Khaled Ben Said
Khaled Ben Saïd was born on 29 October 1962 in Tunis.
In 1996, he was posted to the Jendouba police station in Tunisia.
Together with other agents of the Tunisian DST (Internal Security Department), he was accused of inflicting acts of torture and inhumane treatment on one of his female compatriots in order to force her to divulge information concerning her husband ( then in political asylum in France) who had been held and tortured in the same place in February 1991. He was also accused of torturing other persons suspected of belonging to a religious group.
On 11 October 1996, the victim was apprehended by four police officers in civilian clothes and held for two days at the Jendouba police station. The plaintiff confirmed on oath that during these two days she was subjected to humiliating acts and acts of torture (multiple blows to the head and body, suspension from a wooden beam placed between two tables, blows from truncheons, sexual violence, insults) by several torturers, one of whom was Khaled Ben Saïd.
After these events, Saïd was given a posting to the Tunisian Consulate in Strasbourg as Vice-Consul.
In April 2001, the victim, by then living in France with her husband, learned through the auspices of the Association of Victims of Torture in Tunisia, that Khaled Ben Saïd was in Strasbourg.
On 9 May 2001, a complaint was lodged with the Public Prosecutor in Paris accusing Khaled Ben Saïd and others of torture based on the 1984 Convention Against Torture (articles 1, 4, 5 § 2, 6, 7), articles 222-1 to 222-6 of the French Criminal Code, and articles 689-1 and 689-2 of the French Code of Criminal Procedure.
In June 2001, the Parisian Prosecutor dropped proceedings in favour of the Strasbourg Prosecutor.
On 2 November 2001, the Strasbourg Crime Squad informed Khaled Ben Saïd by telephone that a complaint had been lodged against him and that it would be necessary to interrogate him.
On 16 January 2002, following preliminary investigations, the Prosecutor opened an official inquiry into these acts of torture with the specific circumstance that the presumed torturer was a holder of public office and that the allegations took place whilst in the exercise of his duties, or on the occasion of the exercise of his duties. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the French League for Human rights (LDH) immediately brought a civil action against him.
On 14 February 2002, the Strasbourg investigating judge endeavoured to summon Khaled Ben Said, but was told by the Consulate that Said had already left the country. The judge then issued an international arrest warrant on 15 February 2002. An international request letter delivered by the judge on 2 July 2003 was never executed by the Tunisian authorities. Back in Tunisia, Khaled Ben Saïd was reported to have continued to work within the Tunisian Home Office.
On 21 June 2004, with Khaled Ben Said still not having been arrested the examining magistrate brought the inquiry to a close.
In March 2005 the victim’s lawyer requested that the investigating judge issue an order to formally discontinue the investigation or to refer the case to a court.
On 16 February 2007, the investigating judge referred the case of Khaled Ben Saïd to the Cour d’Assises du Bas-Rhin, upholding the international arrest warrant issued on 15 February 2002, following Ben Saïd ‘s flight from France.
The trial finally took place on 15 December 2008 before the Criminal Court of Strasbourg under the “in absentia” procedure. Mr Ben Saïd was represented by a lawyer, in order for his rights and interests to be fairly defended.
At the conclusion of the trial he was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment for complicity in torture and other barbaric acts.
The Criminal Court of Nancy has decided at the end of the Appeal trial to increase Khaled’s prison sentence from 8 years in prison to 12 years.The judgment was delivered on 24 September 2010.
This trial is the second application in France of the principle of « universal jurisdiction », following that of the former Mauritanian captain Ely Ould Dah (see his Trial Watch Profile) who was sentenced to a ten years prison term for torture in 2005.
This principle establishes the right of universal jurisdiction by national courts (in this case France) to prosecute the presumed perpetrators of serious international crimes, regardless of where they have been committed, and regardless of the nationality of the perpetrators or the victims. It is notably provided for under the International Convention against Torture and other Inhumane or Degrading Treatments or Punishments, adopted on 10 December 1984, which was the basis for this action in France. This trial took place, even though a bill being debated by the French Parliament tended to call the principle of universal jurisdiction into question, by making it nearly impossible to open new proceedings in France on this basis.
Article 689-1 of the Code of French Criminal Procedure states: “In the application of the International Conventions referred to in the following articles, any person present in France who is believed guilty of a breach of law, outside of the territory of the Republic, as enumerated under one of these articles can be prosecuted and judged by the French judicial system”
In the case at hand, the prosecution’s opening address was made on 16 January 2002, at a time when the presence of Khaled Ben Saïd on French territory was a safe assumption given that the preliminary investigation had established his position as Vice-Consul in Strasbourg, and given the direct telephone contacts the investigators had had with him. In fact, the police department had issued a report on a telephone conversation which took place on 2 November 2001 during which Khaled Ben Saïd was informed of the official inquiry opened up against him as well as of the nature of the allegations with which he was accused.
The Prosecutor would not have asked the examining magistrate to open an investigation if he had not been convinced of Khaled Ben Saïd’s presence in France at the date of his opening address.
This trial should in particular help to break the appalling habit of recourse to torture in Tunisia. It represented the ultimate appeal for the plaintiff in her hope to obtain justice at the end of a fair and just procedure.