Bassam Trifi – Judges Complicit in Covering Up Torture

Bassam Trifi – Organisation Against Torture.

Thank you for coming. I am a lawyer and a member of the organisation against Torture, established in 2003. It has not been recognised as a legal organisation and we have been prevented from doing our job.  The founders of the organisation have been prevented from even submitting an application for the organisation to be recognised. This has not fettered the determination of our organisation to combat torture, which has a long history in Tunisia since the regime of Borgeiba. Since the revolution we have submitted another application to be recognised and we think that we will be successful.

Torture has touched everyone including political prisoners. Torture has included trade unionists, leftists, Islamists and even those accused of ordinary crimes.  Every time we hear that there is a case of torture we do our best to submit complaints but they normally amount to nothing, as the government does not admit that there is torture and the media does not report it so they often come to nothing.

There is a huge amount of work that awaits us. Our task is to try and re-open all complaints that we lodged before but were not resolved under the old regime. But before that there is a big task that must take place before, which is reform of the justice system. We believe that before 14 Jan a large number of Judges contributed to the state of torture in the country. As a lawyer, we have represented many clients who had been tortured and every time we asked for our clients to have medical tests to reveal torture the judge would refuse every request. We have witnesses who will attest that Judges have seen physical signs on torture on prisoners but have refused to take notes of the torture. That is why I emphasise that for any compensation or recognition to victims to take place there must also be a reform of the judiciary. As to the reform that should take place of the higher council of Judges, the unusual thing in this respect is that the President of the Republic is also the President of the Higher Council of Judges. This must change.

With regard to the west’s attitude to “terrorists”, we have seen many victims tortured on the basis of the 2003 Terrorism Act, which was enacted in reaction to what happened on 9/11/2001. The name of the Act itself references the international attempt to counter terrorism. Many people have been taken to court and we believe that the law is unconstitutional. They were persecuted for their ideas alone.

We haven’t seen a change since the Obama administration came into power. In fact the number of cases has increased since he came into power. When you speak to the US Embassy about what is happening in Tunisia ask them, all political prisoners have been released as part of the February Amnesty are they still “terrorists” now?



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