27 June 2014

Tunisian Jihadist Video Sparks Outrage

Tunis — Human Rights Watch on Wednesday (June 25th) asked Tunisia to prosecute citizens implicated in war crimes in Iraq and Syria.

The call came two days after Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou confirmed that at least 2,400 Tunisian jihadists were "fighting in Syria, most of them with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra, affiliated with al-Qaeda in Syria".

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) official Nadim Houry, video on Facebook of a "Tunisian involved in killing Iraqi border guards should serve as a wake-up call to Tunisian authorities to investigate and prosecute any war crimes by Tunisian nationals in Iraq and Syria".

"Abu Hamza al-Mouhamadi, which appears to be his nom de guerre, is seen interrogating five detained guards, and slapping them. In a second video, he orders the detained men to pledge allegiance to ISIS and denounce Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki," the HRW report said.

After one of the captured men refuses to repeat the words "The state of Islam forever", Abu Hamza pushes him down, putting a gun to his throat and repeats his demand.

The execution is not shown but the guard is later seen shot in the face.

"When a Tunisian extremist so brazenly boasts of his crimes online, the authorities should send a clear and unequivocal message to all Tunisians that they won't tolerate such conduct," Houry said.

As the graphic videos circulate on the internet, Tunisians are voicing support for HRW's demand for action.

Noureddine Lembarki, a specialist in Islamist groups, said that along with prosecuting jihadists, Tunisia should also investigate "the parties who facilitated their travel and provided political cover for them". These facilitators "contributed directly to the crimes", he told Magharebia.

"The call for an investigation into the involvement of Tunisians in acts of mass murder in Syria and Iraq confirms the need for Tunisia to speed up the issuance of an anti-terrorism law, with its chapters to criminalise taking arms abroad," the analyst added.

As political activist Mohamed Safi Jalali argued, action on the issue by the Tunisian government would also help deter anyone tempted to fight in another country.

"From now on, they'll think twice before any adventure," Jalali said. Criminal prosecutions would help fortify the rest of world from these killers, "because the fire will be extended soon to all", Jalali said.

Activist Sara Belhaj Ali agreed that Tunisians implicated in foreign jihad needed to be tried by international courts.

"This will prevent them from escaping punishment and repeating their crimes in other locations," she said.

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