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Tunisia: UN and African experts on rights defenders in first official visit to North Africa since ‘Arab Spring’

GENEVA (26 September 2012) – The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, and the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Reine Alapini-Gansou, will visit Tunisia from 27 September to 5 October 2012. It is the first official visit of the UN and African Commission experts on human rights defenders to North Africa since the popular uprising which has swept the region since December 2010.

“Human rights defenders have played an essential part in the call for democracy, justice and human rights across the region. Moreover, the ‘Arab Spring’ appears to have contributed to greater awareness of human rights among the population and to the emergence of a new generation of human rights defenders,” said Ms. Sekaggya. “We are intrigued and excited to observe the working conditions of defenders of all generations in the country that in many ways triggered the ‘Arab Spring.’”

“Our aim is to evaluate the situation of human rights defenders in Tunisia in an objective and impartial manner”, added Ms. Alapini-Gansou. “This is a unique opportunity to provide observations and recommendations on Tunisia’s legal framework, institutions and other factors influencing the situation of defenders.”

The Special Rapporteurs, who are visiting the country at the invitation of the Tunisian authorities, are scheduled to meet with Government officials, representatives of the legislative and judicial branches, a broad range of civil society actors, the United Nations and diplomatic delegations. They will visit Tunis, Jendouba, Le Kef and Sidi Bouzid.

The two experts will hold a press conference in Tunis at the Novotel Mohammed V at the end of the visit on 5 October 2012 at 11:00, to present their preliminary findings and recommendations.

A final report on the visit will be presented by Margaret Sekaggya to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2013. Reine Alapini-Gansou will present her report to the African Commission’s 53rd Session in April 2013.

Margaret Sekaggya was appointed Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders by the Human Rights Council in March 2008. Ms. Sekaggya is a lawyer from Uganda with over 30 years of experience with justice and human rights issues, including as Chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission, as a judge and as a university lecturer. She is independent from any Government and serves in her individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SRHRDefenders/Pages/SRHRDefendersIndex.aspx

Reine Alapini-Gansou, a lawyer from Benin, was appointed Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in November 2011 for a second term, having previously held the same function from 2005 to 2009. From 2009 to 2011 Ms. Alapini-Gansou served as Chairperson of the ACHPR. For more information, visit: http://www.achpr.org/mechanisms/human-rights-defenders/

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Tunisia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/MENARegion/Pages/TNIndex.aspx

For further information and media enquiries, please contact:
In Geneva (before the visit): Dolores Infante-Cañibano (+ 41 22 917 9768 / dinfante@ohchr.org).
In Tunis (during the visit): Leila Ben Mcharek (+216 71 286 270 / lbenmcharek@ohchr.org).

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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