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Tunisia: UN concerned about possible physical assault and intimidation against human rights defender by security services 

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News briefing 

Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice 

Geneva: February 20 2022 

UN experts have expressed their grave concern about acts of harassment, physical assault, threats and intimidation perpetrated by two state officials in Tunisia against the human rights defender, Badr Babbou. 

Constant assault and threats: 

In their memo sent to the Tunisian authorities on December 21, which has not been responded to yet, the experts indicated that Babbou is the director of the Association Damj, Tunisian Association for Justice and Equality, and was targeted because of his activity as a defender of the human rights of LGBT+ people within his association. 

The experts also emphasized allegations of intensified repression against LGBT human rights organizations, in particular Damj, and increased cases of harassment, physical assault, threats and intimidation by the state and other actors against members of the LGBT community since 2020. 

The experts explained in their memo that on October 21, 2021, at approximately 9 pm, two men, one in civilian clothes and the other in police uniform, violently attacked Babbou. It is alleged that the two men approached him on the street and identified themselves as police officers, before beating him saying they were acting in retribution for Babbou‘s work as a human rights defender LGBT+ people and sex workers, and that he would continue to be punished as long as he insulted and brought charges against the country’s security forces  

Experts also reported that the attackers then confiscated Babbou‘s personal belongings, including his phone and computer containing sensitive data related to his professional activity, as well as his identity papers and other documents from the government.  

The experts expressed their deep concerns about allegations of harassment, physical assault, threats and intimidation by governmental and non-governmental actors against Babbou, because of his work as an advocate for the human rights of LGBT people. 

UN demands from the authorities in Tunisia: 

The experts called on the authorities in Tunisia to provide information on the steps they have taken to investigate allegations of increased surveillance, harassment and intimidation since March 2020, against Babbou, as well as to provide information on the physical abuse he allegedly suffered in October 2021, by persons who identified themselves as police officers, in addition to the measures taken to prosecute and punish the perpetrators of such acts. 

The experts called on Tunisia to justify what appears to be a campaign of threats, harassment and intimidation by the police, including acts of physical and verbal violence against members of Damj; and the actions it has taken to ensure the protection of its members and their legitimate activities, indicating the measures that have been taken to ensure that all human rights defenders, in particular LGBTI rights defenders, are able to work in an enabling environment and carry out their legitimate activities without fear of violence and physical abuse, harassment, intimidation, stigmatization, reprisals, repression, or criminalization of any kind.  

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