Serious attacks on human rights and the right to freedom of expression both inside and outside the World Summit on the Information Society

24/11/2005
Press release

Open letter to

His Excellency Kofi A. Annan
Secretary-General
United Nations
Room 3800, United Nations Headquarters
New York, NY 10017

Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

This week in Tunis, at the World Summit on the Information Society, both inside and outside the official Summit, we have witnessed serious attacks on human rights and the right to freedom of expression. These attacks have included harassment of delegates, assaults on Tunisian and international journalists and human rights defenders, denial of entry to the country, the blocking of websites, the censorship of documents and speeches, and the prevention and disruption of meetings.

In advance of the Tunis Summit, civil society organisations expressed to you, in a joint letter of 1 October 2005, very serious concerns about the suitability of Tunisia as a host country. You kindly replied on 27 October 2005, when you indicated that you shared those concerns. You also outlined the measures the United Nations was taking to persuade Tunisia to comply with its international commitments on human rights.

The events this week in Tunis are the culmination of a preparatory process, commencing in Hammamet in June 2004, in which civil society participation and modus operandi have been severely disrupted as a result of the invasive presence of Tunisian government officials and their spokespeople throughout civil society meetings and structures. The holding of the Summit in Tunisia, under the auspices of the Tunisian government has not only put the spotlight on the host country’s poor human rights record, it has also brought into question the adequacy of United Nation’s mechanisms for civil society participation.

We believe it is essential that lessons are learnt from what has taken place here this week and we therefore call upon you, the Secretary General of the United Nations, to launch a full investigation into the attacks on human rights and freedom of expression that we have witnessed in Tunisia both in the run-up to and during the World Summit on the Information Society. We ask you to closely monitor the follow-up period in Tunisia.

We also ask you to undertake a thorough-going review of procedures leading up to the choice of host country, the protocols for host country agreements with UN agencies and the commitments required of the host country. We further ask you to revise the UN rules for civil society accreditation to ECOSOC and to UN conferences in order to end the exclusion of civil society organisations where the basis for that exclusion is a decision of an individual government with no right of appeal to any independent commission.

This week has reminded us of the importance of being constantly vigilant and of the courage of those who speak out in the face of repression and censorship. We know you share many of our concerns and we sincerely hope you will act swiftly on our requests.

Yours

Meryem Marzouki, President, IRIS (Imaginons un réseau Internet solidaire - France)
Steve Buckley, President, AMARC (World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters)
Sidiki Kaba, President, FIDH (Federation Internationale des Droits de l’Homme)
Chantal Peyer and Wolf Ludwig, Comunica-CH (Swiss Platform on the Information Society)
Anriette Esterhuysen, Executive Director, APC (Association for Progressive Communications)
Eric Sottas, Director, OMCT (Organisation Mondial Contre la Torture)
Sean O Siochru, CRIS (Communication Rights in the Information Society)
Mark Bench, Executive Director, WPFC (World Press Freedom Committee)
Agnes Callamard, Executive Director, Article 19
Rikke Frank Joergensen, Digital Rights - Denmark
Robin Gross, IP Justice
Sara Wyatt, International PEN Writers in Prison Committee
Bob Carty, CJFE (Canadian Journalists for Free Expression)
Mokhtar Trifi, President, LTDH (Ligue Tunisienne pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme)
Sihem Bensedrine, Spokesperson, CNLT (Conseil National pour les Libertés en Tunisie)
Naziha Rjiba, Deputy President, OLPEC (Observatoire pour la Liberté de Presse, d’Edition et de Création)
Radhia Nasraoui, President, ALTT (Association de Lutte contre la Torture en Tunisie)
Lotfi Hajji, President, SJT (Syndicat des journalistes tunisiens)
Ali Ben Salem, President, ANAR (Amicale Nationale des Anciens Résistants)
Mohamed Nouri, President, AISPP (Association Internationale pour le soutien aux prisonniers politiques)
Fathi Chamkhi, Président, RAID-Attac (Rassemblement pour une Alternative Internationale de Développement)
Jalloul Azouna, Président, AEL (Association des Ecrivains Libres)
Carlos Afonso, RITS, (Rede de Informações para o Terceiro Setor, Brazil)
Milena Bokova, Executive Director, BlueLink Information Network, Bulgaria
Hamada Tadahisa, JCANet, Japan
Al Alegre, Director, FMA (Foundation for Media Alternatives, Philippines)
Roberto Bissio, Executive Director, ITeM (Instituto del Tercer Mundo, Uruguay)
Ziad Abdel Samad, Executive Director, ANND (Arab NGO Network for Development)
Alexis Krikorian, IPA (International Publishers Association)
Tuula Haavisto, WSIS Coordinator, IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions)
William Drake, President, CPSR (Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility)
Danièle Lenzin and Roland Kreuzer, Co-presidents of comedia - the Swiss media union.

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