U.N.: Tunisia efforts to eradicate torture ‘disappointing’

In May, Tunisia formed a 'truth and dignity commission' to identify and compensate victims

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A senior U.N. official on Friday criticized Tunisia’s efforts to eradicate torture, which was widespread under the former regime ousted in a 2011 revolt.

“There are very encouraging developments” on the human rights front in Tunisia, U.N. special rapporteur on torture Juan E. Mendez told reporters as he wound up a brief visit.

But he added: “There are more disappointing results when it comes specifically to torture.”

In May, Tunisia formed a “truth and dignity commission” to identify and compensate victims abused under decades of dictatorship.

Torture was widespread during the rule of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the longtime president ousted in 2011.

The commission is made up of human rights activists, representatives of victim groups, opponents of Ben Ali and judges.

It is tasked with identifying voluntary homicide, rape, extrajudicial killings and torture, as well as economic crimes and corruption.

Mendez said “many complaints” were now being submitted because Tunisians were “no longer afraid of filing complaints of torture”.

“Unfortunately there’s very little action by prosecutors and by judges in pursuing the cases,” he said.

“It’s difficult to know how pervasive the practice is but it’s certainly not isolated,” said Mendez.

Human rights groups say abuse remains common in Tunisian prisons and that many ex-regime officials still hold jobs within the security services.

Mendez also criticized prison conditions in Tunisia, saying it had only 23 full-time doctors and 24 nurses for 24,000 detainees and “zero psychologists”.

Tunisian authorities must invest to rehabilitate prisons and provide detainees with a measure of “dignity”, he said.

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