Charges against Rape Victim a Sign of Police Impunity in Tunisia
Freedom House is appalled that a Tunisian woman who claimed she was raped by two police officers has been charged with "premeditated indecency" after a court hearing on October 2. The judge presiding over the case filed charges against her despite her allegations that officers raped her and attempted to extort money from her fiancé, after the couple was confronted in their car on September 3. The court's decision highlights the ongoing impunity and lack of accountability for police in the Tunisian judicial system. Authorities must drop all charges against the couple and hold a fair trial in response to the allegations brought against the officers.
According to the victim, on September 3, three police officers approached her and her fiancé while in their car, and while two officers raped the woman, another officer took her fiancé to an ATM and attempted to extort money from him. The woman filed a formal complaint against the officers, accusing them of rape and extortion, and the officers responded by accusing the woman and her fiancé of ‘indecency.’ Indecency charges are punishable in Tunisia by up to six months in prison. The three police officers responsible for the woman’s rape are in custody but have not yet been brought to trial. A protest in support of the victims was held on October 2, with several hundred participants demanding justice and an end to police brutality.
Tunisia is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2012, Freedom of the Press 2012 and Freedom on the Net 2012. In recent months, several high-profile cases of police brutality and violence against free expression advocates have raised questions about the country's path toward democracy. Recently, police have perpetrated or failed to intervene in brutality directed at journalists, opposition politicians and artists. In April 2012, police instigated a violent crackdown against protesters during a demonstration on Avenue Habib Bourguiba. On August 5, peaceful protesters attempting to stage a demonstration on the same street were beaten and chased by police. In September 2012, a man accused of robbery was beaten to death by police, and four police were subsequently arrested and are awaiting trial. In a recent protest that devolved into violent destruction of property at the American Embassy and an attached school, internal security forces were heavily criticized by both American and Tunisian officials for not providing adequate security.