Tunisia-Human Rights Watch calls for release of Ex-Justice Minister Noureddine Bhiri “Arbitrarily Detained

Human Rights Watch today declared that Tunisian authorities should immediately release former justice minister Noureddine Bhiri

Plainclothes police intercepted Bhiri on December 31, 2021 outside his home in Tunis and forced him into their vehicle, without showing an arrest warrant. His family did not know his whereabouts until he was taken to a hospital in Bizerte on January 2, 2022, where he remains under police guard. Fathi Beldi, a former Interior Ministry employee, was detained the same day in similar circumstances. His whereabouts have not been revealed.  

“The abduction-style detention of Noureddine Bhiri and Fathi Beldi demonstrates the growing threat to human rights protections since President Saied’s power grab last July,” said Eric Goldstein, acting Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should free Bhiri and Beldi now or, if they have evidence of an actual crime, charge them under the law. It’s that simple.”


The authorities have disclosed no formal charges against Bhiri. However, on the day he was seized, the Interior Ministry issued a statement referring to two unnamed people detained within the framework of a 1978 emergency decree, presumably Bhiri and Beldi. Judicial authorities, who normally oversee prosecutions, have not commented on either case.

While Charfeddine said the affair carried a “suspicion of terrorism,” he did not explain why protecting national security required placing persons in preventive confinement, without charge, bypassing the normal judicial process, for acts allegedly committed nine years ago. The next day, the judiciary stated that it had been investigating the allegations since December 24.

Men in civilian clothes intercepted Beldi, 55, near his home in Tunis on December 31 and forced him into an unmarked car, one of his lawyers, Latifa al-Habachi, told Human Rights Watch. The next day, police phoned Beldi’s brother Hichem to tell him to drop off some of Beldi’s belongings at a National Guard post in Borj al-Amri, in al-Manouba province, west of Tunis, without disclosing Beldi’s location.

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