Environmental Protest Turns Violent on Kerkennah Islands

Peaceful Assembly

On 14th April, an assembly on the Kerkennah Islands turned violent, as residents protested against a fossil fuel facility's impact on the environment. Eight people were injured during  clashes between demonstrators, which saw police use excessive force including tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowd. The authorities also deployed military reinforcements to suppress further gatherings. Meanwhile, activists are opposing the the proposed “economic reconciliation” law which offers amnesty for government officials and businesses suspected of embezzling funds under the previous regime. A youth led movement called The Manich Msamah (I will not forgive) undertook a campaign of civil disobedience to stop the bill. On the 15th July, sit-ins and a protest march took place as part of attempts to increase public awareness for the campaign.

Expression

On the 30th June, outspoken blogger Lina Ben Mhenni was ordered to report to a police station, under charges of insulting a police officer. The authorities are alleged to have verbally and physically assaulted Ben Mhenni while she was in police custody. Questions have arisen over the legal framework in Tunisia, which allows journalists and citizens to be prosecuted under spurious defamation laws.

Human Rights defenders working on LGBTI issues continue to face discrimination. On 27th April,  LGBTI rights activist Bouhdid Belhedi was physically attacked. On 9th July, Ahmed Ben Amor, vice president of the Tunisian LGBT rights advocacy group Shams, attempted suicide having recieved a tirade of homophobic abuse and death threats. This incident prompted rights groups to question the authorities’ complicity in homophobia and ability to protect members of minority communities. Discriminatory practices based on gender also persist in Tunisia. Most recently on 23rd June, female journalists were barred from entering the great Mosque of Kairouan to cover a ceremony marking the 1,450th anniversary of the writing of the Qu’ran.