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Tortured to confess

Hafid*, 37 years old, Center-West of Tunisia

In January 2021, Hafid, an activist, was arrested at his home in the middle of the night without an arrest warrant. He was severely assaulted at the time of his arrest, and was later tortured at the police station and forced to sign statements accusing him of inciting protests, among other things. Like him, hundreds of young Tunisians were arrested in January in response to the wave of protests that hit the country. Many were beaten while arrested and held in police custody without the assistance of a lawyer, then remanded in custody and sentenced on the basis of falsified reports or for minor infractions.

From January 14, 2021, demonstrations multiplied in the country to denounce the economic and political marginalization of Tunisian youth and to condemn police violence and persistent impunity of security forcese. The protests were severely repressed. Nearly 1,600 alleged protesters were arrested, including Hafid, who did not participate in the protests but is a known activist.

One night in January, a dozen police officers burst into Hafid's home. They broke down his door, arrested him, handcuffed him, held him against the wall and beat him with their fists. He was even hit in the face with a tear gas canister. Then the officers dragged him to a police car and beat him on the way to the police station.

Once arrived at the police station, Hafid was beaten, especially in his face, and the agents forced him to give them access to his social networking accounts on his phone. Then two agents stripped him off his clothes and photographed him in order to humiliate him. In the middle of the night, he was forced to sign protocols that he was not able to read and which he later found out accused him of rebellion, defamation and incitement to participate in the demonstrations. At no time was he able to inform his family of his arrest, nor was he able to contact a lawyer.

Hafid was then transferred to the district where he spent three days in police custody and was then presented to a prosecutor. Thanks to the lawyers present that day, the prosecutor took note of the allegations and signs of violence presented by the detainee and ordered his release. Hafid filed a complaint, but six months later, he still has not been heard for the investigation.

Hundreds of other people arrested in January in the context of the protest movement were confronted by prosecutors complicit with the police who ordered their remand in custody, sometimes without even seeing them, and without considering allegations of violence and other systematic violations by the police of the rules surrounding police custody.