Amnesty International has demanded an investigation into the death of a young man who was hit by a tear gas canister during protests that rocked Tunisia on the 10th anniversary of the 2011 Jasmine Revolution.
Amnesty International, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Amna Guellali, said two young men – Haykal Rachdi and Aymen Mahmoudi – were injured under similar circumstances in the western town of Subaytilah late on January 18.
The relatives of the 21-year-olds were told that they were hit by tear gas canisters fired by riot police.
Rachdi died from his wounds several days later while Mahmoudi underwent serious surgery to repair bone wounds.
Amnesty International’s Deputy Director, Amna Guellali says “the tragic death of Haykal Rachdi, a young man who was seeking a better future, must be promptly, impartially and effectively investigated.
She recommends that the investigation should include interviews with witnesses and an independent forensic medical examination, and those responsible for his killing must face justice.
“Security forces must respond to demonstrations that are a genuine expression of social hardship with restraint and respect for freedom of assembly, using force only when absolutely necessary and doing so proportionately. Police impunity has long been a concern in Tunisia – to break the cycle of violence, judicial authorities should investigate all incidents of unlawful use of force, including tear gas, and ensure that police are held to account.”
The rights group also called for a thorough probe into Mahmoudi’s serious injury.
Relatives of both men told Amnesty International that the two were hit by tear gas canisters when they were passing by the area of protests.
The NGO said, citing Subaytilah residents, that riot police fired tear gas indiscriminately during protests, often in the middle of densely populated residential neighborhoods, with some canisters even landing in people’s homes.
The group urged the Tunisian authorities to respect people’s freedom of assembly and stop reckless use of tear gas.
Nationwide demonstrations broke out in Tunisia in mid-January after the government imposed a new coronavirus lockdown.
The unrest coincided with the anniversary of the Jasmine Revolution, with the protesters expressing frustration over a lack of political and economic reforms a decade on.
The protests are accompanied by road blockades, acts of vandalism and clashes with police.
Hundreds of demonstrators have been detained, the majority of whom are under 25 years old.