Behind a Death, a System in Need of Reform

image of Walid Denguir from his Facebook page, November 2013. Image credit: Tunisia Live

image of Walid Denguir from his Facebook page, November 2013. Image credit: Tunisia Live

The November 1 death of 32-year old Walid Denguir, allegedly at the hands of police, sheds light on a security apparatus and justice system still in need of reform almost three years since Tunisia’s revolution.

Last Friday afternoon, Denguir left his family’s home in the Bab Jdid neighborhood of Tunis. While details are still emerging, he was quickly arrested by police forces. Less than two hours later, his mother was called and told her son was dead.

At the hospital, Denguir’s mother and the family’s lawyer, prominent human rights advocate Radhia Nasraoui, saw what they called signs of torture on the body. Denguir’s skull reportedly appeared to be cracked and he was covered in bruises.

Lotfi Azzouz, director of the Amnesty International Tunisia office, connected Denguir’s case to pre-revolutionary abuses and said that the death highlighted the need to reform the Tunisian security and justice sectors.

“These cases continue to occur because there is no accountability and punishment is internal,” Azzouz said. Offenses by security officials within the Ministry of Interior, he added, usually are not dealt with by Tunisia’s criminal system, but rather are handled as internal administrative problems within the ministry.

On November 3, in a statement made through state news agency TAP but since taken down, the Ministry of Interior acknowledged that excessive force was used during Denguir’s interrogation and announced that an investigation would be made into his death.

When reached by phone, ministry spokesperson Mohamed Ali Aroui said that they were still waiting for the results of the investigation.

The Sidi el-Bechir police station denied knowing anything about Denguir and refused to answer any questions when called by Tunisia Live.

Azzouz said Denguir’s case was similar to that of Faycel Baraket, a 25-year-old Islamist activist killed while in police custody in 1991 under the rule of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. In that case, medical reports were censored and foreign experts were brought in to examine the body. After 22 years, Baraket’s family is still seeking justice.

The autopsy system in Tunisia needs to be reformed, Azzouz said, for the truth to surface in these cases. Yesterday, Tunisian newspaper Al-Chourouk reported that a medical report determined Denguir’s death to be drug-related, and not a result of police abuse. The report could not be verified, and members of Denguir’s family dismissed it as a rumor.

A new law passed last month creating a commission to prevent torture will deter more cases like Denguir’s, Azzouz said, but more still needs to be done.

Some security laws in Tunisia date back to the era of the Beys, Azzouz said, referring to Tunisia’s pre-independence monarchs. The internal structure of the Ministry of Interior is still unclear, he added. If it is unclear who is in charge to an outsider, accountability is difficult.

Security officers think of their job as semi-military, Azzouz said, adding that they need to think of their work as protecting, not attacking, people.

Asma Smadhi contributed reporting.

Tunisia Live http://www.tunisia-live.net/2013/11/06/behind-a-death-a-system-in-need-of-reform/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=behind-a-death-a-system-in-need-of-reform#sthash.GrnAhMD3.dpuf

Libyans freed in Tunisia for Eid

Tunis, 8 August 2013:

Tunisia has released 21 convicted Libyan prisoners. They were among 343 prisoners pardoned by Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki to mark Eid Al-Fitr, two-thirds of whom had less than three months of their sentebnces left to serve. A further 981 prisoners are reported by the Tunisian news agency TAP to had their sentences reduced by Marzouki, but it is now known if there are any Libyans among them.

The Libyan Consul-General in Tunis, Mohammed Ferjani, was quoted by the Libyan new agency LANA as saying that the 23 were released as a result of the efforts of the Libyan diplomats in Tunisia.

The freed Libyans have not been named nor their crimes announced. However, most, if not all, are thought to have been serving time for drugs offences. Most Libyans in jail in Tunisia are said to have been drugs dealers.

According to the Tunisian Minister of Justice, Nadhir Ben Ammou, none of those released – Libyans or Tunisians – were convicted terrorists.

This is the sixth time that Libyans have been included in a Tunisian presidential general amnesty.  In March 23 Libyans were freed on the occasion of Tunisian Independence Day.

Libya Herald http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/08/08/libyans-freed-in-tunisia-for-eid/

Tunisian Soldiers Injured in Land mine blast

Landmine blast wounds 3 Tunisian soldiers near Algerian border

(Reuters) – Three Tunisian soldiers have been wounded in a landmine explosion near the Algerian border where security forces are pursuing Islamist insurgents, the defense ministry said.

The incident, which happened on Saturday, was the latest of several mine blasts in the remote area of Mount Chaambi, the focus of a hunt for Islamist militants since December.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/02/us-tunisia-mine-idUSBRE95106220130602?feedType=RSS&feedName=worldNews