Tunisia: NPWJ and NRPTT condemn reported harassment of human rights defender Hela Boujneh

Brussels – Rome – New York, 1 September 2014

On the evening of 24 August 2014, the young Tunisian human rights activist and legal expert Ms Héla Boujneh went to the police station of Sousse to help her brother - held in custody for driving a motorbike without documents – and was subsequently arrested. During the arrest and overnight detention, Ms Boujneh reported to have been physically and verbally assaulted by police officers and denied access to her lawyer. Upon her release, she was sent to the General Prosecutor of Sousse who notified her that she was charged of “assault and aggression against state officers”. Her first appearance in court is scheduled on 2 September 2014. If the charges are confirmed, Ms Boujneh risks being sentenced to up to two years of imprisonment.
Héla Boujneh, nominated in 2013 as “personality of the year “for Tunisia by the French Institute and the French Embassy, is the regional Coordinator of the Association for the  Defense of Human Rights. She holds a doctorate in law, is a member of the association of Tunisian Youth and an administrator and representative of the network Active Generation.
Statement by Niccolò Figà-Talamanca, Secretary-General of No Peace Without Justice:
“No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) and the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty (NRPTT) strongly condemn the increasing number of incidents of abuse of power by the police in Tunisia, particularly against human rights defenders and young people. The latest reported facts around the arrest of Ms Boujneh, and the subsequent intimidation and abuse to which she reported to have been subjected, is an outrageous example of this increasingly widespread policy.
“These incidents awake dark memories from the regime of former President Ben Ali and are a blatant rejection of the ideals and principles on which the new Tunisia was founded. Ms Boujneh is a talented and inspiring young woman who fights to anchor her country’s future on democratic values, the rule of law and respect for human rights and she should be commended for her dedication and acts.
“We call on Tunisian authorities to ensure that Ms Boujneh is guaranteed a fair trial and we look forward to all charges against her being dropped. Tunisian authorities should also ensure that allegations of any form of mistreatment or abuse by Tunisian police either in prison or outside are duly and independently investigated so that those guilty can be held accountable”. 

For further information, please contact Greta Barbone on gbarbone@npwj.org and +216 28385079 or Nicola Giovannini on ngiovannini@npwj.org or +32 2 548-39 15.