In the first month since his assumption of exceptional powers, Tunisian president Kais Saied has overseen the widespread use of “unlawful and arbitrary” travel bans.
Amnesty International has documented the cases of at least 50 people – including judges, senior state officials and civil servants, businessmen and a parliamentarian – who have been barred from travelling abroad over the past month.
The bans have been imposed without judicial authorisation or written explanation, and no timeframes have been specified.
The total number of people facing travel bans since 25 July is likely to be far greater than the 50 so far identified, warned Amnesty.
In a speech at Tunis airport on 16 August, President Saied referred to recent criticism of the travel bans claiming he did not wish to undermine the right to freedom of movement. He justified the restrictions on the grounds that they formed part of efforts to prevent people suspected of corruption or of posing a security threat from leaving the country.
However, Amnesty’s review of these 50 cases shows that those banned from travelling had no court cases or judicial investigations against them. Instead, those banned from travelling were verbally informed by airport security officials that this was a decision by the Ministry of Interior, or, in one case, a decision by “high officials in the presidential palace”.
Tunisian Law no. 75-40 (1975), which regulates the issuance of travel documents, stipulates that the judicial authorities are the sole entity authorised to issue a travel ban.
Amnesty is urging President Saied and the relevant authorities to end the use of arbitrary travel bans and respect freedom of movement. Any restrictions on the right of free movement must be necessary and proportionate, and subject to meaningful judicial review.