Tunisia: Guarantee human rights in the new constitution
One year after protesters ended the repressive rule of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisians are still waiting for their human rights to be guaranteed.
A National Constituent Assembly (NCA) was elected in October to write a new constitution for Tunisia. Amnesty International is calling on it to ensure that the constitution includes the basic guarantees that would protect Tunisians from the abuses they suffered under Ben Ali: human rights violations like torture, arbitrary arrests and unfair trials.
Under Ben Ali, the constitution lost its power to protect people against human rights violations, and instead the authorities passed new laws which repressed Tunisians even more. The security apparatus and the judicial system answered to the authorities instead of the law, and were used to crush anyone who spoke out against repression or social injustice – or who simply dared to challenge the authorities. Torture was widespread and counter-terrorism was used to justify abuses. The authorities celebrated Tunisia’s “economic miracle” even as many Tunisians were denied their basic economic, social and cultural rights. Tunisians lost hope that human rights violations would be punished and lost faith in the state institutions that had failed them.
The NCA has a chance to put things right. In Tunisia’s next constitution it can guarantee basic human rights, and that those who violate them will be brought to justice. It can make sure that the human rights set out in international treaties signed by Tunisia are enforceable in a court of law. It can guarantee the independence of the judiciary, and put the security forces back where they belong: firmly under the rule of law. It can also ensure that economic and social rights are more than a mere promise.
It will take more than a new constitution to stop human rights violations, but a constitution that enshrines human rights is a powerful tool to prevent them.
Please write an email calling on the Chairman of the National Constituent Assembly to guarantee human rights in Tunisia’s new constitution. In particular, the new constitution should:
- Ensure that the human rights enshrined in international treaties to which Tunisia is a state party are enforceable in a court of law.
- Prohibit discrimination and clearly identify grounds for prohibition in line with international law. Women and men must have equal rights in law and in practice and equal opportunities in the political, economic, cultural and social sphere.
- Uphold rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly and ensure that any restrictions to these rights are limited only to those allowed in international law and standards.
- Make it clear that no member of the security forces is above the law and ensure accountability of perpetrators of human rights violations.
- Include an absolute and clear prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and that “evidence” extracted under torture or other forms of ill-treatment can never be used evidence in court
- Prohibit the death penalty.
Chairman of the National Constituent Assembly
Salutation: Dear Chairman