HRW cautions against using charges of "insulting police" as retaliation against citizens | Tunisia News Gazette

HRW cautions against using charges of “insulting police” as retaliation against citizens

Human Rights Watch (HRW) Tuesday cautioned against the use of the offense of insulting the police as a retaliation against citizens.

“Tunisians who complain or question police conduct may find themselves facing retaliatory charges of insulting the police,” HRW said in a statement on its website.

Human Rights Watch has documented a pattern of cases against people who filed a complaint or announced their intention to do so, after police officers allegedly insulted, arbitrary arrested, or assaulted them. The people who allege abuse find themselves facing charges of insulting a public officer during the performance of his duties, punishable by up to one year in prison, under article 125 of the Penal Code. Parliament should reform this law, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch is concerned that authorities may be bringing these charges as a tactic to undermine the complainants’ case, or in retaliation for challenging police behaviour. The cases against the complainants tend to be based mainly, if not entirely, on the statements of law enforcement officials.

Tunisian authorities are using the accusation of insulting the police to intimidate citizens who dare to complain about police behaviour, said Amna Guellali, Tunisia director at Human Rights Watch. Tunisia’s nascent democracy needs to encourage well-founded complaints of police misconduct, not punish them.

In four of the eight cases that Human Rights Watch documented, the judiciary quickly processed the complaint filed by the police officers, while the complaint filed by their alleged victims appeared to stall. In four other cases, the court merged the police and the citizen complaints into a single case, but then proceeded very slowly.

Tunisia’s parliament should eliminate article 125 of the penal code because of the various ways that it can threaten human rights, Human Rights Watch said. The absence in Tunisian law of a definition of what constitutes an insult under the article allows authorities to interpret it broadly and to criminalise legitimate expression. In addition, the abusive application of this law deters people from exercising their right to seek remedies when they believe the police have abused them.

Until article 125 is abolished, prosecutors and judges should scrutinise carefully any charges filed under that provision, looking at the full context, including whether the accused parties filed complaints against, or alleged abuse by, the police with whom they had contact. Prosecutors and judges should diligently seek out, and evaluate in an even-handed manner, evidence beyond the statements by police officers who allege the insult.

In some cases, the failure of Tunisian authorities to prevent the filing of charges as retaliation against or intimidation of complainants could violate Tunisia’s obligations under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. That treaty, to which Tunisia is a party, requires that Steps shall be taken to ensure that the complainant and witnesses [in cases involving torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment] are protected against all ill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of his complaint or any evidence given (Article 13).

A number of Tunisians, including civil society activists Mariem Mnaouer, Lina Ben Mhenni and Ines Ben Othman were sued for insulting the police, HRW said.

Source: TAP News Agency

Tunisia's central bank governor Chedli Ayari said on Wednesday he had resigned, opening the way
Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, announced, Friday in Tozeur, a series of decisions and projects to
The reimbursement of debts costs the Tunisian state, 22 million dinars (MD) per day, almost
The House of People's Representatives (HPR) Tuesday adopted the bill on Tunisia's accession to the
"There is a new advance in the public-private partnership in the field of digital transformation