Tunisia: authorities must conduct a credible investigation into suspected torture of lawyer Mehdi Zagrouba

by | May 20, 2024 | Advocacy, News

The Tunisian authorities must immediately conduct a thorough, independent and impartial investigation into credible allegations of torture and other ill-treatment of lawyer Mehdi Zagrouba, including by permitting The National Authority for the Prevention of Torture (INPT) to investigate, and ensure that those responsible are held to account, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said today.

البيان باللغة العربية

On 15 May 2024, Mehdi Zagrouba appeared before an investigating judge at the Tunis Court of First Instance following his arrest and detention 48 hours prior, where he reportedly showed physical signs of torture. According to his lawyers, Zagrouba stated that he had been subjected to physical assault while in custody, and he named the police officers responsible for his injuries. Reportedly, the investigating judge requested an immediate medical examination, which was ultimately not carried out purportedly for security reasons. His lawyers claim that despite Mehdi Zagrouba’s physical collapse at court, the investigating judge remanded him in pre-trial detention while he was unconscious, after which he was transferred to hospital for treatment.

“The unconscionable assault of Mehdi Zagrouba is yet another indication of a Tunisia’s return to its recent past of brutal repression and authoritarianism” said Said Benarbia, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme Director. “The Tunisian authorities must take urgent steps to end impunity and ensure that law enforcement officials do not feel empowered to abuse perceived opponents of the executive or any other detainee”

In the evening of 13 May, Mehdi Zagrouba was apprehended from the Tunisian Bar Association premises on accusations of “contempt against a public official”, and apparently by means of  excessive use of force by security forces. Earlier that day, he had attended a demonstration to condemn the arbitrary arrest and detention of lawyer Sonia Dahmani by security forces on 11 May also by means of unnecessary force at the Bar Association premises. The authorities ﷟claim that during that protest, Mr. Zagrouba assaulted a police officer.

“The heavy-handed arbitrary arrest, detention and unwarranted prosecution of lawyers such as Mehdi Zagrouba and Sonia Dahmani are aimed at spreading fear amongst, and silencing, one of the last lines of defence against the President’s one-person rule, the legal profession”, Said Benarbia added. “The Tunisian authorities must immediately cease their attacks on lawyers for the mere fulfilment of their professional duties or for the exercise of their protected right to freedom of expression, and immediately release all those who are arbitrarily detained.”

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