Amnesty International slams Tunisia travel bans

Amnesty International slams Tunisia travel bans amid parliament dismissal
2 min read
26 August, 2021
Rights group Amnesty International on Thursday condemned travel bans imposed after Tunisian President Kais Saied dismissed parliament and assumed sweeping powers last month.
The president has suspended parliament [Getty]

Rights group Amnesty International on Thursday condemned travel bans imposed after Tunisian President Kais Saied dismissed parliament and assumed sweeping powers last month.

His move on July 25, which he said was to prevent the crisis-hit country from collapse, was slammed as "a coup d'etat" by the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha, the main party in Tunisia's latest fractious ruling coalition.

Saied later imposed restrictions on many leading figures in the North African country, with some banned from travelling abroad or put under house arrest without warning.

Amnesty said in a statement Thursday it had identified at least 50 travel bans targeting judges, civil servants, businessmen and a parliamentarian.

"The total number facing travel bans since 25 July is likely to be far greater," the statement said.

Saied, a retired professor of constitutional law, was elected president in 2019.

He invoked the constitution to grant himself full executive powers, sacking the premier and suspending parliament for an initial period of 30 days.

MENA
Live Story

On Monday, he announced that these measures would remain in force indefinitely.

"President Kais Saied's indefinite suspension of parliament cannot be a justification for violating rights and freedoms in the country or undermining the judiciary," said Heba Morayef, Amnesty's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"Tunisian authorities have imposed unlawful and arbitrary travel bans against people in recent weeks without justification and in the absence of any judicial order, in a blatant violation of their right to freedom of movement."

"Even under exceptional circumstances a person should be able to see and challenge the evidence on which a travel ban is based," she said.

Last week Saied responded to his critics, saying freedom of movement was "a constitutional right which I promise to guarantee".

But, he added, "some people will have to answer to the judicial authorities before being able to travel."

Amnesty said its review of the 50 cases "shows that those banned from travelling had no actual court case or open judicial investigation against them".

It said they found out about the ban when "verbally informed by airport security officials who failed to present them with a judicial order as required by Tunisian law".

The absence of a written decision "undermines their ability to appeal against the ban before a Tunisian court," the rights group said.