Dr. Mohamed Moncef Marzouki was born in Grombalia, Tunisia in 1945, and followed his family into political exile in Morocco in 1961, because of his father’s opposition to President Habib Bourgiba. An excellent student, he won a scholarship to study in France, where he earned his medical degree at the University of Strasbourg in 1973, with specialties in neurology, internal medicine and public health. At Strasbourg, Dr. Marzouki wrote his thesis on human rights and medical experimentation under the supervision of Professor Marc Klein, a Holocaust survivor who had been imprisoned in Auschwitz and Buchenwald, and who had a profound intellectual influence on him.
Dr. Marzouki returned to Tunisia in 1979, and the next year, joined the Tunisian League for Human Rights, the first organization of its kind in the Arab world. In 1982, he left his medical practice in Tunis to work in public health in the city of Sousse, where he also became a Professor of Public Health at the University of Sousse. He planned and implemented programs for vaccination, prenatal health, and health education in disadvantaged areas, with a particular focus on reducing infant mortality and helping handicapped children. He was among the first to investigate the issue of child abuse in Tunisia and the broader Arab region. Along with other African professors, he founded the African Network for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, which focuses on the problems of street children, the exploitation of minors, and female genital cutting.
Dr. Marzouki was President of the Tunisian League for Human Rights from 1989 to 1994. In the early 1990’s, Dr. Marzouki founded the National Committee for the Defense of Prisoners of Opinion, which was declared illegal by then-President Zine el Abedine Ben Ali’s regime. In July 1994, announced his candidacy for President of Tunisia. That year, he was arrested and imprisoned, and held in solitary confinement for several months. Dr. Marzouki was released in 1995, after South African President Nelson Mandela appealed to Ben Ali on his behalf. For several years, Dr. Marzouki was denied a passport and prohibited from travelling abroad, and lived under constant surveillance. In 1998, Dr. Marzouki became the spokesperson for the National Council for Freedom in Tunisia, a post he occupied until 2001. In 2000, Dr. Marzouki was dismissed from his post as Professor of Public Health at the University of Sousse. In 2001, he founded the Congress for 2/2 the Republic (CPR), a political party that was banned by Ben Ali’s regime.
Dr. Marzouki went into exile in France in 2001, where he taught at the University of Bobigny and the University of Marne-la-Vallée. He returned to Tunisia in 2005, but went back into exile in 2006. sDr. Marzouki finally returned to Tunisia on January 18, 2011, days after Ben Ali had been deposed. Dr. Marzouki was elected to the Constituent Assembly in October 2011, and the deputies of the Assembly elected him President of the Republic of Tunisia on December 12, 2011.
Source: Riadh Ben Sliman of the Permanent Mission of Tunisia to the United Nations Judge, September 2014