The International Secretariat of OMCT has received new information on
the following situation in Tunisia.
Brief reminder of the situation :
The International Secretariat was informed, by reliable sources, of
the alleged detention of Ms Rachida Ben Salem at the Ministry of
Interior, in the Centre of Tunis. Ms Rachida Ben Salem, wife of
M'barek Sghair M'Barek, is from El-Hamma (Gabes) in the South of
Tunisia and had been missing since 18 May 1997.
Ms Rachida Ben Salem, whose husband is a political refugee in the
Netherlands, has been a victim of constant harassment, since her
husband left the country in 1992. It was believed that she tried to
escape Tunisia in a bid to put an end to her harassment. Members of
the police force apparently visited her every evening to ensure that
she remained in the country and during the day, she was summoned to
the police station where it is alleged that she was treated to further
humiliation. It was alleged that Ms Rachida Ben Salem and her two
children Hager (7) and Esma (5) were caught by frontier guards while
trying to reach Libya by going through the desert. The Tunisian
authorities returned the two children to the father of M'barek Sghair
It was alleged that the place where Ms Rachida Ben Salem was detained,
is known as a centre where detainees are tortured. Given this fact and
moreover the fact that members of the family of both Ms Rachida Ben
Salem and M'barek Sghair M'Barek were alleged to have been subjected
to torture and ill treatment in the past, the International
Secretariat expressed their grave concern for the physical and
psychological integrity of Ms Rachida Ben Salem.
New information :
According to new information received, on 9 September 1997, Ms Rachida
Ben Salem was sentenced to 2 years and three months imprisonment, two
years for belonging to an unauthorised association: the Islamist group
Al Nahda, and three months relating to an infringement of a law on
border crossing. The first hearing in the trial was held on 28 August.
Her lawyers are now going to lodge an appeal.
Ms Rachida Ben Salem denies membership of the Islamist group Al Nahda.
The information suggests that she did not have links with the Islamist
group Al Nahda, nor was the prosecution able to produce any convincing
evidence to support this charge.
Regarding the second charge, Ms Rachida Ben Salem was convicted on the
basis of her intention to leave Tunisia, given the fact that at the
time of her arrest she was still in Tunisia, quite some distance from
the Libyan border. Ms Rachida Ben Salem, intending to join her husband
in Holland who she and her children have not seen for several years,
has no passport and she has not been able to leave the country.
On 31 May, after being held at the Ministry of Interior, Ms Rachida
Ben Salem was transferred to the women's prison of Mannouba.
OMCT remains gravely concerned for the physical and psychological
integrity of Ms Rachida Ben Salem. In Tunisia, the practice of arrest,
detention, torture or ill-treatment and systematic harassment of
relatives, especially wives, of imprisoned and exiled opponents of the
government, in particular presumed Islamist opponents is widespread.
These women are prevented from working, from moving within the
country, or from leaving the country.
OMCT notes that Tunisia is party to the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights. Article 12 section 2 provides that
"Everyone shall be free to leave the country, including his own."
Action requested :
Please write to the Tunisian authorities urging them to :
i. guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Ms Rachida
Ben Salem and members of her family;
ii. guarantee her procedural rights during the appeal; and order her
immediate release if she is convicted without valid charges;
iii carry out an exhaustive and impartial enquiry into the facts, in
particular into the presumed harassment and ill-treatment, identify
those responsible, bring them to justice and apply the penal, civil
and/or administrative sanctions provided by law;
iv ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and
fundamental freedoms in accordance with national laws and
M. Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Chef de l'Etat, Palais présidentiel de
Carthage, Tunis, Tunisie. Fax : + 216 1 744 721
M. Mohamed Ben Rejeb, Ministre de l'Intérieur, Ministère de
l'Intérieur, Avenue Habib Bourguiba, Tunis, Tunisie. Fax : + 216 1 340
M. Abdallah Kallel, Ministre de la Justice, Ministère de la Justice,
Boulevard Bab Benet, Tunis, Tunisie. Fax : + 216 1 568 106/567 070
M. Abderrahim Zouari, Ministre des Affaires Etrangères, Place du
Gouvernement, La Kasba, Tunis, Tunisie. Fax : + 216 1 567 050
Geneva, 15 September 1997
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this
appeal in your reply.
Fax 4122 733 1051
Ph 4122 733 3140
OMCT is: l'Organisation Mondiale contre la Torture
The World Organisation Against Torture
OMCT - The World Organisation Against Torture is the Worlds largest
network of human rights organisations fighting against all forms of
torture, cruel inhuman or degrading treatment, forced disappearances
summary execution or other more subtle forms of violent repression.
OMCT has consultative status with the UN, The ILO and the
African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.