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UN rights expert: 300 died during Tunisia uprising

As many as 300 people died and 700 were injured during the month-long uprising in Tunisia earlier this year, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez said Saturday. The death toll is much higher than originally thought. Mendez is in Tunisia to assess the transition [LAT report] of the interim government and investigate the acts of violence. Some Tunisian human rights groups claim that there were continued acts [AFP report] of rape and torture even after the fall of former president Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Mendez has called for a full investigation of all claims of rape and torture by security forces. Ben Ali left the presidency and fled the country in January after he declared a state of emergency [JURIST report] amid nationwide protests, banning public gatherings and allowing police to fire on anyone refusing to obey orders. The current interim government is led by the former leader of the lower house of parliament, Foued Mebezza, who assumed power as interim president [JURIST report] and will remain in power until elections are held.

There have been numerous reports of violence and torture against protesters by security forces during and after the revolution. In April, the government charged [JURIST report] former president Ben Ali with 18 offenses ranging from murder and conspiracy to trafficking and drug use. The charges stem mostly from allegations that Ben Ali authorized the use of force against protesters during the Tunisian revolution, resulting in the deaths of more than 200 protesters. The charges come after advocacy groups Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy websites] called for the Tunisian transitional government to investigate incidents of police violence against protesters and end police brutality [JURIST reports].

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