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Tunisia: Further information on health concern for hunger strike prisoners

, Index number: MDE 30/028/2000

Several of the Tunisian prisoners on hunger strike have ended their protest, but many are suffering severe health problems as a result of not eating for so long. Neither the prisoners who are still on hunger strike, nor those who have ended their hunger strikes are getting the medical care that they need.

PUBLIC AI Index: MDE 30/28/00
29 November 2000
Further information on UA 297/00 (MDE 30/22/00, 26 September 2000) and
follow-ups (MDE 30/23/00, 2 October 2000; MDE 30/24/00, 12 October 2000; MDE
30/25/00, 19 October 2000; MDE 30/26/00, 30 October 2000) - Health concern
/ Ill-treatment
TUNISIAFathi Karraoud
Abdelatif Bouhajila
Yacine Ben Zarti
Zuhair Yacoub
Abdallah Drissa
Lotfi Amdouni (called Noureddine Amdouni previously)
Soufiane Hammami
Bashir Boujenah
Choukri Gargouri
Maher al-Khalsi
Lotfi Ferharti
More than 70 others
New names: Bachir Abid
Bouraoui Makhlouf
Several of the Tunisian prisoners on hunger strike have ended their protest,
but many are suffering severe health problems as a result of not eating for
so long. Neither the prisoners who are still on hunger strike, nor those who
have ended their hunger strikes are getting the medical care that they need.
Abdellatif Bouhajila and Yacine Ben Zarti ended their hunger strike earlier
this week after not eating for respectively 92 and 80 days. Both are in very
poor physical condition and are not getting vital medical attention. At their
trial on 24 November, they had to be brought to the court on stretchers and
laid out on benches, as they were unable to support themselves. Nevertheless,
the judge refused their lawyers’ request for the trial to be postponed and
for them to be given immediate medical care. The defence lawyers walked out
in protest, but the trial went ahead, although the defendants were unable to
answer or even understand questions due to their physical condition. Abdellatif
Bouhajila and Yacine Ben Zarti were sentenced to 17 and 11 years’ imprisonment
respectively. They had been charged with setting up and participating in an
Islamist criminal gang aiming at undermining state security.
Fathi Karraoud, Zuhair Yacoub, Soufiane Hammami, Bashir Boujenah, Choukri
Gargouri, Maher al-Khalsi and Lotfi Ferharti are also believed to have ended
their hunger strike. It is not known what their physical condition is like,
as their lawyers and families have not been allowed access to them, but it
is believed that they are not getting the necessary medical care.
Abdallah Drissa and Lotfi Amdouni are continuing their hunger strike, which
they began on 11 and 30 September respectively. They are both reported to be
in a critical physical condition. Abdallah Drissa, who is diabetic, has recently
developed a skin condition, which is worsening due to lack of treatment. Like
many of the other prisoners on hunger strike, they have been denied visits
by their families for weeks at a time.
Bachir Abid, who has been on hunger strike since 18 October, is also reported
to be in a critical physical condition, at times vomiting blood. His lawyers
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have not been allowed to visit him since he was arrested on 26 September. He
had been in hiding since 1999, when he was sentenced to 18-months’ imprisonment
for having links with an unauthorized party, Parti communiste des ouvriers
tunisiens (PCOT), Tunisian Workers’ Communist Party.
Bouraoui Makhlouf, an Islamist activist who has been detained since the early
1990s, joined the hunger strikers at Mahdia Prison on 7 November. He is one
of many Islamist prisoners in Madhia and other Tunisian prisons, who began
hunger strikes to call for their release. They had hoped to be released on
the occasion of a celebration on 7 November to mark the anniversary of President
Ben Ali’s coming to power in 1987.
FURTHER RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express/
airmail letters in French, English, Arabic or in your own language:
- expressing concern for the health of prisoners who have ended their hunger
strike, including Abdellatif Bouhajila and Yacine Ben Zarti, urging that they
are immediately given the necessary medical care, and that they are granted
prompt and regular access to their families and lawyers;
- expressing concern for the health of prisoners currently on hunger strike,
seeking assurances that they are kept under medical surveillance, given
appropriate medical care and granted prompt and regular access to their families
and lawyers.
APPEALS TO:
Minister of the Interior
M. Abdallah KALLEL
Ministre de l’Intérieur
Ministère de l'Intérieur
Avenue Habib Bourguiba
1001 Tunis, Tunisia
Telegram: Ministre Interieur, Tunis, Tunisia
Fax: + 216 1 340 888
E-mail: mint@ministeres.tn
Salutation: Monsieur le Ministre / Your Excellency
Presidential Councillor for Human Rights
M. Dali JAZI
Conseiller Spécial auprès du Président de la République,
chargé des droits de l’homme
Palais Présidentiel
Tunis
Tunisia
Fax: + 216 1 571314
Salutation:Monsieur le Conseiller / Your Excellency
COPIES TO:
M. Afif Hendaoui
Ministre Délégué chargé des Droits de l’Homme
Bureau du Premier Ministre
Place du Gouvernement
La Kasbah
1006 Tunis
Tunisia
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and to diplomatic representatives of Tunisia accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 10 January 2001.

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