Family members of political detainees in Tunisia have submitted a request to the European Union to sanction President Kais Saied and other top-ranking Tunisian officials.
The request, filed by British lawyer Rodney Dixon on behalf of the families, accuses Tunisian officials of “gross and persistent human rights violations”, according to a press release issued on Wednesday by Dixon.
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The other high-ranking officials the families seek to sanction are Ridha Gharsallaoui, former acting interior minister; Taofik Charfeddine, the recently resigned interior minister; Kamal Feki, the current interior minister; Leïla Jaffel, the justice minister; and Imed Memmich, minister of national defence.
“What has been unfolding in Tunisia since July 2021 is a spiralling decline into worse and worse violations of fundamental freedoms and rights,” the lawyer said.
“On behalf of our clients, we urge the EU to act swiftly and decisively in imposing sanctions on the Tunisian authorities who bear the greatest responsibility,” Dixon said.
The request comes on the heels of the April 17 arrest of Rached Ghannouchi, a major opposition figure and leader of the Ennahdha party.
It was part of an ongoing crackdown against the Tunisian opposition. In July 2021, Saied dissolved the democratically elected parliament, in which Ennahda was the biggest party, and then moved to change the constitution, centralising power in his hands.
The families stated that since Saeid’s authoritarian shift in 2021, his government has committed “mass violations of human rights in Tunisia, including the ongoing arrest, torture and in some cases killing of anyone deemed to be in opposition to them”.
The sanctions the families requested included banning the officials from travel to the EU, having their EU-based assets frozen, and barring them from doing business and having accounts in the EU.
“Saied and his accomplices must be made accountable by placing sanctions on them,” Yusra Ghannouchi, the daughter of Rached Ghannouchi, said, according to the release.
“The EU must move beyond timid expressions of concern as they have clearly failed to convince Saied to stop or slow down his reckless destruction of Tunisia’s democracy,” she added.
Several global powers have condemned the arrests of political opponents in Tunisia, including Ghannouchi, warning against the escalating crackdown.