When Abdulmajid Jadi left his home in the Salamah District in Beer Hafi to Sidi Bouzid on May 12, to finish some paper work, he never thought it would be his last day alive. The following day, the police announced that Jadi committed suicide in his cell, but his family  accuses the policemen of torturing their son to death.

Suspicious death

When Abdulmajid Jadi left his home in the Salamah District in Beer Hafi to Sidi Bouzid on May 12, to finish some paper work, he never thought it would be his last day alive. The following day, the police announced that Jadi committed suicide in his cell, but his family  accuses the policemen of torturing their son to death.

Suspicious death

Riyadh Jadi, Abdulhamid’s younger brother, said his doubts about the disappearance of his brother started at 9:00 am on May 12 because Jadi did not answer his phone.  After long hours of waiting and searching, the family was informed that Jadi was being detained by the National Guards in Sidi Bouzid on a charge of car theft.

He was previously detained in February on the same charge and was beaten, tortured, dragged and tied; he was later acquitted. According to his brother, in mid-April, Jadi filed a lawsuit against members of the investigative division in the National Guards Department in Sidi Bouzid.

Riyadh explained, with great sadness, that Jadi was arrested by the same policemen and on the same charge. After his family learned of his arrest, Riyadh was prevented from seeing his brother at the detention center. The next day, they received a phone call from the National Guards Department informing them that their son committed suicide in his cell.

The family dismissed the policemen’s version of the story and accused those who investigated him that same day of torturing their son to death. “Abdulmajid is not the kind of person to commit suicide. He was attacked and tortured to death,” his brother insisted.

This hypothesis was adopted by the Tunisian Anti-Torture Organization and the Tunisian Association for Human Rights which issued a statement demanding the authorities to conduct an investigation immediately to find out the truth behind this dubious death.

The family insists on prosecuting the policemen involved in torturing their son. The investigation judge in Sidi Bouzid, said Riyadh, heard the family’s statement and said that his family would not give up on finding out the truth behind the death of their son.

Torture is increasing

Abdulmoneim Zayyani, a street vendor, was also the victim of a dubious death. He got into a dispute with a policeman due to illegal trade in one of Tunis’ streets. According to the Tunisian Anti-Torture Organization, Zayyani told his family that he was badly tortured, beaten and received electric shocks at the detention center, which caused him severe pain in different parts of his body.

Zayyani’s health deteriorated and he became unable to eat and fell into a coma. He then underwent two surgeries on his neck; however, he did not improve and his family received the news of his death at the end of April.

Tunisian Anti-Torture Organization believes that these two deaths were a result  of torture and abuse and highlighted in its May report that it counted 23 cases of torture, violence and abuse throughout May.

These cases featured the use of humiliating methods in attacking arrested people and detainees in the streets, in front of their families, inside the administrative cars and within the security centers as well as prisons. The report revealed that charges are often fabricated and that they are arrested and brought to justice on charges by humiliating security forces and then convicted.  

On May 2, Bayya and her two daughters Zaineb and Sumaiya were beaten and arrested in the Malasin District, where a public force started to execute a verdict to demolish their home. They were taken to the police station in the Hilal neighborhood where they were abused verbally and physically. They were beaten by a chair and kicked while they were bent over. The victims said they were thrown to the ground and their heads were put above each other in a humiliating way. Then, the shocked mother and daughters were brought to justice. They were accused of assaulting a civil servant.  

Obstructive judiciary

Radhya Nasrawi, Chairman of the Tunisian Anti-Torture Organization, said that torture did not stop after the revolution; on the contrary, it increased. She described the recent torture cases as “horrific,” stressing that the organization is receiving daily complaints about instances of torture in the detention centers and prisons to obtain confessions or because the detainees are not respecting the procedures or due to disputes with policemen.

Nasrawi underlined that the Tunisian law considers torture a crime punishable by eight years in prison up to a death sentence, when torture leads to a dangerous injury or death. “What makes me sad is that the authorities are denying the existence of this phenomenon, which is very dangerous,” said Nasrawi.

Despite the accusations of the human rights organizations, the Ministry of Interior is denying that policemen are involved in torture. In terms of the judiciary, the torture victims are faced with obstructing the course of justice.

“Of the 400 law suits which were filed after the revolution, only 20 came before a judge or about 5% of the total cases,” said Munzer Sharni, the representative of the Tunisian Anti-Torture Organization. 

According to the organization’s data, there were 295 torture cases during 2013 and 2014 in which policemen, prison guards, national guards and other parties were involved.

Sharni said what obstructs these suits is that they are filed against unknown people, since the torture victims do not know the names of their tormentors and most of these suits are filed based on a chapter concerned about the violent attacks by civil servants and they are not dealt with like the other suits. Therefore, there are no suits under the label “torture” in the courts’ archive. Today, most of the law suits which are filed by torture victims are dealt with slowly on the level of preliminary investigations and are discarded, since they are filed against unknown people.     

The government is following up

Maher Kaddour, Head of the Human Rights Cell in the Ministry of Interior, said the ministry is keen on being open to all national and international human rights organizations and it is in the process of implementing joint projects with them to establish new foundations for the security sector based on guaranteeing human rights and respecting the detainees’ rights and retaining their dignities.

Kaddour added that the cases identified by the Tunisian Anti-Torture Organization and others are being followed up by the ministry with the needed seriousness and are being investigated to find out the truth, stressing that they represent individual cases rather than general practices.

In addition to the reports of the human rights organizations, the ministry, Kaddour said, has its own monitoring mechanism, namely four inspection committees which make secret and public visits to the detention centers to detect any offenses.

He stressed that the ministry is in the process of implementing joint projects with international organizations to improve the basic structure of the detention centers and train the policemen in all of the Tunisian areas as well as in all sectors to acquire a culture of respecting human rights when dealing with detainees. He added that the ministry needs financial support in this regard.