EXTERNAL AI Index: MDE 30/14/96
EXTRA 71/96 Legal Concern / Probable Prisoner of Conscience 20 May 1996
TUNISIAKhemais CHAMMARI, human rights activist, parliamentarian
Amnesty International is concerned at the arrest on 18 May 1996 of Khemais
Chammari, a prominent human rights activist and a member of the Tunisian
parliament, representing the opposition party Mouvement des Démocrates
Socialistes (MDS, Social Democratic Movement).
In October 1995 a case was brought against Khemais Chammari and his wife, Aliya
Cherif-Chammari, for "divulgation du secret de l'instruction" (disclosure of
confidential information) in the judicial inquiry concerning Mohamed Mouadda,
President of the MDS. Mohamed Mouadda was later sentenced to two years'
imprisonment for unauthorized possession of foreign currency, and to 11 years'
imprisonment for secret relations with agents of a foreign power aiming at
undermining Tunisia (see follow-ups to EXTRA 118/95 - MDE 30/04/96, 6 February
1996 and MDE 30/07/96, 22 March). Mohamed Mouadda has been adopted as a prisoner
of conscience by Amnesty International.
After the case was brought against them, Khemais Chammari and his wife were
prevented from travelling abroad, and their passports were confiscated in
October 1995. They were also placed under strict police surveillance, and
Khemais Chammari's parliamentary immunity was suspended on 14 November 1995.
Khemais Chammari has been heard by the investigating judge several times but
has not been arrested before in connection with the Mouadda case.
His current arrest may have been sparked by his consistent refusal to stop
his political and human rights work, and in particular could be related to
the recent case against Tunisian human rights activist Frej Fenniche (see EXTRA
64/96, MDE 30/12/96, 13 May 1996 and MDE 30/13/96, 16 May). Frej Fenniche (who
has been charged with possessing documents deemed to be damaging to national
interests and is free pending the completion of the judicial inquiry) was
allegedly in possession of letters from Khemais Chammari which described the
human rights situation in Tunisia and which were intended for participants
in a human rights meeting in Montpellier, France.
Arrests, detentions, torture and ill-treatment, imprisonment of prisoners of
conscience, unfair trials and systematic harassment have been increasingly
used in Tunisia to punish, intimidate and silence opposition political
activists, government critics, human rights activists and others in Tunisia
over the past few years.
Amnesty International has continued to document and condemn such human rights
violations in Tunisia, and to call on the Tunisian authorities to take concrete
steps to put an end to such practices. However, despite the Tunisian
Government's public statements about its commitment to respecting human rights,
human rights activists have continued to be arrested and harassed.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/airmail
letters in French, Arabic or English or your own language:
- expressing concern at the arrest of Khemais Chammari;
- seeking assurance that he is being treated humanely in accordance with
international standards for the treatment of detainees, and that he is allowed
access to his lawyers and family;