For decades, most of Tunisia’s political prisoners were held at Ennadhour, in squalid conditions, often in dark and humid underground isolation cells. At an official closing event, journalists, NGOs and UN Human Rights office representatives were allowed into the prison. The Tunisian Government has announced it intends to convert the prison into a national museum, which the Justice Minister Nour Eldein Bouhairi said reflected his country’s “political will to break with dictatorship and terrorism.”
Ennadhour’s closure “sends a strong symbolic signal that Tunisia is slowly shedding the horrific practices of its past, when political prisoners would be subject to such conditions for merely exercising their human rights,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
While welcoming the Tunisian authorities’ decision to close Ennadhour prison, Pillay stressed that more needs to be done to improve detention conditions in Tunisia.
She noted, in particular that “pre-trial detainees account for more than 50 percent of the prison population in the country, largely due to the prolonged nature of pre-trial detention in Tunisia.”
During its first assessment mission to Tunisia after the revolution of January 2011, a high-level delegation from the Office of the High Commissioner had visited Ennadhour prison and urged the authorities to close it down. Its 420 inmates have now been transferred to other facilities.
In March of this year, experts from the UN Human Rights office in Tunisia visited another seven prisons across the country and expressed serious concerns about conditions, in particular overcrowding. The findings were presented to the Government.
In April, during her visit to Tunisia, Deputy High Commissioner Kyun-wha Kang reiterated that the Office will continue monitoring prisons and will accompany the Tunisian Government in its democratic transition and institutional reforms.
A broad technical cooperation programme between the Ministries of Justice, Human Rights and Transitional Justice, and the UN Human Rights office and UN Development Programme is slated to be signed in the next few weeks. The programme will include provisions for human rights training for prison administration and for prison reform in line with international best practices.
4 May 2012