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Tunisia must live up to promises to end impunity for security forces at UN Human Rights Council

The use of torture in custody and human rights violations committed in the name of security and counterterrorism will continue unabated unless Tunisia lives up to the commitments it has made today at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, said Amnesty International. During today s session, the outcome of the third Universal Period Review of Tunisia s human rights record was adopted . The Tunisian authorities accepted 189 recommendations on how to improve the country s human rights record, including pledging to boost accountability for abuses by security forces, eliminate torture and other ill-treatment and ensure that counterterrorism and national security measures do not jeopardize human rights.

The commitments made by Tunisia today are a step in the right direction . But the government must swiftly implement these reforms if its promises of human rights progress are to be realised, said Heba Morayef, North Africa Research Director at Amnesty International. The commitments made by Tunisia today are a step in the right direction .

But the government must swiftly implement these reforms if its promises of human rights progress are to be realised

Heba Morayef, North Africa research director at Amnesty International

Two recent proposed bills have called into question the government s commitment to accountability . Last week Tunisia s parliament approved a controversial bill granting amnesty to officials accused of corruption under former President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali s rule. Tunisia s pledges related to security sector reforms will be seriously undermined if the government goes ahead with a bill1, known as the Repression of attacks against armed forces bill , which would grant security forces immunity from prosecution for unnecessary use of lethal force and criminalize criticism of police conduct . The bill could be reintroduced in parliament as soon as next month.

Tunisia s promises to end impunity for the security forces will be meaningless if the authorities proceed with a bill that gives the security forces protection from prosecution for human rights violations . The authorities must demonstrate they are committed to keeping the promises they have made today by scrapping this bill immediately, said Heba Morayef.

Tunisia s promises to end impunity for the security forces will be meaningless if the authorities proceed with a bill that gives the security forces protection from prosecution for human rights violations

Heba Morayef, North Africa research director at Amnesty International

For years Amnesty International has called on the Tunisian authorities to step up their efforts to reform the security sector and to stamp out impunity . Yet since the 2011, the overwhelming majority of credible allegations of torture and other serious violations by security forces have not been independently and impartially investigated, and there have been only a handful of prosecutions. Out of 248 recommendations from more than 100 countries, Tunisia has adopted 189, acknowledged 55 and deferred 4 at its UN review session today. As part of their commitments, the Tunisian authorities have agreed to ensure all allegations of torture are impartially and effectively investigated.

In its February 2017 report Abuses under Tunisia s state of emergency Amnesty International highlighted how violations including torture, arbitrary arrest and restrictions on movement have been committed in the name of national security since the fall of President Ben Ali in 2011.

Tunisia must not squander this chance to adhere to its commitments under its own constitution and international human rights law by implementing the reforms it has pledged to uphold and delivering genuine human rights progress, said Heba Morayef. During a recent meeting with Amnesty International in Tunis, Tunisia s Minister of Relations with Constitutional Authorities, Civil Society and Human Rights, Mehdi Ben Gharbia, discussed the outcome of the UN human rights review . He emphasized that the government takes recommendations relating to physical integrity very seriously and that efforts to address torture are ongoing but that it is taking time to overcome the legacy of the Ben Ali era . He added that the authorities are also working hard to end forced anal examinations which are regularly carried out on men suspected of engaging in same-sex sexual relations . Amnesty International considers that these examinations amount to torture.

In this regard Amnesty International welcomed today Tunisia s acceptance of two recommendations to immediately cease the practice of forced anal examinations and ensure the protection of LGBTQI persons from all forms of stigmatization, discrimination and violence . However the organization deeply regrets Tunisia s rejection of 14 recommendations relating the decriminalization of same-sex relations by repealing article 230 of the Penal Code. During today s session Tunisia s authorities also committed to bringing national laws in line with the country s new constitution and international human rights standards . Amnesty International is now urging the authorities to expedite the long overdue process of establishing a constitutional court and to amend the country s penal code to ensure all articles relating to freedom of expression, association, torture and the death penalty are brought in line with international law.

Disappointingly, Tunisia rejected a recommendation to end military trials of civilians, in violation of international fair trial standards. This is the country s third Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council . Amnesty International delivered an oral statement at today s session, and ahead of it, submitted a report to the council highlighting the main human rights issues in the country as well as key recommendations.

References

  1. ^ bill (www.amnesty.org)

Evidence shows Palestinian security forces violently suppressed peaceful protest in Ramallah

Photographic evidence and witness testimony gathered by Amnesty International at the scene suggest that Palestinian security forces used excessive force to violently suppress a peaceful protest outside of the Ramallah District Court in the West Bank on 12 March 2017. Ten minutes after the protest against the prosecution of six Palestinian men, including slain activist Basil al-Araj, began outside the courthouse in al-Bireh area, Amnesty International researchers witnessed heavily armed security forces arriving, carrying batons and shields . They immediately began to charge towards the protesters, violently striking them with the wooden batons, using pepper spray and firing tear gas into the crowd . At least 21 people (13 men and eight women) were injured, including four journalists covering the event . Seventeen were hospitalized.

There can be no justification for violently storming a peaceful protest . Video evidence obtained by Amnesty International shows Palestinian security forces resorting to brutal and alarming means to crush the protest in flagrant violation of their obligations to uphold and protect the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

There can be no justification for violently storming a peaceful protest

Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In Ramallah Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In Ramallah Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In RamallahPalestinian security forces firing tear gas into the crowd to disperse the protesters outside courthouse in Ramallah Amnesty International

Following a public outcry, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah today announced the formation of a committee to investigate the actions of the police at the courthouse.

The Palestinian authorities must ensure that the investigation announced into this incident is independent, impartial and thorough and that all those found to be responsible are held accountable for their actions, said Magdalena Mughrabi. International human rights standards require that police and security forces avoid using force to disperse a peaceful assembly. Amnesty International staff present at the scene observed no violence from protesters prior to police attacking them with batons, tear gas and pepper spray . Those injured suffered bruises from heavy beatings with wooden batons or after being struck by tear gas canisters .

Four journalists from Wattan TV, Roya TV1, and Palestine Today were also beaten in what appeared to be a deliberate attempt to prevent them from covering the protest . No injuries were reported among members of the security forces. Khader Adnan, a protester who was hospitalized for his injuries, told Amnesty International: I was standing peacefully when tens of baton-wielding soldiers attacked me and beat me to the ground . Once I fell down one of them stepped on my head while others continued to beat me, ripping my clothes . I have injuries on my back, my shoulders, and my leg.

I was standing peacefully when tens of baton-wielding soldiers attacked me and beat me to the ground

Khader Adnan, Palestinian protester

He was taken to the Criminal Investigations Department with six others where he says he was verbally abused before five of them were released . The other two remained in detention. Farid al-Atrash, a lawyer, human rights defender and the head of the Bethlehem office of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, who was present at the protest said he was beaten to the ground with wooden batons . He told Amnesty International he also witnessed police officers beating the father of Basil Al Araj, a Palestinian man who was killed by Israeli soldiers last week . I tried to protect him when I was attacked by the officers; they hit me to the ground and beat me on my legs, he said.

Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In Ramallah Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In Ramallah Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In RamallahFather of Basil Al Araj, a Palestinian man who was killed by Israeli soldiers last week, was among those beaten by Palestinian security forces during the protest Amnesty International

Bassem Tamimi, a well-known Palestinian activist from Nabi Saleh and former prisoner of conscience was also injured in the demonstration . I can t believe they did this to us . I was speaking to the head of the police unit there telling him we will disperse in 15 minutes . We were almost done when I saw a large crowd of police begin to swarm us and attack in a vicious manner . They used wooden clubs and started to hit people left and right, I walked back when they shot a tear-gas canister directly into my lower back, hitting my tailbone . I didn t expect them to behave like this. Bassem Tamimi s wife, Nariman, also an activist from Nabi Saleh, was beaten after she intervened to tell security forces to stop beating and dragging a young man .

What did we do ? We did nothing wrong ! My shoulder and arm are now injured . I didn t believe they would do something like this, she said. One eyewitness, Hafez Omar, said the protesters were standing peacefully when the police told them to leave the area . When they refused, the police started pushing them and beating them with batons . He witnessed two other men being beaten before the police dragged him and beat him with batons on his arms, back and legs.

Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In Ramallah Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In Ramallah Evidence Shows Palestinian Security Forces Violently Suppressed Peaceful Protest In RamallahOne of the protesters who was beaten with a baton on his shoulder and back waits at Ramallah public hospital for treatment Amnesty International

Between 100 and 150 people had gathered outside the courthouse in al-Bireh to protest against the prosecution of six Palestinian men accused of possessing firearms . Four of the men Haitham Siyaj, Muhammad Harb, Muhammad al-Salameen and Saif Idrisi are currently held without charge or trial in administrative detention by Israeli authorities . The fifth man, Basil al-Araj, was killed by the Israeli military last week . The sixth man, Ali Dar al-Shaikh was not arrested by Israel and was present at the court yesterday. In a media interview on Monday, a spokesperson for the Palestinian authorities security forces, Adnan al-Dmeir, accused the protesters of being mercenaries and foreign agents who he said were seeking to spread chaos .

In the rare cases where Palestinian authorities have taken steps to ensure accountability in the past, they have resorted to disciplinary measures2 rather than criminal prosecutions to hold police or security forces to account even in cases where the use of force was abusive or arbitrary.

The Palestinian authorities must ensure that the security forces use of force is not excessive, abusive, arbitrary or otherwise unlawful . Anyone suspected of responsibility for arbitrary or abusive use of force must be prosecuted in a fair trial, said Magdalena Mughrabi. Anyone suspected of responsibility for arbitrary or abusive use of force must be prosecuted in a fair trial

Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International

Given the Palestinian authorities poor record of bringing security forces to justice after violent crackdowns on protests, it is even more crucial for the authorities to send a clear message that use of excessive force will not be tolerated and that violations will not go unpunished.

Background

Palestinian security forces police have used unnecessary or excessive force against peaceful demonstrators, including men and women, repeatedly in recent years. In a recent incident documented by Amnesty International, human rights lawyer, Mohannad Karajah, described how 10 members of the Palestinian security forces in plainclothes punched and kicked him and beat him all over his body with sticks at a demonstration on 4 October 2016 . At least five others were also assaulted .

No one has been prosecuted over the incident. In February 2016, mass strikes and protests over low wages for teachers were met with a heavy-handed response from Palestinian security forces who arrested 22 teachers and set up roadblocks around Ramallah to prevent teachers joining demonstrations. Palestinian security forces also used excessive force to disperse protests in previous years3.

References

  1. ^ Roya TV (www.youtube.com)
  2. ^ disciplinary measures (www.amnesty.org)
  3. ^ previous years (www.amnesty.org)

Merseyside Police to investigate racial abuse of Mario Balotelli …

The Italy international expressed his thoughts on Manchester United’s 5-3 loss to Leicester City online and was allegedly subjected to racial slurs

Merseyside Police are set to investigate after Liverpool1 striker Mario Balotelli2 was subjected to apparent racial abuse on Twitter.

The Italian forward took to the social media website on Sunday to tweet his thoughts on rivals Manchester United’s shock 5-3 defeat to Leicester City at the King Power Stadium. “Man Utd LOL laugh out loud,” the 24-year-old wrote. The post attracted a number of abusive replies, many of which were then deleted – though a number were copied and shared by eagle-eyed users.

And Merseyside Police have revealed through their own official Twitter account that they will launch a probe into the abuse. They wrote: “We can confirm officers are looking into offensive comments made on Twitter about Mario Balotelli earlier today.” Balotelli has been the victim of abuse on a number of occasions throughout his career.

The Italy international faced offensive chants during Milan’s clash with Roma in May 2013, and was forced to hit back at one fan for describing him as “not Italian” following his country’s 2014 World Cup exit.

References

  1. ^ Liverpool (www.goal.com)
  2. ^ Mario Balotelli (www.goal.com)