Human Rights Watch condemned Friday the excessive force used by the Tunisian police on protestors calling for social justice, which lead to the death of one person and injuries to several others. The protests erupted in response to a Facebook video that showed the police mishandling a shepherd. The Tunisian police have been accused of acting arbitrarily through the use of tear gas, even when the protests were entirely peaceful, arresting people for expressing their opinions on social media, and harassing journalists for covering the protests. The Human Rights Watch report further states:
The authorities should conduct an urgent and transparent investigation into the death of Haykel Rachdi, who died from a serious head injury following police intervention during a protest, on January 18, 2021, and investigate alleged beatings of protestors. They should also be sure only to use tear gas in a proportionate manner and to the extent necessary, and release those held solely for peaceful assembly or expression. The authorities should also ensure access to lawyers and humane detention conditions.
The report highlights that peaceful assembly is a constitutional right under Article 37 of the Tunisian Constitution. Moreover, Tunisia is a party to international treaties and other instruments like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which guarantee the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. The report also highlights that while limitations placed on these rights to maintain public health is justified due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, those restrictions must be proportionate and not arbitrary.