The Tunisian government’s human rights record exhibited additional regression in 2023, characterised by a lack of genuine checks and balances on President Kais Saied’s authority, as per the World Report 2024 released by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The report outlines that Tunisian authorities, throughout 2023, escalated their repression against the opposition and other dissenting voices, leading to the imprisonment of numerous individuals on charges that were questionable and evidently political in nature.
President Kais Saied continued to wield almost unchecked power, having eliminated nearly all institutional checks and balances on executive authority, according to HRW. The report highlights that, starting in February, Tunisian authorities increased politically motivated arrests and prosecutions, targeting opposition figures of various political orientations, as well as lawyers, activists, and journalists.
As of December, at least 40 individuals critical of the authorities found themselves behind bars, with most facing charges such as “conspiracy against state security” or questionable terrorism-related allegations, often tied to their peaceful expression or activism. The report notes that, by September, at least 27 lawyers were under civil or military prosecution.
In addition to these domestic concerns, HRW sheds light on serious abuses against black African migrants by Tunisian police, military, the National Guard, and the Coast Guard during 2023. These reported abuses further underscore the challenges faced by vulnerable populations within the country.