MRG denounces police attack and false charges against consultant Arroi Baraket
Minority Rights Group (MRG) condemns the attack by police officers on Arroi Baraket in Tunis on the night of 17 September 2021. MRG stands firmly in solidarity with Arroi, who serves MRG as Tunisia Communications Officer and is a well-known Tunisian journalist and feminist activist.
Arroi was in a car with two friends returning home when they were stopped by a police patrol a few minutes after the start time of the curfew imposed to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. After signing the statement of the fine for breaching the curfew, they got back into the car to return home. When a police officer saw Arroi filming the street with her phone, he opened the door and brutally threw himself on her and beat her. Although she insisted the video did not show the police, that she is a journalist and that she has the right to film, the officer did not stop abusing her until he obtained her phone.
Subsequently, Arroi went to the other officers in the scene to complain about this illegal and violent practice. She demanded that her phone be returned and to contact a lawyer to accompany her to the nearest police station where she could file a complaint against the officer who attacked her. However, the officer continued insulting and photographing her, and threatened her by saying he was a “unionist” and had “someone to protect him.” He continued to mock her as she asserted that she would not surrender her right to hold him accountable for the verbal and physical abuse committed. Arroi’s friends contacted a lawyer and went to the Al-Khadra neighbourhood police station with the intent to file a complaint against the officer. On arrival, Arroi learned that she was being accused and that her claim as a victim had been ignored.
Hours after rewriting the report due to the false information it contained against her, she was presented at five o’clock in the morning to the Public Prosecution Office as an accused. After being interrogated by the assistant attorney general, she was released and told to present herself before the public prosecution on Tuesday, 21 September 2021.
Police intimidation and harassment is a recurring issue in Tunisia, symptomatic of a climate of abuse and brutality. In Arroi’s case, from the moment of the physical assault she faced a set of violations derived by a regressive patriarchal mentality that seeks domination over women, their bodies and violate their rights. The police officer’s behaviour stems from this mentality and reveals a deeply embedded bullying attitude against women aimed to silence and discourage the filing of a complaint by creating a climate of fear of repercussions and social stigma.
MRG unequivocally condemns this behaviour. We demand that the false charges against Arroi are immediately dropped and that the police officer is investigated with a view to disciplinary action. Police authorities must take measures to counter such abuse of power by individuals in their ranks.
For more information contact the MRG Press Office.
This statement was updated on 21 September 2021 as more information was made available.
Photo: Arroi conducting interviews in Tunis in her capacity as a journalist in 2015.