Abdallah Kallel is a Tunisian politician under the Ben Ali regime, who was twice Minister of Defence (1988-1991 and 1996-1997) and twice Minister of Interior (1991-1995 and 1999-2001), before becoming President of the Chamber of Advisors from 2005 to 2011.
Kallel was a member of the Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD) from 1988 until his radiation in 2011, after the Tunisian Revolution. During his political carrier within the RCD, he was considered one of the falcons of the regime and was treasurer of the party since its very foundation. In this capacity, he was allegedly responsible of misappropriation of funds of the party.
During his term of office as Minister of Interior, several instances of torture at the hands of the police have been reported. In particular:
- On 22 May 1991, Kallel announced the discovery of an alleged military plot to overturn the regime and blamed the Ennhada party as responsible. 244 members of the armed forces were arrested, brought to premises of the Ministry of Interior and allegedly tortured for weeks. Only after the Tunisian Revolution the authorities admitted that the so called “Affaire Barraket Essahel” was a fake to purge the army of suspected opponents.
- A Tunisian citizen, Abdennacer Nait-Liman, was arbitrarily detained in the premises of the Ministry of Interior for forty days, in April 1992. He reportedly suffered various forms of torture, including deprivation of sleep, beatings and coercion to remain in stress positions for prolonged periods of time. Kallel allegedly ordered the torture on the victim.
Procedure in Tunisia
On 23 January 2011, immediately after the Tunisian Revolution, Kallel was assigned to house arrest. He was then arrested and detained in prison on 12 March 2011, for embezzlement of assets belonging to the DCR. Two days later, his properties were requisitioned by the Tunisian authorities.
In April 2011, 17 retired members of the armed forces victims of the Ben Ali regime filed a civil suit against Kallel and others responsible for the Barraket Essahel purge, but the civil court redirected the file to the military justice, triggering the first post-revolutionary trial.
Consequently, on 12 May 2011 Kallel was subject to another arrest warrant. Since the crime of torture had only been introduced in Tunisia in 1999, years after the Barraket Essahel events, the accused were charged with violence on persons committed while acting in official capacity.
On 29 November 2011, the Correctional Chamber of the Military Tribunal of First Instance of Tunis sentenced Kallel to 4 years of prison. The conviction was reduced to 2 years by the Court of Appeal on 12 April 2012.
On 10 July 2013, Kallel was granted early release.
Procedure in Switzerland
In February 2001, informed that Kallel was in Geneva, Nait-Liman, at that time a refugee in Switzerland, filed a criminal complaint against him for serious bodily injuries. The former minister, however, was able to abscond from Switzerland just before the judiciary could act.
On 8 July 2004, Nait-Liman began a civil suit before the Swiss courts to secure compensation for the injuries sustained as a result of torture. Although correctly summoned, Kallel refused to take part in the proceedings.
On 15 September 2005, the Geneva Court of first instance ruled that the petition was inadmissible for lack of sufficient connection between the case and the Swiss judiciary. The inadmissibility verdict was upheld by the Civil Chamber on 15 September 2006, because of Kallel’s functional immunity. On 22 May 2007, the Federal court rejected Nait-Liman’s appeal because of insufficient connection but left the question of functional immunity open.
In November 2007, Nait-Liman applied to the European Court of Human Rights claiming a violation of Article 6 §1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, due to the refusal by Swiss courts to examine his claim for compensation.
On 21 June 2016, the European Court of Human Rights rejected his application, recognizing the right of the State to limit access to civil proceedings. According to the judgment, a long-term residence in Switzerland, the granting of refugee status, the acquisition of Swiss nationality and the fact that the perpetrator was found on Swiss territory did not necessarily amount to sufficient links to establish jurisdiction.
On 29 November 2016, the European Court of Human Rights referred the case to the Grand Chamber, to clarify whether refugees who cannot seek justice in their countries of origin have a right to do so in a European host country. The case was heard on 14 June 2017.