UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] on Wednesday said that a team of experts will be sent to Tunisia [press release] within the next week to assess the human rights priorities and meet with interim authorities following the ousting of its president [JURIST report] last week. In the last five weeks, more than 100 people have died from live fire, protest suicides and prison riots, according to Pillay's office. Tunisia Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Radhouanne Nouicer has agreed to the UN human rights mission. The interim government also has plans to set up its own human rights commissions: two Commissions inquiring into human rights abuses and corruption and a Commission on political reform. Pillay urged that justice and fair trials be strengthened and not undermined by violence, stating:
Human rights lie at the heart of the extraordinary developments which culminated in the departure of former President Ben Ali. We all hope this will be the beginning of a new Tunisia, where people are free to go about their lives without fear of arbitrary arrest, detention, torture or other forms of abuse.Historically, Tunisia has a poor human rights reputation. A 2009 report by Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] detailed Tunisia's continued violations of human rights [report, PDF; JURIST report] despite previous vows to cease.
On Monday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official website] urged government leaders in Tunisia to initiate dialogue [JURIST report] between all sides in an attempt to restore rule of law. The Tunisia Constitutional Council officially announced [JURIST report] last week that President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali [official website] had permanently left the office of the president. The council, the country's highest legal authority on constitutional issues, declared that the leader of the lower house of parliament, Foued Mebezza, will assume power [AFP report] until elections are held in two months. The council made its ruling at the request of Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi [Reuters profile] and based its ruling on article 57 of the constitution, declaring a "definitive" vacation of the presidency. Before flying out of Tunis to seek refuge in Saudi Arabia, Ben Ali signed a decree granting interim presidential powers to Ghannouchi, attempting to leave open the possibility of returning to office. Mebezza took the oath of office [Al Jazeera report] on Saturday and according to the council he should organize new presidential elections within 60 days.