Posted by: africanpressorganization | 2 February 2011

Statement by the delegation of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the conclusion of its mission to Tunisia




Statement by the delegation of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the conclusion of its mission to Tunisia



TUNIS, Tunisia, February 2, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Today is the last day of our week-long mission to Tunisia. Concerned that the human rights aspirations of the Tunisian people are achieved and their sacrifices are not in vain, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, swiftly dispatched a team to Tunisia. Our mission has been to explore possibilities for the advancement of human rights; to gain a first hand understanding of human rights challenges; and to discuss with a broad range of actors how OHCHR can assist the people of Tunisia in strengthening respect for all human rights in the country. The delegation listened to numerous actors on their vision for the future and their concerns about the past. The High Commissioner asked us to report back to her on our return on our observations and recommendations so that she can decide how the Office will accompany the Tunisian people in this process.


Human rights were at the root of the Tunisian people’s calls for freedom, dignity and social justice and for a new era in Tunisia, and our visit here confirms how integral they will be for the construction of its future.


The delegation extends its gratitude to all those we have met during this visit. We have enjoyed the full cooperation of the transitional government; we have been able to meet with a range of civil society actors, including human rights defenders and women’s rights organisations; and we have been able to move around freely, including being granted a visit to two prisons in Bizerte, north of Tunis. We consider this to be an important indication of the change that has taken place in Tunisia and a reflection of the willingness of all our interlocutors to see real change entrenched in law and practice. 


As one young man told us, “we are looking for freedom, justice and national dignity”.   His words have been echoed by Tunisian men and women of all social classes and all parts of society, who feel they have been stripped of their dignity. At the core of restoring that dignity will be redefining the relationship between the state and its people, a relationship that must now be built on the rule of law and respect for their rights and that places the state equitably at the service of all its people.


Throughout our visit, we repeatedly heard the need to consolidate the gains seized by Tunisia’s young people and its civil society, to ensure that there can be no return to the past, and to heed their call for social justice and accountability. Steps taken in this direction by the interim government to investigate the violations committed in recent weeks need to be supported and reinforced through judicial mechanisms and institutional reform.


A comprehensive process of reform will be critical for ensuring that the changes sought after by Tunisians are enshrined in law and become a permanent feature in Tunisia. While reform must clearly touch all sectors, there is a clear need to reverse the balance of power in favour of the rights of people. A key sector is the security apparatus, which must begin to work for its people and not against them. Bridging the striking economic and social gaps and overcoming inequity, particularly in marginalized areas, should be a central part of the reform process.


At this critical juncture, the role of civil society is crucial. Human rights organizations and other non-governmental associations have been silenced and sidelined for years. Now is the time to fully incorporate them into shaping the transitional period and forging long-term solutions and ensuring their voice is heard. The space for civil society organizations has already expanded meaningfully since 14 January 2011; this opening must now be reinforced. 


Beyond civil society, all Tunisians have the right to participate in public affairs. This is a proud and capable society, with vibrant and dynamic young men and women who have made their voice heard. As a result, remarkable human rights achievements have been made in the last two weeks. To build on this, there is a need for national consultations that are inclusive of all ages and all parts of the country and which will pave the way for free, transparent and fair elections and build the vision for Tunisia’s future.



United Nations – Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)


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