January 31, 2008

Mohamed Nejib Hachana, Ambassador
Embassy of Tunisia
1515 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20005

Dear Mr. Ambassador:

I am pleased to present you with this copy of Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2008.

I wish to acknowledge belatedly receipt of your April 20, 2007 correspondence, addressed to Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth, attached to which was the 13-page response of the Government of Tunisia to the Tunisia chapter of our World Report 2007.

We greatly appreciated this detailed reply to our work. It was read and circulated internally at the time we received it.

However, I wish to inform you that while we kept the official response to last year’s World Report foremost in our minds as we drafted the new edition, we did not find any points that merited citation. I will provide one example to illustrate why.

Our World Report 2007 states,

Authorities have refused to grant legal recognition to every truly independent human rights organization that has applied over the past decade. They then invoke the organization’s “illegal” status to hamper its activities. On July 21, 2006, police encircled the Tunis office of the non-recognized National Council on Liberties in Tunisia and, as they had done many times before, prevented members from meeting, using force against those who did not disperse quickly enough.

Your response states,

With respect to the plight of the so-called “National Council on Liberties in Tunisia,” it is worth noting that the Minister of Interior issued an order opposing its legalization on the grounds that its founders had not fulfilled the legal requirements for its creation. Its “founders” appealed the order before an administrative court. The case is proceeding normally.

In the view of Human Rights Watch, the points you make here about the procedures that were used do not change the basic fact that authorities refused to legalize a legitimate human rights organization, thereby hampering its ability to function and giving the police a pretext to physically prevent it from holding meetings and gatherings.

Also, we disagree that the CNLT’s appeal of this refusal is “proceeding normally.” The CNLT filed its appeal before the administrative tribunal in March 1999 (case 17876/5), the same month that the Minister of Interior issued his refusal. The administrative court apparently completed its investigation of the file in 2001 but has yet to schedule a hearing on the case, despite the passage of more than six years. On September 28, 2007, CNLT lawyer Abderra’ouf Ayadi addressed a letter to the president of the fifth chamber of the Tunis administrative tribunal asking that he finally set a date to hear the case.

Thus, when we carefully weighed your responses we found them unpersuasive.

Please be assured that we always welcome and study feedback from your government and will continue to reflect it in our reporting whenever appropriate.

Sincerely yours,

Joe Stork
Deputy Director
Middle East and North Africa division
Human Rights Watch