Tunisia: The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture seized of the cases of Mr. Noureddine BHIRI and Mr. Fathi BELDI
On January 6, 2022, the Association of Victims of Torture in Tunisia (AVTT), Free Voice, AFD International and Alkarama submitted to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture the case of Mr. Noureddine BHIRI, a lawyer and former Minister of Justice and Mr. Fathi BELDI, a former adviser to the Ministry of the Interior. Both men and their families were subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment during their brutal arrest on December 31st, 2021 by members of the security services.
1. The facts
Mr. Noureddine BHIRI, hospitalized in emergency following his arrest
On 31 December 2021 at 08:15 am, Mr. Noureddine BHIRI, was with his wife, Ms. Saida AKREMI, lawyer at the bar of Tunis, in their car going to their workplace. While they were still near their home, three vehicles belonging to the security services blocked the road and several agents came out.
One of them headed to Ms. Akremi and violently hit her head against the steering wheel while the other four rushed to Mr. Bhiri to force him out of his vehicle. While they were being beaten, Mr. Bhiri was thrown to the sidewalk and was beaten again while on the ground. During this time, Ms. Akremi tried, in vain, to inquire about the reasons for this brutal arrest. An agent replied that they were "carrying out instructions" before snatching her phone and car keys. The members of the security services then returned to their vehicles and took the victim to an unknown destination.
On the same evening of December 31, the Ministry of the Interior simply announced on its website that "two people had been arrested and placed under house arrest" without giving names. This announcement implicitly referred to Mr. Bhiri, whose place of detention was kept secret until January 2, 2022, when his wife learned that he was hospitalized in the intensive care unit of the Bougatfa hospital in Bizerte (north, Tunisia).
Mr. Fathi BELDI, former adviser to the Minister of the Interior, victim of severe abuse during his arrest
On 31 December 2021, at 10:30 a.m., Mr. Fathi BELDI, was violently arrested by several members of the security services in civilian clothes, in front of his home, while he just got into his car and was about to leave for work.
Forced out of his vehicle, Mr. Beldi was violently beaten for several minutes by members of the security services in front of his elderly father, his wife, and his two children. He was taken to an unknown destination on an armored SUV which was accompanied by several other civilian vehicles.
The second house arrest announced by the Ministry of the Interior on the night of December 31 concerned Mr. Beldi. Although the Ministry of the Interior announced a house arrest measure, the location of Mr. Beldi's detention had not yet been disclosed yesterday. Since then, his family has been able to visit him at the Al Amri national guard center, in the region of Menouba. His family does not know, however, if he is still being held there or if he was taken there temporarily for the purpose of this visit.
2. The cases of Mr. Bhiri and Mr. Beldi before the Special Rapporteur on Torture
On 6 January 2022, the Association of Victims of Torture in Tunisia (AVTT), Free Voice, AFD International, and Alkarama submitted to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture the case of Mr. Noureddine BHIRI and Mr. Fathi BELDI. The attention of the Special Rapporteur was drawn to the circumstances of their arrest and the abuse and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment the victims were subjected to.
In their communication, the associations also expressed their concerns about the behavior of the state agents who deliberately used brutal and manifestly disproportionate force against the victims. It also highlighted that the agents stated that they were acting upon "instructions received", adding that it undoubtedly referred to the political authority that ordered the arrest - i.e. the Ministry of Interior.
The Association of Victims of Torture in Tunisia (AVTT), Free Voice, AFD International, and Alkarama have thus denounced the abuses suffered by the two men during and after their arrests. The fact that agents claimed they were acting upon orders of the highest executive authorities of the state constitute aggravating circumstances.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture was invited to intervene urgently with the Tunisian authorities to call on them to put an end to the ill-treatment suffered by Mr. Bhiri and Mr. Beldi, to place them under the protection of the law and to open, as soon as possible, an independent, diligent and impartial investigation into the serious violence they suffered during and after their respective arrests.