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Tunisia: “No impunity"

Tunisia: “No impunity for human rights violations committed in the name of counter-terrorism” – UN expert

TUNIS / GENEVA (26 May 2011) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Martin Scheinin, urged the Transitional Government of Tunisia to carry out necessary reforms within the counter-terrorism framework, in compliance with international human rights law.

“I call for measures against impunity to secure accountability for crimes and human rights violations committed in the name of counter-terrorism,” Mr. Scheinin said at the end of his five-day visit* to Tunisia, during which he assessed progress in implementing the recommendations made after his previous mission of January 2010, and to identified areas where reforms need to be done.

“The global threat of terrorism is real and can only be responded to through properly targeted and lawful measures, instead of using the notion of terrorism to suppress dissent,” he said. Accordingly, the independent expert offered his assistance to replace the abusive anti-terrorism law of 2003 with a proper legislative framework which regulates Tunisia’s anti-terrorism efforts in line with international legal standards on countering terrorism, while fully respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Following up on his previous report, in which he expressed grave concern about the activities of various entities of the security apparatus, and the secrecy and impunity in which they operated, Mr. Scheinin welcomed the abolition of the Directorate for State Security by the Transitional Government.

“Secrecy was an important element that contributed to the shield of impunity under which these actors could operate,” the Special Rapporteur noted. “All security organs’ functions and powers must be regulated by publicly available laws. Such transparency avoids not only the creation of myths about what these agencies do, but also ensures accountability of these agencies if they commit illegal acts.”

Mr. Scheinin greeted the first steps taken by the Transitional Government to establish accountability for those who attacked the demonstrators earlier this year, but underscored that “in order to look truly forward towards a new Tunisia, it has to come to terms with dark remnants of its past.”

“Tunisia should continue to investigate ex officio allegations of torture and illegal detention, often committed under the pretext of the fight against terrorism,” he said. “Investigating, prosecuting and trying those responsible for the crimes in question can also help rebuilding trust between the population and the security forces in the country.”

The Special Rapporteur also commended Tunisia’s decision to ratify the International Convention against Disappearances, the Optional Protocols to the Convention against Torture and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. However, he warned that “these promises will turn into real rights only when the formal ratification process has been completed.”

During his mission, Mr. Scheinin met with the Minister of Justice and Human Rights, the Minister of the Interior and Local Development, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the Prosecutor-General for the Administration of Justice, the President of the fact-finding commission established to investigate human rights abuses since 17 December 2010, the spokesperson of the High Council for the realization of the objectives of the revolution, political reform, and democratic transition, and with law enforcement officials.

The expert also held discussions with representatives of the civil society, including lawyers. Mr. Scheinin also visited the detention centre at Bouchoucha and Al Mornaguia Prison, where he was able to interview in private suspects of terrorism crimes.

A full report of the Special Rapporteur’s follow-up mission to Tunisia will be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2012.

Martin Scheinin was appointed Special Rapporteur by the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights in August 2005. The mandate was renewed by the Human Rights Council in October 2010. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any Government and serves in his individual capacity. He is Professor of Public International Law at the European University Institute in Florence.

(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement by the Special Rapporteur’s:
Arabic: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11066&LangID=A
English: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11066&LangID=E
French: http://www.ohchr.org/FR/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11066&LangID=F

Learn more about the mandate and work of the Special Rapporteur: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/terrorism/rapporteur/srchr.htm

Read the report on the Special Rapporteur’s previous mission to Tunisia: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/terrorism/rapporteur/visits.htm

OHCHR Country Page – Tunisia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/TNIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests please contact: Mr. Nikolaus Schultz (phone: +41 79 444 43 55 / email: nschultz@ohchr.org) or Mr. Joseph Schechla (phone: +216 93 308 821 / email: jschechla@ohchr.org) or write to srct@ohchr.org.