Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi (Photo: Reuters)
The Tunisian state of emergency imposed after the jihadist attack that killed 38 tourists last month must not suppress freedoms gained since the 2011 revolution, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.
"Imposing a state of emergency does not give the Tunisian government the right to gut basic rights and freedoms," the New York-based HRW said in a statement.
Eight days after the June 26 gun attack at the tourist resort of Port El Kantaoui north of Sousse, President Beji Caid Essebsi on Saturday decreed a state of emergency for 30 days.
The rampage by 23-year-old student Seifeddine Rezgui killed 30 Britons, three Irish nationals, two Germans, one Belgian, one Portuguese and a Russian, and was claimed by the Islamic State group.
Essebsi said the exceptional measure was being brought in because the attack had left Tunisia facing a "special type of war".
"Tunisia's security challenges may call for a strong response, but not for sacrificing the rights that Tunisians fought hard to guarantee in their post-revolution constitution," HRW's deputy chief for the Middle East and North Africa Eric Goldstein said in the statement.
Kamel Jendoubi, the minister who heads a crisis group set up after the attack, said at a news conference on Tuesday: "When security is targeted and we face armed criminals... the first right is to ensure security and guarantee the right to life".
Jendoubi said the state of emergency "only raises the level of vigilance in the country... it has been put into practice but has never threatened freedom in Tunisia".
The state of emergency grants the security forces exceptional powers.
Among other things, it allows the authorities to bar strike action and public meetings deemed dangerous to public order and to increase controls on the media.
This is not the first state of emergency to be imposed in Tunisia after the revolution that sparked the Arab Spring.
The measure was also in force from January 14, 2011 -- hours after the flight of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali -- until March last year.