates for the     presumably to stop her travelling overseas to
1999 Sakharov Human Rights Prize.                     plead her husbands case.
                                                      The Observatory underlines that despite this
                                                      release that, as a result of their work, a great many
18 See the Annual Report of the Observatory 1997-
                                                      human rights defenders remain the object of
1998                                                  grave violations in Tunisia. The release of Mr Ksila

Page 238
                                                     NORTH AFRICA and the MIDDLE EAST

indicates no change in direction for the
authorities, unless they can take the necessary
action to put an end to all forms of harassment of
those who struggle daily for respect for
fundamental freedoms and human rights in

                                                                             Page 239

Page 240

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