Call to probe Tu­nisia deaths

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

TU­NIS — Hu­man Rights Watch (HRW) on Sun­day called for a thor­ough and im­par­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the death of two Tu­nisian de­tainees in sus­pi­cious cir­cum­stances in sep­a­rate cases.

“Rel­a­tives of both men pro­vided pho­to­graphs show­ing marks and bruises on their faces and bod­ies, and said that author­i­ties had failed to in­form them promptly about the deaths,” the New York-based rights watch­dog said.

A Tu­nis court had launched pre­lim­i­nary in­quiries into the deaths of Sofien Dridi and Qais Ber­rhouma HRW cited their fam­i­lies’ lawyers as say­ing.

Dridi’s fam­ily found him dead in a Tu­nis hospi­tal morgue on 18 Septem­ber, seven days af­ter po­lice ar­rested him at the air­port fol­low­ing his de­por­ta­tion from Switzer­land, HRW said.

A spokesper­son for the pri­son to which Dridi was trans­ferred four days af­ter his ar­rest said in a tele­vised in­ter­view that he suf­fered from di­a­betes, which caused a fa­tal heart at­tack, it said.

The Na­tional Guard anti-drug brigade ar­rested the sec­ond man, Ber­rhouma, on 5 Oc­to­ber when wit­nesses saw plain-clothes men vi­o­lently beat him in the street.

The next day, his fam­ily learned through a rel­a­tive that his body was at the same hospi­tal.

“The Tu­nisian author­i­ties should carry out a thor­ough and im­par­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion of th­ese deaths,” HRW said in a state­ment.

HRW re­searcher Amna Guel­lali (pic­tured) said: “The cred­i­bil­ity of Tu­nisia’s ju­di­cial sys­tem will take a big hit if it can’t ex­plain how and why th­ese two de­tainees died.”

The watch­dog has doc­u­mented three other cases of sus­pi­cious deaths in cus­tody: Ab­del­ma­jid Ej­day in May; Mo­hamed Ali Snoussi last year; and Walid Den­guir in 2013.

The UN spe­cial rap­por­teur on tor­ture, Juan Men­dez, last year la­belled Tu­nisia’s ef­forts to erad­i­cate the prac­tice “dis­ap­point­ing” in spite of “very en­cour­ag­ing de­vel­op­ments” in other ar­eas of hu­man rights re­form.

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