Tunisia: Health Care Refused by Prison Administration

On 19 December 19 2014, Alkarama sent a communication to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health on the case of Mohammed Al Ferchichi, a 36-year-old worker, arrested and tortured by the Tunisian authorities.

On October 28, Al Ferchichi received a phone call from his sister telling him that one of their brothers had been arrested and pointing out that the security services were willing to release him if Al Ferchichi was going in person. When Al Ferchichi went to the local police two days later, he was immediately arrested by officers from the antiterrorist squad without any warrant.

Accused of belonging to an organisation inciting to terrorism and of possessing firearms – charges solely based on the statement of another accused whose testimony was later retracted in court when he reported having been forced to sign it under torture – Al Ferchichi was taken to El Gorjani's National Unit for the Investigation of Terrorist Crimes' headquarters in Tunis.

Al Ferchichi testified that he was beaten and kicked on different parts of his body, electrocuted, burnt and whipped, and also suffered sexual abuses, all in order to extract a confession from him.

On 3 November, during his custody and due to the seriousness of his condition, Al Ferchichi was urgently transferred to the Habib Thameur hospital. There, the doctor wrote down in his report traces of violence and trauma on his body. Despite this alarming situation, the victim was deprived of care and forced to return to the security centre's premises where, once again, he was subjected to torture.

After six days of incommunicado detention in the security centre, Al Ferchichi, exhausted with torture, was finally forced to sign a statement, without being allowed to read it. He was then brought – in the absence of his lawyer – before the Tunis judge, who did not fail to note his deplorable state of health but still refused to consider the claims regarding the torture he had suffered, ordering his imprisonment in the Mornaguia prison.

Notified by his family, who had noted the seriousness of his state of health during their visit to the prison, his lawyer urgently requested that he benefits from urgent treatment. On 11 November 2014, Al Ferchichi was presented to the prison doctor who made the same observation as that of his colleague from the Habib Thameur hospital. However, Al Ferchichi was only able to receive treatment after the intervention of the International Red Cross.

To his family, the qualityof his care remains inadequate and even more worrying since the prison administration refused to transfer him to hospital for an emergency surgery prescribed by the detention centre's doctor. Al Ferchichi's family fears that he suffers irreversible health damage if he is not allowed urgent medical care.

Concerned about his situation, Alkarama sent a communication to the UN Special Procedures to intervene urgently within the Tunisian authorities to ensure Al Ferchichi's access to care. This case falls within the framework of the fight against terrorism led by the Tunisian state, as a pretext to justify its grave human rights violations. This is the reason why Alkarama recently called the experts of the Subcommittee for the prevention of Torture to visit the country.

The case of Al Ferchichi is one of the rare cases where a lawyer was able to obtain medical reports for a client who suffered torture. It is now obvious, however, that despite obtaining such certificates, the authorities do not take them into account, refusing to provide adequate care and refraining from opening a investigations in order to punish the perpetrators of these acts of torture.

For more information or an interview, please contact the media team at media@alkarama.org (Dir: +41 22 734 1007 Ext: 810)

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