Amnesty International (AI) has asked the government of Tunisia to refrain from using excessive force to disperse protesters demonstrating against poverty and lack of job opportunities.

It is understood that young protesters in popular neighborhoods have broken curfew as protests escalate in the North African country.

The country’s Ministry of Interior has confirmed the arrest of 630 people, the majority of whom are minors, aged between 14 and 15.

The government imposed a four-day national lockdown from 14 to 17 January with a 4.00pm curfew in response to a rise in Covid-19 cases.

According to reports, the protests started in Siliana, 130 km from Tunis, and spread to other governorates after a video posted on social media showed a police officer violently reprimanding a shepherd whose sheep entered the courtyard of a local government building.

Protesters were reported to have been attacked with batons and tear gas to disperse their gathering, with human rights activist Hamza Nassri Jeridi arrested for interrogation.

‘Even when acts of vandalism and looting occur, law enforcement officers must only use force where absolutely necessary and proportionate’, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Amna Guellali, said.

‘Nothing gives security forces permission to deploy unnecessary and excessive force including when they are responding to acts of sporadic violence’.

‘Tunisian authorities must ensure that they immediately release Hamza Nassri Jeridi and anyone who was arrested solely for exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression’.

Source: Amnesty International

Photo source: Richard Potts

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