By Peter Kenny
GENEVA (AA) – The UN Human Rights Office on Tuesday said it is concerned about a member of parliament who is the deputy head of the Ennahda party in Tunisia and another unidentified person detained after they were kept in an unknown place for hours.
UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Liz Throssell raised concerns about Noureddine El-Beheiry at a UN news conference when she said developments in Tunisia over the past month had deepened serious concerns about deteriorating human rights there.
She said El-Beheiry and the other person were detained without authorization or explanation and remain under house arrest.
In a Dec. 31, 2021 statement, Ennahda announced that El-Beheiry was abducted by "security forces with civilian clothes and taken to an unknown destination.”
After the incident, El-Beheiry's lawyers filed a criminal complaint against President Kais Saied and Interior Minister Taoufik Charfeddine.
El-Beheiry was taken to some undisclosed places of detention for several hours, and his family and lawyer did not know his whereabouts.
He was subsequently put under house arrest, and then due to pre-existing health conditions, he was transferred to a hospital on Jan. 2, where he remains under guard.
- Echoes of past
"These two incidents echo practices not seen since the era of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and raise serious questions regarding abduction, enforced disappearance, and arbitrary detention," said Throssell.
No explanation was given why El-Beheiry was apprehended, she added.
"We urge the authorities to either promptly release or properly charge these two men in accordance with due process standards for criminal proceedings.
"We urge the Tunisian authorities to continue their dialogue with the UN Human Rights Office and other UN human rights mechanisms to ensure the reforms of the security and justice sectors that are so badly needed are fully compliant with Tunisia's international human rights obligations," said the rights official.
On Monday, Tunisian Interior Minister Charfeddine placed El-Beheiry and a ministry official under house arrest over accusations of issuing false identity documents to a Syrian couple while serving as justice minister.
One of the individuals was previously linked to terrorist cases committed outside Tunisian territory, said the ministry.
Ennahda party, the largest party in the now-suspended Tunisian parliament, termed the accusations against El-Beheiry as "politicized" and called for his immediate release.
El-Beheiry, 63, was transferred to Habib Bougatfa Hospital in the northern city of Bizerte after his health deteriorated due to his hunger strike in protest of his detention.
Saied ousted the Tunisian government on July 25, 2021, suspended parliament, and assumed executive authority.
While he insists that his "exceptional measures" are meant to "save" the country, critics have accused him of orchestrating a coup.