UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Wednesday spoke out [press release] against the assassination of Chokri Belaid, a political opposition leader in Tunsia. Belaid was killed by gunfire outside of his home on Wednesday morning. Pillay described Belaid as "a prominent defender of human rights and democratic values, and a firm opponent of political violence, which just yesterday he publicly condemned as 'a blow against the democratic process in the country.'" Pillay also called on the government to conduct a thorough investigation regarding the killing and called for additional protection to other political leaders who have received similar threats of violence. Protests have flared around Tunis, and President Moncef Marzouki [official website, in Arabic] has announced [BBC report] an intention to create a new non-partisan government in the wake of the assassination.
Tunisia has faced political turmoil since former president Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] left office amid nationwide protests in 2011, often referred to as part of the Arab Spring. In October Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called on Tunisian authorities [JURIST report] to investigate a series of attacks by religious extremists, and to bring those responsible to justice. In August the UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice [official website] urged the Tunisian government to ensure that women's rights are protected [JURIST report] in line with the nation's international human rights obligations. In October 2011 Pillay emphasized the importance of adherence to the rule of law [JURIST report] as the country moves forward.