European Parliament condemns 'attacks on freedom of expression in Tunisia'

EU institution denounces recent arrests of opposition politicians, journalists and trade unionists

MEPs voted in favour of the resolution, which one said was to ‘raise awareness of human rights violations in Tunisia’. EPA
Powered by automated translation

The European Union's Parliament adopted by an overwhelming majority a resolution condemning what it called “the recent attacks against freedom of expression and association and trade unions in Tunisia, in particular the case of journalist Noureddine Boutar”.

Ninety-two per cent of European MPs voted in favour of adopting the resolution on Thursday afternoon, leading to an overall consensus regarding the Tunisia resolution.

It marks the first resolution proposed by the EU body since Tunisian President Kais Saied suspended parliament in 2021. He also dissolved it the following year.

Mr Boutar, head of Tunisia's independent radio station Mosaique FM, was detained more than three weeks ago, accused of using his media outlet to target Mr Saied and other members of his regime to allegedly “conspire against state security” and “inflame the situation in the country”.

The discussion comes as more than 20 political figures have been arrested in the North African country in recent weeks, including members of the main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, and its chief component, the Ennahdha party.

Ennahdha spokesman Abdelfattah Taghouti was the most recent opposition figure to be detained by the national guard, on Tuesday evening.

The powerful UGTT labour union has had several of its members arrested.

President of the Ministry of Culture's UGTT Federation, Nacer Ben Amara, and another federation member were detained on Thursday following a complaint by Tunisian Culture Minister Hayet Guettat.

“The purpose of this resolution is to raise awareness of human rights violations in Tunisia by the head of state and government,” German MEP Jan-Christoph Oetjen and rapporteur of the Tunisia resolution told The National.

'Sharp deterioration' of human rights

Mr Oetjen said the adoption of the resolution would lead to an official call to the European Commission to suspend EU funded-support programmes to the ministries of Justice and Interior Affairs.

“The European Parliament urges the EU High Representative and the Member States to publicly denounce the sharp deterioration of the human rights situation; underlines that specific EU support programmes to the ministries of Justice and Interior Affairs should be suspended; calls on the EU delegation and member states to monitor and attend political trials and seek regular dialogue with civil society,” said the EU parliament in its resolution draft.

The EU Commission currently provides financial support to the Tunisian ministries of Justice and Interior to receive logistical and technical training with regards to security sector reforms.

“Urgency resolutions of the European Parliament are designed to first and foremost promote democracy, denounce human rights violations and to protect the most vulnerable across the world,” Mr Oetjen told The National.

The resolution text also condemned Mr Saied’s "racist discourse against sub-Saharan migrants and the attacks that have ensued", as well as attacks on trade unions' rights.

It called on Tunisian authorities to immediately release Mr Boutar and other detained opposition figures.

Updated: March 16, 2023, 1:34 PM