The ICJ’s Center for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers today expressed its deep dismay at the violent attacks against former Tunisian judge Mokhtar Yahyaoui (photo) which occurred yesterday afternoon.
Mr Yahyaoui, who is a founding member and President of the Tunisian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary, suffered blows to his head, nose and mouth which left him bleeding.
“It is outrageous that in a country such as Tunisia, a former judge can be viciously attacked and left bleeding on the street”, said Louise Doswald-Beck, Secretary-General of the ICJ. “We deplore this violence and demand that an immediate investigation be launched and that the attackers be brought to justice” she added.
Mr Yahyaoui stated that his attacker, a large man, blocked his entrance into the building and ordered him to go outside. According to Judge Yahyaoui: “I tried to resist but couldn’t grab the door. He dragged me into Charles de Gaulle St. all the while insulting me loudly. Two other agents joined him and I was able to cling onto the bars of a window. They kicked me on the ankles to make me fall but they didn’t succeed. It was at that point that I was punched – the first time in my life – in the face.”
Mr Yahyaoui and Mr El Bhiri had been on their way to pick up lawyer Nejib Hosni, from the airport. Mr Hosni had been in Geneva the previous day to discuss the situation of lawyers in Tunisia with the ICJ and give a public presentation on the same subject.
Mr Yahyaoui was dismissed as a judge on 29 December 2001 for having written an open letter to President Ben Ali lamenting executive interference in the work of the judiciary. He is a founder of the International Association for the Support of Political Prisoners, a recently created organization.
The ICJ has in the past condemned attacks on the legal profession and human rights defenders in Tunisia. The ICJ intervened several times on behalf of Mr Yahyaoui, most recently in March 2002.