Tunisia rejects UN immunity claim for arms expert

Published May 16, 2019, 11:50 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Agence France-Presse

Tunisia on Thursday rejected a United Nations claim that an arms expert arrested in the North African country has diplomatic immunity and should be released.

Moncef Kartas, a member of the UN panel of experts on Libya, is a Tunisian-German dual national who was detained on arrival in Tunis on March 26.

The world body has reviewed case documents from Tunisian authorities and on Wednesday called for the charges to be dropped, making clear the files were unconvincing.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric called for Kartas’s immediate release and stated the expert holds diplomatic immunity, a claim rejected by Tunisia on Thursday.

Kartas “does not have immunity, he entered Tunisia with his Tunisian passport, and (the allegations) are not within the framework of his work at the UN,” said Sofiene Sliti, spokesman for anti-terror prosecutors.

The UN expert is being prosecuted for having “collected information in relation to terrorism unofficially, which constitutes a dangerous crime,” said Sliti.

The case files include “material used to check civil and military aviation, the use of which requires an official authorization,” he added.

Kartas’s lawyers have said that the charges were linked to the arms expert’s possession of a device allowing him to have access to data on flights of civil and commercial aircraft.

His panel of experts investigates allegations of violations of the arms embargo and other sanctions imposed on Libya.

It has reported that arms and ammunition deliveries continue to reach warring parties despite the UN embargo — with the involvement of member states.

Libya, which borders Tunisia, has seen an uptick in violence since commander Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive on April 4 to take the capital Tripoli from the UN-recognised government.