Security forces must respect rights of protesters amid planned acceleration of anti-austerity rallies (Amnesty international)
12/01/2018 14:28, TUNIS/Tunisia

(TAP) – Tunisian security forces must refrain from using excessive force and end their use of intimidation tactics against peaceful demonstrators, Amnesty International said on Friday.

During the past four days of anti-government demonstrations, security forces have used increasingly heavy-handed methods to disperse rallies and subsequently arrest protesters. One protester has died during the unrest, according to an organisation press release.

“The Tunisian authorities must prioritise the safety of peaceful protesters and ensure that security forces only use force where absolutely necessary and proportionate, and to protect the rights of others,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, adding that “these protests are happening in response to genuine economic hardship, and the role of the police should be to calm this tense situation, rather than to inflame it.”

“Police have arrested at least 15 members of the youth-led activist group “Fesh Nestannew?” (What are we waiting for?) and co-ordinators for offences such as writing slogans on walls and distributing pamphlets calling for demonstrations. Many have subsequently been released after prolonged questioning. One of those who remains detained is activist and philosophy professor Ahmed Sassi, who was arbitrarily arrested from his home in Tunis on Wednesday and will appear before a prosecutor on Friday, the same source added.

“The Tunisian authorities must immediately launch a thorough and impartial investigation into the death of Khomsi el-Yerfeni, including publishing the results of his autopsy in full transparency,” said Heba Morayef.

“If any law enforcement officers are found to be criminally responsible for his death, they must be brought to justice.”

Eyewitnesses told Amnesty International he died after a police car ran him over twice. However, Tunisia’s Ministry of Interior said in a statement that he had suffocated to death from tear gas because he had a chronic respiratory condition.

Khomsi el-Yerfeni’s family has denied that he had any such chronic condition and told Amnesty International he never had any medical records in the hospital as claimed by the Ministry of the Interior.

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