WSIS Tunisia prepcom report

By EDRi · June 30, 2004

The first Prepcom of the WSIS second phase took place from 24 to 26 June 2004 in Hammamet, Tunisia. The Prepcom started with major obstruction of civil society participation even before civil society could make their first intervention in the governmental plenary session.

On the second morning of the Prepcom, the Tunisian ambassador objected in advance to an intervention by Souhayr Belhassen, vice-president of the Tunisian Human Rights League. Belhassen was scheduled to address the governmental plenary on behalf of civil society. In her statement she emphasised that human rights, not least privacy and freedom of expression, should be fully respected during the Tunis phase of WSIS and in the host countries of the Summit. The ambassador, who claimed to speak on behalf of several civil society groups, objected to some of the content in the presentation and tried to remove her as a speaker.

After several emergency meetings, with attempts to obstruct both meetings and possible solutions from a number of agents provocateurs, the issue was finally resolved in a very dramatic turn of events on Saturday morning. The newly appointed WSIS president, the Latvian ambassador Janis Karklins, intervened and stated that Belhassen was to address the governmental plenary as agreed before.

However, the Prepcom also included positive steps forward. The first very positive sign was the accreditation of the 3 independent Tunisian NGOs, which were able to meet the administrative requirements to attend the WSIS second phase. This way, the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH), Amnesty International Tunisia and the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (ATFD) will be able to participate and express themselves in the name of their organisations during the WSIS process.

Also, the Human Rights Caucus organised a meeting on 24 June, which was very well-attended, including the representative from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. During the meeting the work and positions of the Caucus were explained to a number of newcomers to the process. The Human Rights Caucus continues to encourage new members to join, provided they represent organisations and not only individuals, and that they agree to the goal of protecting and promoting human rights standards in the WSIS process and in all countries of the world, not least the host countries of the Summit.

Human Rights Caucus

Civil society reports from WSIS

Tunisian Human Rights League

(Contribution by Rikke Frank Joergensen, EDRI-member Digital Rights Denmark and representative of the human rights caucus, together with Meryem Marzouki from EDRI-member IRIS.