More than 1500 individuals—including 500 minors—were arrested since January 2021 during protest movements against the current political and economic system. Besides arbitrary arrests, police also confiscated protestors’ telephones and breached their personal data.
“There is no government, there is no state, we are the state”. These chilling words by a police officer, during a sit-in in the city of Sfax on 2 February, speak volumes about the dangerous turn of events in Tunisia in recent weeks. The latest unrest heightens risks of a return to a police state following years of shaky democratic transition which has failed to end abuses by security services and their rampant impunity for human rights violations.
After more than a week of protests across the nation following a sudden, government-imposed lockdown on the 10th anniversary of the January 14, 2011 revolution, security forces have arrested over 1600 people, 600 of them children, according to Yassine Azaza, a human rights activist and volunteer lawyer on behalf of the Tunisian League of Human Rights (LTDH by its French acronym). Those numbers were given to Nawaat/Meshkal on January 20, 2021, but since then the numbers have increased and human rights activists and organizations said they are struggling to keep track.
Abdelmajid Jdey was being held in preventative detention Sidi Bouzid when, on 13 May, the Ministry of the Interior announced his death; according to the statement, Jdey hung himself in his cell. In the weeks that have followed, civil society activists and organizations including Human Rights Watch and the Tunisian Organization Against Torture (OCTT) have contested the Ministry’s announcement. Notably, the victim had filed a complaint of torture to OCTT several days prior to his death.