B Explanatory memorandum by Mrs Brasseur,
1. On 14 January 2011, the President of Tunisia, Mr
Ben Ali, fled the country and flew to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. His
departure was the culminating point in what the Tunisians now call
“the Jasmine Revolution”.
In this memorandum, I will first provide a timeline of events
in Tunisia which, starting as local unrest over poor social and
economic conditions, have evolved into a nation-wide protest movement
and put an end to Mr Ben Ali’s twenty-three years of rule over the
- On 17 December 2010,
a young street fruit vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire
in a town called Sidi Bouzid, in central Tunisia, in a protest against
the seizure of his merchandise by the police. This desperate move
triggered a wave of protests mobilising local youth. Mr Bouazizi
was taken to hospital in a critical condition.
- On 19 December, as protests in Sidi Bouzid got stronger,
the police made use of tear gas to disperse the crowd.
- On 24 December, as protests spread across the country,
the police fired at the protesters in Bouziane (central Tunisia),
- On 27 December, mass protests spread to Tunis, the capital
of the country. A rally of about 1 000 young jobless graduates was
brutally dispersed by the police.
- On 28 December, President Ben Ali made a first televised
speech and referred to protesters as “a minority of extremists and
agitators paid by others and being against their country’s interests”.
- On 29 December, the Prime Minister, Mohamed Ghannouchi,
dismissed four ministers, including the Minister for Information.
However, the protest movement continued to spread over the provinces.
- On 31 December, President Ben Ali made a new speech on
television and promised “to better take into account the needs of
the vulnerable categories of the population”, and “to start in 2011
a new round of social negotiations”. In the meantime, another protester
was shot dead during a stand-off between the police and the demonstrators.
- On 4 January 2011, Mohamed Bouazizi died in hospital.
- On 6 January, thousands of lawyers went on strike to protest
against the police repression. In addition to demands for jobs,
the protesters started to put forward political slogans, demanding
- On 9 and 10 January, violent clashes between the police
and the protesters spread to various regions of the country and
dozens of deaths were reported. The government acknowledged 14 deaths.
President Ben Ali spoke on television again, and referred to “terrorist
acts by foreign elements”, while promising to create 300 000 new
jobs within two years.
- On 11 January, as the protest movement hit the suburbs
of Tunis, the government acknowledged 21 deaths since the beginning
of the unrest.
- On 12 January, President Ben Ali dismissed the Minister
of the Interior and introduced a curfew in and around Tunis.
- On 13 January, as mass protests continued to gain ground,
President Ben Ali appeared on television again and promised not
to seek a new term of office after 2014. He also ordered the police
not to shoot at protesters, and promised to guarantee the freedom
of the media.
- On 14 January, contrary to the expectations of the president,
a new large-scale demonstration was organised in the capital, asking
him to quit. Mr Ben Ali dismissed the government, dissolved the parliament
and called early parliamentary elections in six months. He then
decreed an emergency situation and a curfew throughout the whole
country. In the late afternoon Mr Ghannouchi announced that President
Ben Ali was “not in a capacity to fulfil his duties”. Rumours of
Mr Ben Ali’s departure from Tunisia spread through the capital.
- On 15 January, the Speaker of the Parliament, Foued Mebazaa,
was sworn in as interim President and he asked Mr Ghannouchi to
form a “national unity government”. Several members of Mr Ben Ali’s
inner circle were arrested. Several clashes between the army and
the presidential guard sparked in the suburbs of Tunis. There were
also instances of looting of villas and shops by the crowds.
- On 17 January, Mr Ghannouchi unveiled the composition
of the new government. For the first time, leaders of three major
opposition parties were invited to join it. At the same time, several
key figures of the former regime, including the Ministers for the
Interior and for Foreign Affairs, remained in power. In the meantime,
demonstrations continued in Tunis and other cities, demanding the
dismissal of those politicians linked to the former regime, and
the disbanding of the former ruling RCD party.
3. I wish to pay tribute to the courage and determination of
the Tunisian people who, despite violent repression, have clearly
shown the will to put an end to authoritarian rule and to transform
Tunisia into a free, open and democratic country. I also wish to
commend the attitude of the Tunisian army, which offered protection
to the people during the troubles without interfering in politics.
On the contrary, the role played by the police and by the presidential
guard needs to be thoroughly investigated.
4. The first steps announced by the leader of the provisional
government included the release of political prisoners, the lifting
of restrictions on the activities of political parties and human
rights groups (such as the Tunisian League for Human Rights), and
the pledge to guarantee the freedom of the media. The Ministry of Information,
which had combined the functions of censorship and propaganda, has
reportedly been dissolved.
5. In this connection, we must insist on the importance of a
free flow of, and a full and unhindered access to, information,
including on the Internet. The Web played a significant role in
mobilising the people across the country.
6. The return to the country of a number of politicians and public
figures who had lived in exile is an encouraging sign of change
7. That said, since its establishment, there has been some confusion
about the provisional government, as several of the newly appointed
ministers said they were resigning. The government first met some
days ago and it is not clear whether the meeting was actually attended
by all members.
8. The authorities announced that, during the four weeks of protests,
a total of 78 people were killed and ordered three days of national
mourning for the victims. However, according to the United Nations
High Commissioner for Human Rights, more than 100 people were killed
in these events.
9. We must condemn unequivocally the use of violence against
protesters. We regret the loss of dozens of lives, and express our
sympathy to the families of the victims and to those injured. The
use of arms against peaceful citizens needs to be thoroughly investigated
and those responsible must be called to account. Incidents of violence,
looting and destruction of property on the part of some elements
among the protesters are of course also to be regretted as these
acts are detrimental to the cause of the protest movement.
10. The provisional authorities must now move quickly towards
political liberalisation with a view to creating conditions for
a pluralist political process involving the whole spectrum of Tunisian
society. This includes a speedy announcement of a date for elections
and the holding of free and fair elections fully in line with international
11. We should encourage all political forces to contribute in
a constructive way to the setting up of an agenda for reform. Based
on our experience, and without trying to interfere in Tunisian affairs,
I suggest, in the draft resolution, some elements that could be
considered by the Tunisian authorities in the process of reform.
12. We should also not lose sight of the fact that the political
transformation in Tunisia may set in motion similar processes in
other countries of the region.
13. I should stress that, even if the main causes for the events
in Tunisia have their origin in Mr Ben Ali’s policies, Europe also
has its share of responsibility since it failed to condemn the nature
of the regime, preferring to take advantage of its apparent stability
for carrying out its business.
In this respect, I recall that, in Resolution 1731
(2010) on Euro-Mediterranean
region: call for a Council of Europe strategy, which was adopted
in April 2010 (report by Mr Badré, France, ALDE), the Assembly stated that
peace and stability in the Mediterranean can only be secured on
the basis of democracy and respect for human rights and the rule
of law, and pointed to the fact that those issues were almost absent
in the framework of the Barcelona Process and the Union for the
After the fall of Mr Ben Ali, the European Union has expressed
its readiness to assist Tunisia in the process of reform, and in
particular to help it in organising elections. Taking this into
account, we should reiterate the call contained in Resolution 1731
that the activities of the Union for the Mediterranean should be
extended in order to include the promotion of democracy, human rights
and the rule of law. We should further appeal to the European Union
and its member states, and the Council of Europe member states taking
part in the Union for the Mediterranean, to involve the Council
of Europe in its activities.
16. It is worth recalling that Tunisia has been co-operating with
the Council of Europe in a number of areas, and is party to four
Council of Europe conventions. Tunisia is a member of the Venice
Commission; it also participates in the Mediterranean network for
co-operation on drugs and addictions (MedNET) set up in the framework
of the Pompidou Group.
17. For its part, the Assembly has repeatedly called for, and
expressed support to, democratic transformation in neighbouring
countries, including in Tunisia. The recently established Partner
for Democracy status provides a concrete framework allowing our
Assembly to share with parliaments of Europe’s neighbours its unique
experience of accompanying countries in transition and young democracies
on the path of reform.
In the draft resolution, I suggest encouraging the Tunisian
authorities to intensify and broaden co-operation with the Council
of Europe and to take advantage of its experience in the transition
of their country towards democracy, and in particular:
- to accede to those Council of
Europe legal instruments which are open to non-member states, in particular
to those in the fields of democracy, human rights and the rule of
- to make full use of Tunisia’s membership of the European
Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) in the
future constitutional reform process;
- to accede to the Council of Europe’s enlarged partial
agreements such as the North-South Centre and the European and Mediterranean
Major Hazards Agreement (EUR-OPA);
- to establish contacts between the Council of Europe and
the authorities in Tunisia responsible for questions of justice,
sustainable development, culture, education and higher education,
youth and sport, gender equality and the rights of the child;
- to study and use, in their respective activities, the
experience of Council of Europe human rights institutions and monitoring
mechanisms, such as the European Court of Human Rights and the Commissioner
for Human Rights, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture
and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the European Commission
against Racism and Intolerance, the Advisory Committee of the Framework
Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European
Committee of Social Rights;
- to foster contacts between Tunisian and European civil
I also recall that the Tunisian Parliament has initiated a
dialogue with the Assembly on a number of issues of mutual interest,
in particular through its Political Affairs Committee. This dialogue
has become more or less regular following the adoption, in January
2008, of Assembly Resolution
(2008) on strengthening co-operation with the Maghreb
countries, presented by this committee (rapporteur: Mrs Josette
Durrieu, France, SOC). Since then, members of the Parliament of
Tunisia have been systematically invited to attend the sessions
of the Assembly and also to participate in committee meetings. It
is worth noting that the President of our Assembly paid an official
visit to Tunisia only two weeks ago, from 10 to 12 January 2011.
20. In view of the latest developments, however, I believe that
these contacts should be intensified. I therefore suggest that we
continue to follow closely the political developments in Tunisia,
strengthen our dialogue with the parliament of that country and,
in particular, with the new institutions following the forthcoming elections
– which we expect to be free and fair.
21. We should also find appropriate ways of assisting Tunisia
in its progression towards democracy. For this purpose, the Political
Affairs Committee should, in my opinion, organise, at one of its
forthcoming meetings, a hearing with the participation, inter alia, of representatives of
the civil society and human rights activists from Tunisia with a
view to identifying priority actions for the months to come.