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Appeal: Sayfullah ben Omar ben Hassine

Written by CP Editor Tuesday, 25 September 2007
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Born in November 1965, in Tunisia, Sayfallah Ben Omar Ben Hassine was forced to flee his country in 1987 following a wave of arrests of militants in the students’ movement


Name:  Sayfallah Ben Omar Ben Hassine
Nationality: Tunisian
Age:  42
Location of arrest: Turkey
Date of arrest: February 2003
Location of detention: El Mornaguia prison, 1110 Tunis

 
Background

Born in November 1965, in Tunisia, Sayfallah Ben Omar Ben Hassine was forced to flee his country in 1987 following a wave of arrests of militants in the students’ movement. During this time, Ben Hassine was arrested and sentenced to two years imprisonment for taking part in protest demonstrations. Initially, he took refuge in Morocco where he continued his education at the Faculty of Law in Oujda. Ben Hassine then married and travelled with his wife to the UK and requested asylum. There he lived with his wife and children.

In February 2003, he visited Turkey where he was arrested and extradited to Tunisia.  He was tried in front of a military tribunal in Tunis, and was sentenced, according to his lawyer, Samir Ben Amor, in an obviously unjust lawsuit, to 64 years imprisonment.

According to his family in Tunisia, Ben Hassine has since been held under extremely difficult conditions and is held in solitary confinement in an underground cell measuring 4 square metres without a toilet, ventilation or natural light.  His wife and children have only received three letters from him since his imprisonment and rely on news of him periodically through his mother and sister who visit him on Saturdays.  

On Saturday June 23, 2007, the prison authorities declared that Ben Hassine had refused a family visit. The family knew this to be untrue as Ben Hassine had assured them that he would never refuse a visit from them and, if this was ever claimed, the refusal would be not be based on fact.

The following week beginning June 30, at his mother’s insistence, she was authorized to visit her son and noticed that he bore traces of a blow to his face and that he was very weak.  As soon as he started to inform her of his treatment, the visit which took place in the presence of an officer and two guards, was stopped after two minutes and he was removed violently from the room with Ben Hassine crying, "Please help me".  Since July 27, Ben Hassine’s family has been refused visits as a form of punishment.

Ben Hassine has, on many occasions, been subjected to torture and ill treatment in prison due to his very protests against these inhumane conditions of detention.  He informed his family that he has been refused permission to possess a Qur’an and in one instance was actually beaten in the face with a Qur’an.  He is isolated today from the external world and his family fears for his life and physical well being. Coupled with this, is the fact that he suffers from asthma and chronic renal infections.

For years, Amnesty International has denounced the practice of trying civilians before military courts. There is a serious concern that trying civilians before military courts is a way to by-pass law 2000-43 of 17 April 2000 which modified provisions of the Penal Code (Code Pénal) by introducing a two-level legal system for criminal courts involving a right to appeal. Civilians who are brought before military courts are deprived their right to appeal.

With no right to appeal and ostracised from the rest of the world, the safety of Ben Hassine is at great risk to the extent that it is feared he may lose his life.


Background: Tunisia

People arrested in connection with alleged terrorist activities have been charged and tried under a controversial counter-terrorism law introduced in 2003. The authorities are holding some 400 prisoners under this law for allegedly seeking to go to Iraq to fight against American forces. Many of those who were tried were sentenced to long prison terms after unfair trials.

Under Tunisia’s Code of Criminal Procedure, detainees may be held without charge (garde à vue) for up to three days, extendable for a further three days by order of the public prosecutor. After these six days the detainee must either be brought before the examining judge or released. If a person is held in garde à vue, their family must be informed and they have the right to a medical examination.

In practice, the security forces routinely ignore these requirements. For years, NGOs working in Tunisia have received numerous reports of torture and ill-treatment by the security forces, including agents of the State Security Department at the Ministry of Interior in Tunis. In most cases, allegations of torture are not investigated and the perpetrators are not brought to justice. Confessions obtained under torture as used as evidence in unfair trials.



TAKE ACTION FOR SAYFALLAH BEN HASSINE

1. Please send appeals as quickly as possible, in Arabic, French or your own language:



- expressing concern for the incommunicado detention of Sayfallah Ben Hassine

- concerns over the severity of the sentence given in his case

- concerns that Sayfallah may be subjected to torture or ill-treatment whilst in custody, and is being held in extreme isolation

- concerns for his physical and mental health and request that he is granted immediate access to independent medical care

- that his family are granted meaningful access


APPEALS TO:

President of the Republic
Président 
Président de la République
Palais Présidentiel
Tunis – Tunisie
Telegram: Président de la République, Tunis, Tunisie
Fax: + 216 71 744 721
Salutation: Excellence/ Your Excellency


Minister of the Interior
M. Hédi Mhenni
Ministre de l'Intérieur
Ministère de Intérieur
Avenue Habib Bourguiba
1000 Tunis – Tunisie
Telegram: Ministre de l'Intérieur, Tunis, Tunisie
Fax: +216 71 340 888/ 340 880
E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Saluation: Monsieur le Ministre/ Your Excellency


Minister of Justice and Human Rights
M. Bechir Tekkari
Ministre de la Justice et de Droits de l’Homme
Ministère de la Justice et de Droits de l’Homme
31 Av. Bab Benat
1006 Tunis - La Kasbah – Tunisie
Telegram: Ministre de la Justice, Tunis, Tunisie
Fax: + 216 71 568 106
E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Saluation: Monsieur le Ministre/ Your Excellency


COPIES TO:

Official human rights body, reporting to the President:
Comité supérieur des droits de l'homme et des libertés fondamentales
Zakaria Ben Mustapha (Président)
85 avenue de la Liberté
1002 Tunis-Belvédère
Tunisie
Fax: + 216 71 796 593 / 784038


and to diplomatic representatives of Tunisia accredited to your country.

 
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY.

 

2. Send Sayfallah's family a message of support:

Souad Zeroual (wife)
Mohammad Ayadh Ben Hassine (son, 16)
Fida Ben Hassine (son, 14)
Hanin Ben Hassine (daughter, 11)







--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


 

SAMPLE LETTER

 
Dear

Re: Appeal for the immediate release of Sayfallah Ben Omar BEN HASSINE

I am writing to you to request your immediate attention to the case of Sayfallah Ben hassine who faces a serious violation of human rights in Tunisia. I request you to exercise your constitutional powers to prevent a grave miscarriage of justice in his case.

He was arrested in Turkey in February 2003 and subsequently extradited to Tunisia where he was unjustly tried in front of a military court and sentenced to 64 years in prison.

For many years Amnesty International has been protesting the trial of civilians in military courts because of the unfairness of the trials and the withdrawal of any right to appeal.

On top of this, Sayfallah suffers from asthma and chronic renal infections, and has also been refused visits from his family with authorities citing the reason that he has refused them. This is, in fact, highly unlikely and the likelihood is that it is being used as a punishment against Sayfallah.

Sayfallah has, on many occasions, been subjected to torture and ill treatment in prison due to his protests against his inhumane conditions of detention.  He informed his family that he has been refused permission to possess a Qur’an and in one instance was actually beaten on the face with a Qur’an.  He is isolated today from the external world and his family fears for his life and physical wellbeing.

Our initial concern is with Sayfallah’s safety and we urge you to push for him to be allowed family visitation rights so that his condition can be assessed. We also urge that he be tried fairly in a civilian court as there is a serious concern that trying civilians before military courts is a way to by-pass law 2000-43 of 17 April 2000 which modified provisions of the Penal Code (Code Pénal) by introducing a two-level legal system for criminal courts involving a right to appeal.

The charges made against Sayfallah are not clear and it is fundamental that he be tried in a fair manner where all of his rights are exercised in a civil court.

I look forward to hearing from you soon on this urgent matter,

Yours Sincerely,


[Your Signature]

[Your Name]
 

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