Tunisia: The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture seized of the cases of Mr. Noureddine BHIRI and Mr. Fathi BELDI

Fathi BELDI Ancien conseiller du ministre de l’Intérieur

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, victims of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment during their arrest on December 31st, 2021 by members of the security services. 

1. The facts 
Mr. Noureddine BHIRI, hospitalized in emergency following his arrest 

On December 31, 2021 at 08:15 am, Mr. Noureddine BHIRI, was with his wife, Ms. Saida AKREMI, lawyer at the bar of Tunis, in their car to go to his workplace. While they were still near their home, three vehicles belonging to the security services have blocked the road and several people 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. After an outpouring of blows, 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 the attackers about the reasons for their actions. The latter replied that they were "carrying out instructions" and snatched 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, also victim of severe abuse during his arrest 

On December 31, 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. 

Forced out of his vehicle, Mr. Beldi was violently beaten by members of the security services under the gaze of his old father, his wife and his two children. After several minutes of fierceness, he was taken to an unknown destination aboard an armored car type 4x4 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 wilaya 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 Special Rapporteur on the cases of Mr. Bhiri and Mr. 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, victims of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment during their arrest on December 31st, 2021 by members of the security services. 
The attention of the Special Rapporteur was drawn to the circumstances of their arrest and the abuse and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment the victim’s suffered within the meaning of Article 1 of the Convention against Torture. 

In their collective communication, the associations also expressed their concerns about the behavior of the plainclothes agents who deliberately violated the victims and claimed their actions as "instructions received" undoubtedly referring to the political authority that ordered the arrest.  

The Association of Victims of Torture in Tunisia (AVTT), Free Voice, AFD International, and Alkarama have thus denounced the abuses suffered during the arrests of Tunisian political figures on the grounds that they were ordered by the highest authorities of the state and that the agents were "only carrying out instructions." 

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture was therefore 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.

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