The United States and the European Union concerned about the authoritarian turn

The worrying human rights situation in Tunisia prompted the United States and the European Union to react. Tunisia, which had just experienced liberation from an authoritarian regime during the Arab Spring, is falling back into its ways with its “copy-paste” of the Algerian system since 2019. A step back much worse than under Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The repression of opponents, journalists and lawyers, of all free speech, is becoming increasingly strong in Tunisia, which is following in the footsteps of Algeria in its authoritarian turn under the heads of state, Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Kais Saied, elected at the same time, but not under the same conditions.

If Kais Saied was acclaimed by the people despite obstacles that shattered the chances of his competitor Nabil Karoui, this was not the case for Abdelmadjid Tebboune who was “elected” despite the Algerians’ boycott of two imposed presidential elections, and despite the will of the people to change the system.

Yet the two men elected one after the other who have nothing in common, quickly forged ties to gain legitimacy and stay in power thanks to the regional support of each other.

Algeria, having seen Tunisia’s economic crisis coming, immediately sought to take advantage of it to impose its agenda on its neighbor and play the role of false protector to then claim positions on the Sahara in a Tunisia that has long been neutral on this file, but which is currently very weakened economically and socially.

Kicking off oxygen in a pandemic period (while the Algerians did not have any), low-cost oil and gas, millions of dollars in loans to ease the finances of a Tunisia that is not arriving more to convince international donors, Algeria has provided quick solutions to heal open wounds in the neighbor, caught in a whirlwind of crises, political, economic and social.

The friendship, even the Tebboune-Saied alliance, was therefore strengthened on the back of these crises, and the Tunisian president, seeing that his problems were still present, had no choice but to strengthen his powers and follow the model Algerian.

“Suppressing peaceful dissent and arresting independent journalists is now common practice in Tunisia, as it backtracks on democracy under authoritarian President Kais Saied, like his protectors in military-ruled Algeria.commented the news site, The nort africa post.

“After amassing all power in a firm grip, President Saied launched a relentless campaign against peaceful opposition figures, throwing dozens more into jail” continued the same source citing the latest case, that of Noureddine Bhiri, a senior official of Tunisia’s largest opposition party, Ennahda and a critic of President Saied, or that of the director of Radio M, Noureddine Boutar, who frequently broadcast critics of Kais Saied’s policies, was also jailed by the police, along with political activist and lawyer Lazhar Akremi.

The noth africa post recalled that this policy of silencing activists is “what many describe as a return to a police state, worse than the Ben Ali regime”.

He cites Tunisia’s attempt to hand over Franco-Algerian opposition figure Amira Bouraoui to the Algerian authorities, “spared from a horrible fate after French pressure”to let her leave Tunisia for France.

“The case of Amira Bouraoui is yet another example of Tunisia running out of money, doing the dirty work for its Algerian payer”commented the pan-African publication, recalling that Tunisia has already been involved in similar stories by delivering opponents to their Algerian executioner.

In August 2021, Kabyle refugee and pro-democracy activist registered with the UNHCR, Slimane Bouhafs, was abducted by Algerian secret agents under the eyes of the Tunisian authorities, while trying to leave Algeria to take refuge in a neighboring country, unable to pass through Morocco because of the closure of the borders by Algeria.

Tunisia keeps on the conscience the horrible and atrocious treatments undergone by Slimane Bouhafs, practiced by the agents of the intelligence services. According to his testimony during his trial, Slimane Bouhafs said he was undressed, and that the Algerian agents urinated on him.

He claims to have been the victim of rape by the Algerian police once taken to the police station, and according to the Algerian journalist Hichem Aboud, the man would have physical consequences of this attack.

The United States and the European Union reacted by showing their great concern following the latest arrests.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price announced at the daily briefing that the United States is deeply concerned about the arrests in Tunisia and reiterated that it is fundamental that freedom of expression and human rights people are respected

“We respect the aspirations of the Tunisian people for an independent and transparent justice capable of protecting fundamental freedoms for all. We are engaged with the Tunisian government at all levels in favor of human rights and freedom of expression”said Ned Price.

And remember that it’s about“a fundamental American principle that people everywhere should be able to speak up without fear or reprisal. All governments have a responsibility to uphold this basic principle.”

In the same vein, the European Union has shown its concern, recalling that it welcomes the agreement reached at technical level between the Tunisian administration and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and that it has now become “it is urgent that the agreement be signed”.

“We need a clear commitment from the Tunisian government to carry out the structural reforms it has proposed to the Fund”said Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli on behalf of High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell.

“We are following with attention and concern the latest arrests that have taken place in recent days (…) Our values ​​are clear and we have expressed them forcefully. We believe that respect for the right to a fair trial and the requirements of due process, including judicial transparency, are crucial”.

She recalled in a half-acknowledged threat that the partnership with Tunisia is based on common values ​​such as democracy, the rule of law and human rights, including fundamental freedoms, and underlined to follow “the evolution of the degraded political situation”.

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