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Friday, February 5, 1999 Published at 17:03 GMT


Sci/Tech

Amnesty Web reality check

Amnesty condemns Tunisian human rights "rhetoric"

By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall

Amnesty International has hit back at a fake site lauding the human rights achievements of Tunisia by creating a new Website to counter the claims.

www.amnesty-tunisia.org has "nothing to do with Amnesty International," the new site says. "It was created by supporters of the Tunisian government in an attempt intentionally to mislead the public.

"It is yet another example of the extent to which the Tunisian authorities are prepared to go in order to hide the reality of their human rights record."

In an interesting use of frames, the Amnesty site asks visitors to click twice to see the actual Tunisian site in the centre of the screen and to see Amnesty's rebuttal in the frame generated around it.

Rhetoric and reality compared

It says it is setting the record straight by juxtaposing the rhetoric with the reality.

In one example, the Dates and Achievements section of the Tunisian site says provisions of the Code of Penal Procedures regarding police custody and preventive detention were amended in 1987.

Amnesty annotates: "The law was changed but the practice was not. The new law, limiting incommunicado detention to 10 days, continued to be violated; detainees continue to be tortured during secret detention, often in the Ministry of the Interior itself."

The Tunisian site also lists the opening of an Amnesty International (AI) office in Tunis in April 1988.

Amnesty comments: "Members of the AI Section in Tunisia are constantly harassed and intimidated; some have been detained. The phone and fax of the AI Section in Tunis has often been cut, its mail intercepted and confiscated and its meetings and activities disrupted by police or banned."

Amnesty issued a new report alleging human rights violations in Tunisia last November. It accused the government of "dirty tricks" in setting up the Website and said Tunisian leaders were silencing human rights activists through ever more sophisticated methods.

As well as imprisonment, short-term detention, harassment and torture, the authorities had introduced wiretapping, fax and mail interception and "sleaze campaigns" to intimidate human rights workers, the report said.

The Tunisian President, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, has long been criticised for his tough approach to Muslim fundamentalists, hundreds of whom have been jailed.



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