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UN official says 300 killed during Tunisian uprising, torture still continues

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A senior United Nations official says around 300 people were killed and 700 injured in the December-January Tunisian uprising that toppled Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.

The new figure provided by the official, Juan Mendez, is substantially higher than the previous toll issued by Tunisia’s interim administration in mid-February, which had put the death toll at 234. Mr. Mendez did not specify the number of injured.

Mr. Mendez, who is the UN’s special representative on issues related to torture, also said that people have been tortured since the revolution and urged Tunisian authorities to carry out “aggressive” investigations into widespread torture during the authoritarian rule of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

“Cases do still happen and the government should not be complacent,” Mr. Mendez told reporters. “I do not think we can say that it is widespread or systematic.”

Mr. Mendez, a lawyer, was concluding a weeklong mission to Tunisia where he met with the interim government, civil groups and victims. He said officials were in agreement that torture had to be stamped out, but urged them to act immediately.

Radhia Nasraoui, Tunisian rights activist, said that about 100 people had been tortured to death by the Ben Ali regime and that the abuses were continuing under the interim administration.

“We have had accounts from prisoners who have been tortured after the revolution and some of them have even been raped,” she told Agence-France Presse.

Youths as young as 14 and 15 who had taken part in peaceful demonstrations were among those subjected to torture, Ms. Nasraoui said.

“I think there is no political will to stop these savage practices—at least in a firm way,” she added. “We have the impression that the police have been given the green light to torture.”

In February a UN human rights mission urged Tunisia to investigate and prosecute alleged violations perpetrated by Mr. Ben Ali’s security forces during the uprising, when scores of people were killed.

(Mustapha Ajbaili, an editor at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at: [email protected])