To the government of Tunisia,
We, the undersigned human rights organisations, write to express our deep concern about the current situation of Zakaria (“Zaki”) Hannache, an Algerian human rights defender, whose extradition has been recently requested by the Algerian authorities. We hereby wish to remind you that he enjoys international protection as a refugee and that the UN Committee against Torture asked you, as recently as March 6, 2023, not to extradite him to Algeria.
Since 2019, Hannache has been documenting and publishing information on the arrests and prosecutions of prisoners of conscience in Algeria, particularly in relation to the peaceful protest movement known as Hirak.
Following his arrest in February 2022, he faced several charges linked to his activism. After being detained for six weeks in Algeria, he was provisionally released on bail in March 2022. In the following months, Hannache was subject to acts of intimidation and pressure, prompting him to travel to Tunisia where he sought medical support in August 2022.
On November 9, 2022, Hannache learned that he had been summoned to a hearing in the court of Sidi M’hamed in Algiers, scheduled for November 13. This prompted him to apply for asylum with the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) the next day. He learned that Tunisian police, specifically the anti-terrorist brigade, had inquired about him in at least two locations in Tunis during the week of November 15. He was granted refugee status by the UNHCR on November 18, 2022.
Tunisia has previously cooperated with Algeria in its efforts to forcibly return exiled peaceful opponents and human rights defenders. This was apparently the case for Slimane Bouhafs, a UNHCR-recognized refugee and Christian Amazigh activist who was abducted and forcibly returned from Tunis on August 25, 2021.
Fearing a repetition of the dangerous precedent set by the extrajudicial return of Slimane Bouhafs, MENA Rights Group and a Tunis-based human rights researcher submitted a request for interim measures on behalf of Zaki Hannache before the UN Committee against Torture, which were transmitted to your government on December 5, 2022.
On March 2, 2023, Hannache learned that the court of Sidi M’hamed had sentenced him in absentia to 3 years in prison. Neither he nor his lawyers were aware of the trial’s occurrence. One of his lawyers coincidentally discovered the decision while dealing with a separate case in court. Another of his lawyers confirmed that an international arrest warrant and an extradition request were sent by Algeria the same day. In light of this new development, the Committee against Torture sent you a follow-up communication on March 6, 2023, asking you not to extradite Hannache.
The undersigned organisations recall that as a refugee, Hannache is protected from refoulement by the 1951 UN Refugee Convention that your country has ratified as well as under the OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. As a State party to the 1984 Convention against Torture, Tunisia is bound not to expel, return or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture. As such, we call on your government to respect Hannache’s international protection and to inform the Committee against Torture of your willingness not to extradite him while his case is under review.
Amnesty International Tunisia
Cairo Institute For Human Rights (CIHRS)
Centre Justitia pour la protection juridique des droits de l’Homme en Algérie
FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Économiques et Sociaux FTDES
Human Rights Foundation (HRF)
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
Ligue Algérienne de défense des droits humains – LADDH ALGÉRIE
MENA Rights Group
Minority Rights Group
Terre d’Asile Tunisie
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders