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Demonstrations in Tunisia spread to 15 states

Unemployed graduates shout slogans during a demonstration to demand the government provide them with job opportunities, on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis, Tunisia January 22, 2016
Unemployed graduates shout slogans during a demonstration to demand the government provide them with job opportunities, on Habib Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis, Tunisia January 22, 2016

REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi

This statement was originally published on article19.org on 22 January 2016.

Demonstrations in favour of dignity and employment were held in Kasserine after an unemployed man – Ridha Yahyaoui – had taken his own life there.

These protests then spread to 15 states. Police forces were deployed to deal with some of those protests, an action the authorities claimed was necessary to quell violent attacks.

A curfew has also been re-imposed, as of today, 22 January.

ARTICLE 19 calls for the protection of the right of the individuals to express their opinions and demands through demonstrations and protest actions.

“The reimposition of the curfew announced today by the government is a step in the wrong direction, which limits the right to protest, protected by the Constitution and international human rights standards,”affirmed Saloua Ghazouani, Director of ARTICLE 19 – Tunisia.

The Tunisian government is under a positive obligation to ensure that people are able to exercise their right to protest. Protection of public order may only be invoked as a reason to restrict this right when protesters threaten the very functioning of society, or the fundamental principles on which society is based, such as respect for human rights or the rule of law.

“Non-violent protests, including spontaneous, simultaneous and counter-protests, must be considered an essential characteristic of public order and not as a de facto danger to it, even when a protest causes inconvenience or disturbance,” Ghazouani stated. “The authorities must respect and ensure the people's right to protest, and any security force intervention must be limited to what is strictly necessary to maintain public order.

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