Tunisia: Judge says government's implementation of S17 is unlawful

Responding to the news that Tunis’ Administrative Court spokesperson has stated that border control measures imposed on thousands of people in the name of security, known as S17 measures, should be considered illegal, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director Heba Morayef said:

“Yesterday’s statement from judge Imed Ghabri, spokesperson of the Administrative Court finally acknowledges that the arbitrary and discriminatory manner in which S17 travel restrictions are often imposed is unlawful. This is a significant step forward for all those who have campaigned against the way S17 measures are being applied.

This is a significant step forward for all those who have campaigned against the way S17 measures are being applied
Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director Heba Morayef

“This assessment echoes Amnesty International’s own findings, which indicate that S17 measures are being imposed without judicial oversight and violating hundreds of people’s human rights. Decisions to restrict people’s travel should not be left to the discretion of the Ministry of Interior without judicial approval. 

S17 measures are being imposed without judicial oversight and violating hundreds of people’s human rights
Heba Morayef

“Tunisian authorities should put this statement into practice by lifting all arbitrary travel restrictions and ensuring any restrictions on freedom of movement are in line with international and Tunisian laws.”

Background

The spokesman’s statement establishes for the first time a judge’s legal assessment of the executive measure used by the Ministry of Interior.

S17 measures were introduced in 2013 as part of a national plan to combat terrorism. In a report published on 24 October 2018 entitled “They never tell me why”: Arbitrary restrictions on freedom of movement in Tunisia  Amnesty International highlighted the arbitrary and abusive use of S17 measures to restrict the travel of thousands of people and called for the Tunisian judiciary to insist on prior judicial approval of such measures.

Tunis Administrative Court’s spokesperson, Imed Ghabri, stated to local media that the court reached the conclusion that the S17 measure does not have legal grounds. Amnesty International spoke to Mr Ghabri who confirmed the statement and insisted that the court considers that the Ministry of Interior has been implementing this measure unlawfully and that the judiciary is the only authority that should be competent to decide on travel bans not the Ministry of Interior.