Tunisian security leaders removed.. UN calls on authorities to release Buhairi and Baladi and warns of human rights deterioration

The United Nations called on the Tunisian authorities to release the former minister and leader of the Ennahda movement, Noureddine Al-Behairi, and the former employee of the Ministry of Interior, Fathi Al-Baladi, or to charge them according to legal procedures. Meanwhile, security leaders were referred to retirement, in continuation of a series of exemptions and dismissals from high positions.

“The events in Tunisia over the past month have deepened our already grave concern about the deteriorating human rights situation in this country,” Liz Throssell, spokeswoman for the Geneva-based United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters on Tuesday.

“The authorities have indicated that he (Al-Buhairi) is accused of terrorism-related offenses. However, we know that his lawyer has not yet been formally informed of the charges against him,” Throssell added.

And she confirmed that “another man was arrested on the same day and in similar circumstances, without knowing his whereabouts until the fourth of January,” in reference to Fathi Al-Baladi, who worked as an advisor to a former interior minister who belongs to the Ennahda movement.

From the era of Ben Ali

The Commission considered that these two incidents “reflect unprecedented practices since the era of (Zine El Abidine) Ben Ali, and raise serious questions about kidnappings, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests,” according to Throssell.

“We urge the authorities to expedite the release of the two men or to charge them in accordance with the standards of criminal procedures,” the spokeswoman added.

On December 31, security forces in civilian clothes arrested the Vice-President of the Ennahda Movement and took him to a place she did not disclose, which was denounced by the Ennahda movement and described it as a kidnapping.

Al-Buhairi was transferred two days later to the intensive care unit in a hospital in Bizerte, as he suffers from blood pressure, diabetes and heart diseases, and he has been on hunger strike since his arrest.

Interior Minister Tawfiq Sharaf El-Din announced that Al-Buhairi and former Interior Ministry official Fathi Al-Baladi were placed under house arrest on charges of “terrorism” related to the “illegal way” extracting Tunisian travel and citizenship documents for a Syrian and his wife.

The validity of this accusation was rejected by the Ennahda movement (which has the largest parliamentary bloc with 53 deputies out of 217), the Al-Buhairi family and his defense staff, describing him as “politicised”, calling for his immediate release, and blaming Tunisian President Kais Saied and his interior minister responsible for Al-Buhairi’s life.

“In addition to the actions of the Internal Security Forces, we are concerned about the clampdown on dissent in Tunisia, in particular the dishonest use of counter-terrorism laws, and the increasing use of military courts to try civilians,” the spokeswoman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said.

mandatory retirement

Meanwhile, well-informed security sources told Al Jazeera that Tunisian Interior Minister Tawfiq Sharaf El-Din had referred to the obligatory retirement of a number of security leaders, led by Kamal Al-Qizani, who held the position of Tunisia’s ambassador to Bahrain.

The same sources confirmed that Al-Qizani was arrested pending investigations into issues related to national security.

Yesterday, Tuesday, the Ministry of the Interior announced in a statement that Minister Tawfiq Sharaf El-Din supervised the work of the Supreme Council of the Internal Security Forces, which was held on Monday, January 10, and said that the council discussed several files, including the general security situation in the country and the strengthening of coordination from order to confront terrorism and to decide on 6 files referring to mandatory retirement, without mentioning the names of those concerned.

For its part, Tunisian media said that among those referred to obligatory retirement were figures who worked in the border and foreigners department, security supervisors at Tunisian embassies abroad, and a former director general of the Ministry of Interior.

This referral comes within a series of dismissals and exemptions for a number of officials and leaders in high positions in the Tunisian state since last July 25, when President Kais Saied imposed exceptional measures, including freezing the work of Parliament, issuing legislation with presidential decrees, dismissing the prime minister and appointing a new government.

The majority of political and civil forces in Tunisia – including the Ennahda Movement – reject these measures and describe them as a coup against the constitution, while other forces support them and see them as a correction to the course of the 2011 revolution that ended the rule of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.


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