HRW calls for end to police violence in Tunisia protests

HRW calls for end to police violence in Tunisia protests

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[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] has called for an end to police attacks and an investigation into the deaths of protesters in Tunisia. The protest movement in Tunisia ousted former president Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali [BBC profile], sending him into exile, and the UN reported this week that at least 219 have died as a result of the protests, including 72 killed in prison riots. In two reports this week, HRW is calling on the transitional government to investigate incidents of police violence against protesters and end police brutality [HRW reports]. It claims that a vast majority of protester deaths are due to police gunfire on crowds. They are urging the government to punish police action that goes beyond what is necessary to perform their duty. Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director, issued a statement:

Things are moving fast in Tunisia, but finding out who opened fire on demonstrators and why can’t wait. The units and commanders responsible for these apparently unlawful killings should be identified and held accountable.

A unity government has taken control and the new Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi has promised that there will be elections within six months.

Last week, Tunisia’s Justice Minister Lazhar Karoui Chebbi announced that the country has issued an international arrest warrant [JURIST report] for ousted president Ben Ali. He, his wife and other family members face allegations that they illegally transferred money [AFP report] out of the country, possessed unlicensed weapons [CNN report] and incited armed violence. Earlier this month, UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] announced that UN experts would be sent to Tunisia [JURIST report] to assess the human rights situation and meet with the country’s interim leaders. Also, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official website] has urged government leaders in Tunisia to initiate dialogue between all sides in an attempt to restore the rule of law [JURIST report]. The Tunisia Constitutional Council officially announced earlier this month that Ben Ali had permanently left the office of the presidency after he declared a state of emergency [JURIST reports] and left the country.