Tunisia: Protect asylum seeker’s right to safety

Tunisia: Protect asylum seeker’s right to safety - Protection

The undersigned organisations express their deep concern about warnings from the Tunisian government that it may return  asylum seeker Zakaria Hannache back to Algeria, given the very serious risks to his safety if such action is taken.

Zakaria Hannache, an Algerian human rights defender, has been living in Tunisia since August 2022. Algerian authorities prosecuted him in February 2022 on spurious charges, including charges of ‘apology for terrorism’ and ‘undermining national unity’, for which he faces up to 35 years in prison, solely for exercising his freedom of expression through his work publishing information and documenting the arrests of prisoners of conscience.

Tunisian authorities must under no circumstances repeat the dangerous precedent set by the deportation of Algerian refugee Slimane Bouhafs on 25 August, 2021, which resulted in Bouhafs being kidnapped and then jailed. Bouhafs had been granted refugee status at the time of his incarceration. To date, no investigation has been opened in Tunisia about the case.

After spending several weeks in prison in Algeria and then being granted provisional release in March 2022, Mr. Hannache continued to be subject to significant intimidation and pressure in Algeria, and following this he came to Tunisia in August 2022. On 9 November, Mr. Hannache was informed that he had been summoned to the court of Sidi M’hamed in Algiers for a hearing as part of his trial. The hearing was postponed indefinitely and could now be scheduled at any point.

Multiple international human rights organisations, as well as several United Nations Special Procedures, have highlighted the excessively vague nature of the Algerian Penal Code, as well as its threats to the right to a fair trial and the proper functioning of justice. Anti-terrorist legislation has notably been used arbitrarily and almost systematically since 2021 to target peaceful activists and journalists.

In a communication made public on 14 November, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders expressed ‘serious concerns’ about the arrest and detention of Mr. Hannache, as well as ‘the charges against him, which appear directly related to his work as a human rights defender’.

Our organisations emphasise that, as an asylum seeker, Mr. Hannache is protected by the 1951 Geneva Convention, its 1967 Protocol and by the 1984 Convention against Torture, ratified by Tunisia, under which the authorities are required to protect him and to not return him to Algeria under any conditions, in particular in view of the risk of his arbitrary imprisonment and ill-treatment, to which he has been and would be exposed to in Algeria.

Consequently, our organisations demand that Tunisian authorities at the highest levels respect their international commitments with regards to the right to asylum, and that they ensure that human rights defenders can carry out their legitimate activities without hindrance, regardless of their nationality, including in the context of their bilateral security cooperations.


Signatory organisations:

  1. Action for Change and Democracy in Algeria (ACDA)
  2. Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH)
  3. Al Karama for Rights and Freedoms (Tunisia)
  4. Amnesty International – Tunisia Section
  5. Article 19
  6. Association for the Defense of Individual Freedoms (ADLI-Tunisia)
  7. Association for the Defense of Human Rights in Morocco (ASDHOM)
  8. Association for the Promotion of the Right to Difference (ADD-Tunisia)
  9. Association of Maghrebian Workers in France (ATMF)
  10. Association of Moroccans in France (AMF)
  11. Autonomous General Confederation of Administration Workers (CGATA-Algérie)
  12. Beity Association (Tunisia)
  13. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  14. Collective for the Families of the Disappeared in Algeria (CFDA)
  15. Collective of Lawyers for Change and Dignity (CACD-Algeria)
  16. Committee for the Respect of Freedoms and Human Rights in Tunisia
  17. Damj – Tunisian Association for Justice and Equality
  18. Dancers Citizens South (Tunisia)
  19. Euro Mediterranean Federation against Enforced Disappearances (FEMED)
  20. Euromed Rights
  21. Front Line Defenders
  22. Hassan El Saadawi Foundation for Democracy and Equality (Tunisia)
  23. IBTYKAR (Algeria)
  24. Intersection Action for Rights and Freedom (Tunisia)
  25. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  26. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  27. Lawyers without Borders (ASF)
  28. Legal Agenda – Tunisia
  29. Marsad Nissa (Tunisia)
  30. Mawjoudin We Exist (Tunisia)
  31. MENA Rights Group
  32. Mnemty – Tunisian Association for the Support of Minorities
  33. Nachaaz (Tunisia)
  34. National Autonomous Union of Public Administration Professionals (SNAPAP-Algérie)
  35. National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT)
  36. Organization Against Torture in Tunisia (OCTT)
  37. Psychologists of the World – Tunisia
  38. Riposte Internationale (Algeria)
  39. SOS Disappeared (Algeria)
  40. Soumoud Coalition (Tunisia)
  41. Taqallam for Freedom of Speech and Creativity (Tunisia)
  42. Tawhida Ben Cheikh Group (Tunisia)
  43. Tharwa N’Fadhma N’Soumeur (Algeria)
  44. The Organization of Freedom Martyr Nabil Barakati: Memory and Loyalty (Tunisia)
  45. Tunisian Association for Cultural Action (ATAC)
  46. Tunisian Association for Positive Prevention
  47. Tunisian Association for the Support of Minorities (ATSM)
  48. Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (ATFD)
  49. Tunisian Alliance for Dignity and Rehabilitation
  50. Tunisian Federation for Citizenship of the Two Shores (FTCR)
  51. Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES)
  52. Tunisian League for Human Rights ( LTDH)
  53. Tunisian Network for Transitional Justice
  54. Union of Tunisians for Citizen Action (UTAC)
  55. World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders