REPUBLIC OF TUNISIA: New president must commit to key human rights reforms

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30 Oct 2019
[International Secretariat]

Tunisia’s new President Kais Saied, must strengthen the protection of human rights in the country and urgently put an end to abuses in the name of security, including the abusive use of emergency measures, said Amnesty International. The new president is due to be sworn into office tomorrow.

The organization is also calling on the incoming president to commit to implementation of the recommendations of the transitional justice commission, elect the remaining members of the constitutional court and maintain the moratorium on the death penalty.

“President Kais Saied has a vital opportunity to take action on stalled reforms and to signal his commitment to human rights by prioritizing theses five key measures,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director.

Since November 2015, Tunisia’s authorities have used a 1978 presidential decree to impose a continuous state of emergency. The decree, which grants the executive branch sweeping powers to suspend the right to freedom of expression, assembly, association and movement has been repeatedly used to impose emergency measures in an often arbitrary, discriminatory and disproportionate manner, leading to a range of human rights violations.

This decree has also been criticized for being overly vague, as it lacks judicial and constitutional oversight, and for the fact it can be renewed indefinitely.

“For nearly four years Tunisian authorities have used arbitrary and disproportionate emergency measures.  States of emergency must be exceptional and temporary. They should not become the new normal. They must be periodically genuinely reviewed and decisions on renewal should not be left solely to the executive and should allow for meaningful scrutiny and challenge. ,” said Heba Morayef.

“Tunisia’s new president must end abusive use of security measures and ensure all such measures comply with Tunisia’s human rights obligations.”

Since the 2010/2011 uprising Tunisia’s authorities have made important but limited progress on accountability for past human rights violations through the work of the Truth and Dignity Commission (IVD). The commission published its findings and recommendations in December 2018, including on the reform of the judicial and security sector, the protection of the right to life, freedom from torture and other ill-treatment, stronger protection of the right to a fair trial and other recommendations pertaining to institutional reform and transparency in governance.

Ten months after the IVD’s report was finalized, the government is yet to present a plan to implement the recommendations or to publish the IVD's report in the official gazette as required by law. Under the previous government, the transitional justice process was hampered by the lack of commitment to follow through on IVD's findings and reluctance from some parts of the government to engage with ongoing trials.

Amnesty International calls on the new president to expedite the transitional justice process by publishing the IVD's report in the official gazette and urging the incoming government to adopt a clear plan to implement the recommendations of Tunisia’s Truth and Dignity Commission.

The IVD also referred 173 cases of grave human rights violations to trial. President Kais Saeid must closely monitor the progress of transitional justice trials and ensure all government entities, including the Ministry of Interior, cooperate fully with the specialized chambers set up to try these cases.

“In order to heal the wounds of the past, victims must receive redress, and there is a lot more work to do to ensure truth, justice and reparation for gross human rights violations and prevent repetition of such,” said Heba Morayef.

Under the previous Tunisian administration plans to fully establish the Constitutional Court had also stalled due to lack of parliamentary consensus over appointments to the court. Once parliament has agreed to appoint the first four members, the Higher Judicial Council appoints four and the president will appoint the remaining four members. Amnesty International is calling on the new president to urge parliament to elect the remaining members of the court without further delay. The president should appoint individuals committed to upholding human rights, as protection of rights is integral to the constitution.

“The Constitutional Court plays a crucial role in making sure that the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Tunisian Constitution are upheld. The President must urge parliament to elect the remaining members of the court without further delay,” said Heba Morayef.

Amnesty International urges the President to ensure that any legislative initiative he presents to the parliament complies with Tunisia's obligations under international human rights law and standards.

Although no executions have been carried out in Tunisia since 1991, courts continue to hand out death sentences, particularly in counter-terrorism cases.

As a matter of urgency, Amnesty International calls on the president to maintain Tunisia’s moratorium on the death penalty and aim to work towards abolishing this punishment completely.

22 October 2019

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