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Monday, 30 April, 2001, 02:56 GMT 03:56 UK
Tunisia condemned for rights record
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By Caroline Hawley

Two international human rights groups have accused Tunisia of waging what they call an all-out campaign against human rights activists.

The charge came in a new report issued by the New York-based Human Rights Watch and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

It has been released to coincide with an appeals court hearing due on Monday on the future of a Tunis-based group, the Tunisian Human Rights League.

The case has thrown a renewed spotlight on the state of human rights in the country in general.

Disputed vote

The league's problems began when it held internal elections last October.

Human Rights Watch says a new, more assertive leadership was chosen that reflected what it calls a growing defiance among members of Tunisia's civil society towards government repression.

But a Tunisian court then annulled the elections, and - although that was the result of a private lawsuit - Human Rights Watch says it gave the government a potent weapon to use against critics of its human rights record.

The Tunis court of appeals is now hearing an appeal against the annulment of the elections.

Human Rights Watch has urged the European Union and France - which has close links with Tunisia - to monitor the case, which it says has repercussions for all Tunisian human-rights activists.

The group has also appealed to them to put pressure on the government to stop harassing activists.

It says meetings of human rights organizations have been blocked by police, while individuals have been subject to physical assaults, the confiscation of their passports and having their phone lines temporarily cut.

See also:

30 Jul 00 | Middle East
Tunisia human rights row
02 Feb 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Tunisia
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