Tunisia: The government must hold accountable those responsible for increasing political violence

6 Feb, 2013 | Press Releases

Tunis – Brussels, 6 February 2013

Mr Chokri Belaid, one of the highest profile opposition Tunisian politicians and of the leaders of the Popular Front Coalition, was shot and killed this morning in front of his house in Tunis. The news of the killing sparked outrage, with thousands of people gathering to protest in various parts of the capital, including in front of the Interior Ministry in avenue Bourghiba, and in all other cities of the country. Mr Belaid’s death comes at a time when Tunisia is witnessing a rise in political violence and a climate of intimidation against opposition and human rights advocates, two years after the mass uprising that toppled former President Ben Ali.

Statement by Alison Smith, Legal Counsel of No Peace Without Justice:

“No Peace Without Justice and the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty strongly condemn the killing of Mr Chokri Belaid, one of the most outspoken and important opposition political figures in Tunisia. While the perpetrators and their motives are still unknown, this tragic episode is only the tip of the iceberg of a worsening political situation.

“Just yesterday, Mr Belaid gave a press conference where he called again on all political parties to unite in a national dialogue to send a strong message against violence. In the last months, the political scene in Tunisia has been dominated by increasing violence and intimidation against political opposition and human rights defenders, and the Government has not always been clear on the need to ensure accountability against alleged perpetrators. These mixed messages have only exacerbated the overall climate, rendering violent individuals more aggressive because they feel shielded by a culture of impunity.

“Immediately after ousting former President Ben Ali, Tunisia committed to human rights signing international treaties, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Subsequently, it embarked in a positive consultative process with the population that brought to the drafting of the Transitional Justice Law, which is now being discussed by the National Constituent Assembly. Today the promise made by the new Tunisia to respect the rule of law is being challenged: it must stand against impunity and violence to safeguard its future and to give life to the principles underpinning the revolution.

“We urge the Government to hold accountable those responsible for any criminal act that has been committed in Tunisia and to ensure a full and impartial investigation of the killing of Mr Chokri Belaid. Only justice and respect for the rule of law can stop the current spiral of violence that is increasing throughout the country. On the contrary, impunity and reward for violations can only add new fuel to an explosive situation.

“Since this morning, Tunisians in all cities have started assembling spontaneously in the streets to demonstrate against this horrible act that is far from the peaceful culture of the vast majority of the population. We stand side-by-side with those nonviolent activists committed to a peaceful, democratic and free society where human rights are guaranteed. All actors, particularly these responsible for the institutions of Government, must take responsibility to implement all necessary measures to deter, prevent political violence from spreading.”

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.

For more information about NPWJ and KADEM’s work on transitional justice in Tunisia, please click here