UN High Commissioner to send team of experts to Tunisia

“We have all been watching anxiously as the historic events triggered by the courageous people of Tunisia have been unfolding, with astonishing speed, over the past few weeks. It is essential that we, the international community, give our full support to their call for freedom and for the full respect of human rights for everyone in Tunisia,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said on 19th January at a press conference in Geneva.

UN High Commissioner sending team of experts to meet with authorities in Tunisia  © OHCHR Photo/ David McCreery

Pillay said that she is sending a team of experts to Tunisia within a week, where they will assess human rights priorities on the ground and meet with the interim authorities, and other interested parties.

Pillay said the team will remain objective and would go with an open mind, not with a pre-set agenda. She expected them, in addition, to gather information about the current and past human rights situation and to come back with a set of concrete proposals for action.

The High Commissioner said she has had discussions with the current Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Radhouanne Nouicer, who welcomed this mission in principle. She said that they will be working out the details of the mission with the interim government.
Pillay said her office had information concerning more than 100 deaths over the last five weeks, as a result of live fire, protest suicides and deadly prison riots. 

“Human rights lie at the heart of the extraordinary developments which culminated in the departure of former President Ben Ali. We all hope this will be the beginning of a new Tunisia, where people are free to go about their lives without fear of arbitrary arrest, detention, torture or other forms of abuse,” Pillay said.

She welcomed the fact that the interim government has announced the setting up of three Commissions: two Commissions of Inquiry into human rights abuses and corruption, as well as a Commission on political reform and said, “All three are headed by people known for their engagement in human rights.”

Pillay urged that it was equally important that, in the meantime, people do not take the law into their own hands. “Issues relating to justice and fair trials need to be strengthened, not undermined by further acts of violence,” she said.

The High Commissioner closed by saying, “I will continue to closely watch the situation in Tunisia, and do all I can to ensure that the human rights aspirations of the Tunisian people are finally achieved, and their sacrifices are not in vain.”  

 Video of High Commissioner statement

20 January 2011