Mr President, yesterday we awarded the Sakharov Prize to leading human rights defenders from North Africa and the Middle East, and one of the awardees was Mohamed Bouazizi, whose self-immolation sparked the uprisings in Tunisia, and consequently in many other countries. The award was certainly intended and is intended to support those who continue on the long, difficult path of transition and the struggle towards free and just societies.
Zakaria Bouguira’s case does not necessarily give us cause for hope. He witnessed and filmed the abuse of power and the use of violence by the Tunisian police against Moroccan soccer supporters, and as a result he was attacked by around 20 police officers. Tunisia should do away with these Ben Ali-style practices and oppression. Besides respect for human rights, the rule of law and good governance, we are specifically concerned with the role that technologies can play. They can be used to enable free speech, freedom of the press and access to information and, as this case shows, the documentation of human rights violations. It would be a huge mistake and missed opportunity if surveillance, censorship, tracking and tracing technologies continue to be deployed against people, as happened under the Ben Ali government.