TUNISIA: PRISON VISIT ENDS 20-YEAR BAN
February 2, 2011: Tunisia's interim government allowed Human Rights Watch to visited two prisons, ending a 20-year ban on access by human rights organisations.
On February 2, the two-member Human Rights Watch delegation visited Bourj er-Roumi, a large prison complex near the city of Bizerte. The delegation visited Mornaguia Prison, Tunisia's biggest facility, on February 1.
"By granting us access, Tunisia's transitional government has taken a step toward transparency in its prison operations that we hope will continue and extend to local organizations," said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "The transitional government also needs to break with the inhumane treatment of prisoners practiced by the ousted government."
Human Rights Watch said the transitional government should allow Tunisia's 140 death-row prisoners to receive family visits like other prisoners and ease overcrowding. One of the first promises made on behalf of the transitional government was an imminent amnesty for all political prisoners.
A Justice Ministry official told Human Rights Watch that Tunisia has about 140 prisoners facing the death penalty, half of them in Mornaguia Prison, 14 kilometers west of Tunis.
The Justice Ministry said that at the time the transitional government took office, slightly more than 500 prisoners were being held for politically motivated offenses. (Sources: hrw.org, 04/02/2011)