Arrests in Tunisia

By Navid Amarlou
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Recent protests in Tunisia, resulting from tax increases and other government policies, have led to a clash between protesters and police. Mass arrests have alarmed observers, as Tunisia is the only nation to have emerged from the turmoil of the Arab Spring with a stable democracy. The Arab Spring being the repression of Arabs’ free speech, recent human rights abuses, constant economic mismanagement, corruption and stifling of political dissent.

Tunisia faces similar issues to those the course of the Arab Spring. The high quantity of arrests has caused worries amongst human rights groups.

“We’re concerned about the high number of arrests,” said spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville. “Some 778 people we understand have now been arrested since Monday, and around a third of those arrested were between the ages of 15 and 20.”

Colville went on to address the concern that these people may have been arrested in an arbitrary manner, and requests that authorities get involved to ensure the arrested are treated with full respect. He requests this according to their due process rights, following that they should either be charged or promptly released. This political instability has caused great concern amongst the global community, as the amount of police force compared to that of protestors is quite large, resulting in heightened concern.

Three local leaders of the main opposing parties have recently been detained in the town of Gafsa, for reportedly vandalizing property. The party members stated that it was due to their being targeted by a political campaign, reproducing the methods of the Ben Ali regime. This is in reference to Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, a dictator who was toppled in 2011.  He was charged with money laundering and drug trafficking. Later, a Tunisian court sentenced him and his wife to 35 years in prison on charges of theft and unlawful possession of cash and jewelry.

In June 2012, a Tunisian court sentenced him in absentia to life imprisonment for inciting violence and murder. Following another life sentence by a military court in April 2013, for violent repression of protests in Sfax. In Tunisia, criticism has been raised around the police and their militaristic approach with dealing with civilians. Through a means of repeated intimidation, they have tried to suppress public opinion, an action that is too familiar to the people of Tunisia in their suffering through the previous regime.

A young woman had reported that in a scuffle, she had pushed a police officer who reportedly stated “We know you from before- be careful.” This form of intimidation some have stated that the officers also watch civilians in cafes, civil protest, and in soccer games.

There has been a gap that has been formed between the youth and police, which does not bode well for civil discourse. The youth have faced great difficulty with hyperinflation and finding jobs, as a result of the unstable economy. We can only hope that with proper intervention, through global governance and with the long overdue election that civil discourse will return to Tunisia.

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