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In Dialogue with Tunisia, Committee on the Rights of the Child welcomes positive steps and asks about corporal punishment

28 May 2021

Committee Experts Congratulate Tunisia for Being the First Nation Outside Europe to Sign the Lanzarote Convention

The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its consideration of the combined fourth to sixth periodic report of Tunisia on how it implements the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, underlining the positive steps taken by Tunisia in the field of human rights, notably those of children, and asking about corporal punishment, among other topics.

Committee Experts congratulated Tunisia for its work on children’s rights and said they were particularly impressed that Tunisia had been the first nation outside Europe to sign the Council of Europe’s Lanzarote Convention on sexual exploitation and abuse of children.  They noted that earlier this month, the non-governmental organization Human Right Watch had introduced a country index report for North Africa, according to which up to 90 per cent of Tunisian children experienced corporal punishment at least once a month.  

There was obviously a great need for regular national information and awareness-raising campaigns, with the aim of sensitising people about the adverse consequences of physical punishment as well as promoting positive parenting and other child-friendly discipline practices.  What strategies had been put in place on this matter?  How were they evaluated?  Had any systematic actions been taken to introduce positive parenting or other non-violent upbringing methods in Tunisia?   

Othman Jerandi, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Migration and Tunisians Abroad, recalled that Tunisia placed great importance on working with international bodies promoting human rights.  Since the beginning of the reporting period in 2010, Tunisia had witnessed striking events, including its democratic transition, and it had, since then, placed great emphasis on the promotion of human rights.  The rights of children were at the heart of the 2014 constitution.  In 2017, Tunisia had acceded to the Hague Convention and the Lanzarote Convention.  Tunisia had also, in 2018, acceded to the third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on individual communications, becoming the first country of the Middle East and North Africa to do so.  Furthermore, in 2018, Tunisia had signed up to the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.  This showed that Tunisia was a pioneer in the region on matters regarding children’s rights. 
 
Mr. Jerandi drew attention to the situation of Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip.  They were facing the worst violations of human rights.  The Committee, as a United Nations body, had a key role to play to lead Israel to put an end to these practices that amounted to crimes of war and genocide.

The Tunisian delegation added that corporal punishment was not criminalised before 2010, but in light of its serious nature the relevant article of the criminal code had been amended – now all violence against children could be criminalised, even if it was perpetuated by parents.  Challenges remained, mostly connected to cultural norms, requiring a great deal of work.  2019-2020 saw over 13,000 cases of corporal punishment, much lower than the preceding period.  Educational and awareness-raising campaigns saying no to violence, intolerance, harassment and bullying, especially in schools, were being implemented, including by tailoring cultural and sporting activities.

The delegation noted that Tunisia had created an ad hoc programme on positive parenting to be implemented by teaching parents about the importance of communication, and a programme to be broadcast on national television channels was being prepared.  More than 240 coaches were being trained in positive parenting, chosen among persons who volunteered to receive the training, and who went on to train others.  In total more than 12,000 parents had already been trained.

In his concluding remarks, Bragi Gudbrandsson, Committee Member and Coordinator of the Task Force for Tunisia, expressed his gratitude for the accomplishments made by Tunisia for the benefit of its children.  Tunisia was a role model in the region, by adopting legislation on corporal punishment and the Lanzarote Convention, for instance.  The Committee encouraged Tunisia to continue on the same path.

Mr. Jerandi thanked the Committee Experts for their interest in the report of Tunisia and their highly constructive remarks.  The Committee’s comments put into word the challenges he had outlined at the beginning.  There remained areas of weakness, but Tunisia was committed to pressing ahead and implementing children’s rights, protecting them throughout the country.

Mikiko Otani, Committee Chairperson, said that, thanks to the cooperation of the Tunisian delegation, the dialogue had been productive despite the constraints of the online format.  The Committee extended its best wishes to the children of Tunisia.

The delegation of Tunisia consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Migration and Tunisians Abroad; the Ministry of National Defence; the Ministry of the Interior; the Ministry of Justice; the Ministry of Education; the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Women, Families and Older People; and the Permanent Mission of Tunisia to the United Nations Office at Geneva. 

The Committee will next meet in public at 4 p.m. on Friday, 4 June to close the eighty-seventh session.

Report  
 
The Committee has before it the combined fourth to sixth periodic report of Tunisia under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC/C/TUN/4-6).  
 
Presentation of the Report  
 
OTHMAN JERANDI, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Migration and Tunisians Abroad, recalled that Tunisia placed great importance on working with international bodies promoting human rights.  Since the beginning of the reporting period in 2010, Tunisia had witnessed striking events, including its democratic transition, and it had, since then, placed great emphasis on the promotion of human rights.  The rights of children were at the heart of the 2014 constitution.  In 2017, Tunisia had acceded to the Hague Convention and the Lanzarote Convention.  Tunisia had also, in 2018, acceded to the third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on individual communications, becoming the first country of the Middle East and North Africa to do so.  Furthermore, in 2018, Tunisia had signed up to the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combatting Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.  This showed that Tunisia was a pioneer in the region on matters regarding children’s rights. 
 
Tunisia had also brought its national legislation in line with the Convention, by adopting, inter alia, laws on the prevention of trafficking.  The use of children in armed conflict or their exploitation in any way were deemed as analogous to slavery.  The legal definition of sexual exploitation had been expanded to cover boys, whereas in the past it only dealt with girls.  Tunisia was proud of what it had accomplished in the field of human rights, including on children’s rights.  There were nevertheless challenges, including school dropouts, child labour and violence against children, including in the digital space.  The unprecedented consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic had also created challenges concerning the state of mental health of children and the right of all children to education.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of vulnerabilities had come to light, including some related to mental health.  To uphold all its responsibilities, Tunisia would ensure that all shortcomings were addressed, and it would spare no efforts in adopting all necessary laws to support children’s rights. 

Mr. Jerandi drew attention to the situation of Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip.  They were facing the worst violations of human rights.  The Committee, as a United Nations body, had a key role to play to lead Israel to put an end to these practices that amounted to crimes of war and genocide.  In conclusion, Mr. Jerandi said the delegation remained open to all suggestions from the Committee. 

Questions by the Committee Experts 

BRAGI GUDBRANDSSON, Committee Member and Coordinator of the Task Force for Tunisia, congratulated Tunisia for its work on children’s rights.  He was particularly impressed that Tunisia was the first nation outside Europe to sign the Lanzarote Convention.

The draft law amending and supplementing the Child Protection Code had not yet been adopted.  There also seemed to be a bill on child victims currently being drafted by the Ministry of Justice’s Centre for Legal and Judicial Studies reflecting the Council of Europe Guidelines for Child Friendly Justice and the Lanzarote Convention.  Were these two separate bills or draft laws? What was the status of the amendment of the Child Protection Code?  Did it entail the creation of a protection infrastructure for children with a clear mandate to carry out community and family-based intervention for supporting children and families?

Turning to the integrated public policy on child protection, he inquired about steps taken to ensure effective coordination.  Why had a comprehensive child rights policy not been prioritised?  Requesting information on the coordination role played by the Ministry of Women, Families and Older People, he asked about the High Council for Children’s potential reactivation to improve coordination.

He sought reassurance about the specific identification of budgetary allocations for children in the relevant sectors and agencies at all levels.  He raised concerns about the implementation of the Law on the Elimination of Violence against Women, which was hampered due to a lack of resources, both in terms of capacity building and the setting up of emergency shelters for women and children.  Could the delegation comment on this matter?

To ensure adequate monitoring, the Task Force Coordinator for Tunisia asked why the Independent Human Rights Commission was not yet operational and if it would be competent to receive and consider complaints about child rights violations.

Could the delegation explain what steps had been taken to disseminate information about the Optional Protocol on individual communications?

Reading questions on behalf of AISSATOU ALASSANE SIDIKOU, Committee Member and Member of the Task Force for Tunisia, Mr. Gudbrandsson asked if Tunisia was considering removing all exceptions that allowed marriage under the age of 18.  Was it possible to have a comprehensive piece of legislation in Tunisia prohibiting all forms of discrimination in accordance with article 2 of the Convention?  Were measures in place to ensure that the principle of the best interest of the child was systematically applied in all administrative and judicial proceedings and that it was taken into account in policies, programmes and projects that had an impact on children?

LUIS ERNESTO PEDERNERA REYNA, Committee Member and Member of the Task Force for Tunisia, asked what measures Tunisia was implementing to guarantee the opinion of children, including those living in poverty, especially in rural areas.

He requested more information on municipal councils, in particular what were their objectives, what resources did they have, and whether there were plans for their development?

Why did some hospitals not issue birth certificates for children born to migrants?

It seemed that the anti-terrorist law undermined the right to freedom of expression; the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders had indicated that children's right to peaceful assembly was often restricted.  Mr. Pedernera Reyna also inquired about measures to promote respect and non-discrimination of minority religious groups in the country.

Replies by the Delegation 

In response to the questions and comments, the delegation said the draft bill on the Child Protection Code had been approved and the Ministry of Justice was now examining all the regulatory texts related to it.  New chapters would be added to the draft law, including on child victims and protection, as well as rehabilitation and reintegration measures.

When it came to child marriage, the circumstances mentioned by the Committee were exceptional; a judge considered requests for underage marriages, based on psychological assessments, and considering the best interest of the child.

Stressing the right of children to have a nationality, delegates explained that the lack of a birth certificate did not deprive children of this right.  Children born to foreign parents had the same rights as children born to Tunisian parents, as long as they were born on Tunisian soil.  The process to obtain a birth certificate, even after deadlines had expired, was simple and available to all children whether they were born to Tunisians or foreigners, the delegation assured.

There would be an integrated policy on child rights, concerning also the Sustainable Development Goals, that would be provided for cross-sectoral policies.  The Ministry of Women, Families and Older People had also prepared a multi-sectoral strategy for early childhood, with the support of the private sector, civil society, and international partners such as the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Bank.
  
The child protection system in Tunisia was being strengthened in the context of the health and economic crisis.  The State had applied a policy designed to create a non-discriminatory framework, taking into account specific vulnerabilities.  The State generally tried to prevent children from being placed in institutions.

In 2021, the Ministry for Women had revised its areas of intervention to better take into account the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the imperatives of child protection.  A Higher Council for Children had been created; it was responsible for strategically planning State action, based on indicators.

Regarding the Optional Protocol on individual communications, the State encouraged all Tunisians to denounce abuses.  There were units in place that could receive such complaints, as could judges.

The best interest of the child stood over all other considerations, and a participatory approach was implemented to ensure the interests of the child were duly considered.

As regards non-discrimination, the Tunisian Constitution outlawed any form of discrimination; accordingly, the State had to provide support to all children in line with the principle of the best interest of the child to ensure they all enjoyed the same rights.  Several pieces of legislation also set forth the principle of non-discrimination, including the legislation on human trafficking, for instance.  In that context, the Government had set up education programmes to promote non-discrimination.

The commission on the rights of the child that would be created alongside the national human rights institution would be able, in particular, to carry out investigations in cases of violations of the rights of the child.  The members of the commission would soon be appointed.  There was currently a lack of experts in the field of children's rights in the country.

Concerning violence and exploitation taking place online, the Government had taken measures to foster behaviour such as the deactivation of webcams when children were using the Internet and regular communication with their parents on the potential perils of using the web.  Awareness-raising campaigns also sought to facilitate the denunciation of abusive practices taking place online and avoid violent games.

Children in Tunisia had the right to peacefully assembly in line with the constitution.  A draft bill on this right had been prepared through a participatory approach involving civil society as well as United Nations agencies.  It was currently considered by the Government and would soon be submitted to the National Assembly.  The law on terrorism had been amended to ensure it excluded the right to assembly. 

Turning to municipal councils, delegates explained that they had been developed to ensure balanced representation at the municipal levels.  While children were not included in municipal assemblies, they could take part in public life through children’s parliaments.  There were mechanisms in place that allowed children to draft bills that could be used by members of parliament.  Additional efforts were underway to put the work of the children's parliaments at the fore.
Follow-Up Question by the Committee  
 
BENOIT VAN KEIRSBILCK, Committee Member, raised the issue of corporal punishment. 
 
Follow-Up Replies by the Delegation  
 
The delegation explained that there were special judicial courts that considered cases brought against children under the anti-terrorism law.  There had only been one such case related to a child who was currently detained. 
 
Providing additional information on birth registration, delegates said this was an automatic process. 
 
The Criminal Code completely banned corporal punishment, including by parents. 
 
Since its ratification in 2019, the Government had sought to make sure that the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure was available for child victims of abuse.  Documents had been developed to educate State officials and other relevant officials, including police officers, on Tunisia’s international human rights obligations. 
 
Questions by the Committee Experts  
 
BRAGI GUDBRANDSSON, Committee Member and Coordinator of the Task Force for Tunisia, noted that earlier this month, the non-governmental organization Human Right Watch had introduced a country index report for North Africa, according to which up to 90 per cent of Tunisian children experienced corporal punishment at least once a month.  There was obviously a great need for regular national information and awareness-raising campaigns, with the aim of sensitising people about the adverse consequences of physical punishment as well as promoting positive parenting and other child friendly discipline practices.  What strategies had been put in place on this matter?  How were they evaluated?  Had any systematic actions been taken to introduce positive parenting or other non-violent upbringing methods in Tunisia?  
 
Tuning to abuse, he asked if there was a mandatory reporting system in Tunisia with regard to child abuse, including sexual abuse of children, and if there were professionals in Tunisia that were trained in forensic interviews to elicit the child’s disclosure to enhance the evidential validity of the child’s narrative for judicial purpose.  There seemed to be a great lack of therapeutic services for child victims of abuse, especially sexual abuse.  Were there any plans to ensure appropriate trauma-focused therapy that supported child victims in a child-friendly environment and that was accessible not only in cities but also in rural areas? 
 
AISSATOU ALASSANE SIDIKOU, Committee Member and Member of the Task Force for Tunisia, remarked that, although institutional care was provided for in legislation, it was widely recognised that institutions did not provide an appropriate environment for the child's development and growth.  What could the delegation tell the Committee about the implementation of the action plan of the strategy for the deinstitutionalisation of children in vulnerable situations, which foresaw an effective strengthening of families and an alternative care system? 
 
MIKIKO OTANI, Committee Chairperson and Member of the Task Force for Tunisia, requested additional information on the programme for persons with disabilities mentioned in paragraph 93 of the State party’s report.  To what extent was necessary support provided to children with disabilities based on the collected data so that they had access to inclusive education in regular schools and health care services according to types of disabilities and the financially disadvantaged situations of their families.  Could the delegation provide information on whether children with disabilities were given the opportunity to participate in the process of revising the Act of 2005, in response to the Committee’s recommendation in that regard. 

Replies by the Delegation 

In response to the questions and comments, the delegation stated that the children’s parliament had its own budget and 120 members, 5 for each province, all of whom were enrolled in school and were between 11 and 16 years old.  It held sessions on specific matters, such as the equal opportunities and non-discrimination from a gender perspective session in March 2021.

The delegation clarified that regarding coordination, the Ministry of Women, Families and Older People dealt with all child-related issues and was now following up on the decision to establish the Supreme Childhood Council.  Many committees were established at every State level to follow up on implementation.  The Ministry of Justice had established an Office for Childhood in order to further improve coordination.

The national body for receiving reports and communications on child protection received reports of any threats or intimidation and had the capacity to act on these reports.  Social assistance and psychological support were provided to children during and after interviews.  Specialised units were responsible to carry out investigations of cases of violence against women, which had separate sub-units for women and children.  In 80 per cent of cases psychological experts were present during the interrogation of a child, who could not be interrogated more than once, and interrogations were recorded. 

Any trial of a child was designed to respect the best interests and rights of the child, thus a new approach based on alternative measures was implemented to replace imprisonment, focusing on correction, re-integration into society and non-repetition of the crime.  Juvenile judges and courts existed at the first instance and in cases of appeal.  Training was available to security officers who dealt with cases where children were involved in conflict with the law.  Addressing and understanding all aspects of violence was key in these trainings sessions that were designed together with civil society.

A specialised forensic medical unit in the capital had been established after the Tunisian revolution, designed to provide medical, legal and psychological services and to deal particularly with cases of sexual assault of women and children.  In 2018, the unit dealt with more than 1,000 cases of assault, of which more than 60 per cent involved children.  All medical students in Tunisia studied these matters as part of their core curriculum.  Sufficient care of child victims was not available in all governorates across the country and resolving this was a priority issue for the Government.

Before 2010 corporal punishment was not criminalised, but in light of its serious nature the relevant article of the criminal code had been amended – now all violence against children could be criminalised, even if it was perpetuated by parents.  Challenges remained, mostly connected to cultural norms, requiring a great deal of work.  2019-2020 saw over 13,000 cases of corporal punishment, much lower than the preceding period.  Educational and awareness-raising campaigns saying no to violence, intolerance, harassment and bullying, especially in schools, were being implemented, including by tailoring cultural and sporting activities.

An institution connected to the Ministry of Social Affairs cared for children with disabilities, as well as children with no family or those born out of wedlock, including medical, psychological, material and financial support until they returned to a family environment, or until adoption.  As of 26 May 2021, 114 children with disabilities without families were being cared for.  In 2020, 843 such children were supported.  The programme to integrate children with disabilities in the school environment was ongoing.  During the 2016 to 2020 period, there were 6,614 children with disabilities in schools, and the Government sought to ensure that the appropriate infrastructure was available.  A National Charter on Disabilities to reproduce all data related to persons with disabilities throughout Tunisia was being created in order to better understand their needs.  Broad consultations with civil society were being held on this issue in advance of this meeting, made possible by the support of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

The Tunisian experience since 2013 in tackling violence against women was important in the establishment of programmes and campaigns to tackle violence against children.  A centre to combat sexual violence against children had been created, working together with partners to re-integrate these children.

Follow-up Questions by the Committee Experts 

BRAGI GUDBRANDSSON, Committee Member and Coordinator of the Task Force for Tunisia, applauded Tunisia for the work it was carrying out.  As corporal punishment was deeply ingrained in the culture, could Tunisia provide information on alternatives such as positive parenting?

HYND AYOUBI IDRISSI, Committee Member, congratulated Tunisia as the first African country in the Middle East and North Africa region to ban corporal punishment.  Was confidentiality guaranteed to children who wanted to file a complaint in school?

AISSATOU ALASSANE SIDIKOU, Committee Member and Member of the Task Force for Tunisia, asked whether the action on de-institutionalisation for vulnerable children had been adopted with regard to children born to single mothers or out of wedlock?

PHILIP JAFFE, Committee Member, asked if the corporal punishment programmes involved parents and were also pursued at neighbourhood levels?  Were specialists in sexual abuse appointed or were they attracted to these posts through incentives?  How long did they usually remain in these posts?

VELINA TODOROVA, Committee Member, noted that the Committee had received a report about killings of street animals practiced by official institutions very often involving children and adolescents.  This encouraged societal violence against animals and harmed children’s moral development.  What measures were being taken to address and change this practice?

MIKIKO OTANI, Committee Chairperson and Member of the Task Force for Tunisia, was happy to learn that children with disabilities were consulted during the preparation of government reports.  Had children with disabilities been given the opportunity to provide their views on the reform of the 2005 Act that directly affected them?

Follow-up Replies by the Delegation 

The delegation noted that Tunisia had created an ad hoc programme on positive parenting to be implemented by teaching parents about the importance of communication, and a programme to be broadcast on national TV channels was being prepared.  More than 240 coaches were being trained in positive parenting, chosen among persons who volunteered to receive the training, and who went on to train others.  In total more than 12,000 parents had already been trained.

Single mothers did not suffer any discrimination under Tunisian law, while programmes aiming to empower single mothers in their work and home life existed.  Domestic violence by parents against their children had been criminalised since the revolution via article 319 of the Criminal Code.  Parents, carers, guardians and institutions were all liable for sanctions.  There were four complaint and reporting mechanisms in schools that were available to children, who were provided with private and confidential spaces to report issues.  The delegation confirmed that children with disabilities were directly involved in the amendment of the 2005 law.

Feral dogs were only killed after midnight in order to avoid doing so in front of children.  Citizens often requested authorities to kill feral dogs in their neighbourhoods.  A nationwide programme had been created to gather and vaccinate the dogs which reduced the scale of this problem. 

Specialists and judges on violence against women had been in their posts for some time, most of them since 2017 when the posts were created, apart from very few cases when persons were moved, usually on disciplinary grounds. 

Questions by the Committee Experts 

MIKIKO OTANI, Committee Chairperson and Member of the Task Force for Tunisia, asked about regional disparities in access to health services.  Was there a plan to address the gap between private and public health services?  The national strategy to combat suicide was adopted in 2015 – what were the causes of increasing rates of suicide among children and was anything being done to combat the trend?  Could the delegation share more information on the campaign to raise awareness of sexual and reproductive health among adolescents?  What other strategies was the Government implementing?

Welcoming the Government study in 2014 that mentioned health impacts of consumption of information technology devices, the delegation was asked to share any key findings.  How were children given opportunities to participate in programmes related to climate change?  Regarding social welfare and poverty, several government measures existed – how were they coordinated?
Was there a disparity in the quality of education in public and private sectors, and was it creating a discriminatory effect for children?  How was the Government addressing the issue of hygiene in schools?  Was education on children’s rights integrated in the school curriculum?

LUIS ERNESTO PEDERNERA REYNA, Committee Member and Member of the Task Force for Tunisia, thanked the delegation for upholding a frank dialogue during this session.  Regarding refugee and asylum children, had Tunisia passed the law on asylum?  How were children processed for asylum and did the Assisted Voluntary, Return and Reintegration programme indeed put migrants through psychological and physical distress?  Were there minors in internment centres for migrants and what treatment was afforded to them? 

Amazigh children continued to face discrimination in society – how did the State support them, their culture and their language?  The Committee had received reports that there was no minimum working age, which must be established according to international standards.  How was the State dealing with school dropouts in this regard?  Mr. Pedernera Reyna was pleased that Tunisia criminalised trafficking and sought more information on the anti-trafficking strategy, any awareness-raising activities or training, and reparations for victims.

What was the status of bringing the juvenile justice system in line with international standards, making justice service more professional and reducing pre-trial detention?  On the Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict, what measures were being taken to repatriate and protect children whose parents belonged to the so-called Islamic State? 

Replies by the Delegation 

Delegates said there was no doubt that there were disparities between the public and private healthcare systems.  This did not, however, change anything regarding the quality of the services offered by public healthcare systems, for which Tunisia was renown.  The Government was developing measures to improve equal access to healthcare, including the quality of paediatric care.  Regarding the national strategy to combat suicide, the Ministry of Health had instigated a committee to identify cases and provide psychological support to young people.  Psychological support was also provided to classmates of children who had committed suicide as part of prevention efforts. 

The Government had developed a strategy for 2016-2020 to raise awareness of sexual and reproductive health among adolescents, and ensure they had access to all information.  It had deployed mobile teams in that context. 

With a participatory approach, Tunisia had devised a plan to address COVID-19 and its aftermath.  Regular assessments of the health and psychological well-being of children were conducted in that context.

Sexual education was part of the “Principles of Human Rights” component of the curriculum, which also covered issues such as access to health care and protection of the environment.  A technical committee was drafting a guide to ensure age-appropriate information was provided to pupils on sexual and reproductive health.

The school dropout rate stood at 4.5 per cent, and the Ministry of Education was coordinating with other ministries to establish projects and provide psychological support, including for children from low-income families, to address this issue. 

For more than 25 years, the age of criminal responsibility had stood at 13 years, and the level of responsibility increased progressively as children grew older - children aged between 13 and 15 were held partially responsible for offences, for instance.  Increasing the age of criminal responsibility would require further examination.

The detention of children was a measure of last resort, as per the Child Protection Code and the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court.  The best interest of the child was considered at all levels of adjudication.

Regarding the recruitment of children by terrorist groups, the law against terrorism that was adopted in 2015 did not exempt children from prosecution even if the principle of child protection was upheld and reintegration measures implemented.  Children attracted to terrorist groups were generally seen as victims.  There were very few trials of children on terrorism charges, the delegation said. 

Turning to the care provided to refugee children, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there were about 8,300 refugees in Tunisia, including 1,800 children for whom care was provided by social security services and civil society.  As for the minimum age for working, the Government abided by the International Labour Organization guidelines and had ratified its conventions relevant in that regard.

The new legal framework dating to 2019 allowed for combatting discrimination against Amazigh children.  State officials, amongst others, would receive training in that context.  The Ministry of Education would include Amazigh language in curricula in coming months.

On the repatriation of children from conflict zones, the Government believed that children in conflict zones lived a real tragedy and were first and foremost victims in that regard.  The Government had requested the repatriation of women and children blocked in camps, setting up a national committee to monitor their situation and coordinate the action of four distinct governmental bodies in that context, in cooperation with consulates, non-governmental organizations and international organizations.  There had been 20 children repatriated from Libya, and 8 from Syria.

Responding to questions on the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration Programme, delegates said no child was returned if the Government was not certain that such a return was risk-free.  The Government assessed the situation in the country of origin, in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration.  Children participated in the decision-making process and were not forcibly sent back to their country of origin.

A national coordination committee had been created to ensure the proper follow-up to recommendations from international bodies, as well as draft reports under the human rights treaties.  Public and private institutions took part in its work along with civil society representatives.  All the reports drafted by this mechanism were prepared following a consultation process.  The collaboration of the United Nations Children’s Fund and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which had opened a country office in Tunisia, had been extremely valuable.

Providing additional information on the juvenile justice system, the delegation explained that while child offenders could have a lawyer represent them, it was not necessary as a child protection delegate was appointed to fulfil that role.  The Bar Association provided training to lawyers on child protection, they assured.  Children could not be detained if they were under the age of 15, even if they were convicted.  Judicial authorities always took into consideration the age of young offenders and sought to reduce their imprisonment, except for serious crimes.

To tackle obesity, the rate of which currently exceeded 17 per cent of Tunisian children, the Government addressed the reduced level of activity and participation in sports and new eating habits.  It had developed healthcare programmes raising awareness in schools about healthy lifestyles.  A national plan on food and nutrition had also been implemented.

To address HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, the Government organised awareness-raising campaigns in French and Arabic, distributed condoms, and targeted various segments of the population, including migrants and older people.  It also organised training for trainers.
Concluding Remarks

BRAGI GUDBRANDSSON, Committee Member and Coordinator of the Task Force for Tunisia, expressed his gratitude for the accomplishments made by Tunisia for the benefit of its children.  Tunisia was a role model in the region, by adopting legislation on corporal punishment and the Lanzarote Convention, for instance.  The Committee encouraged Tunisia to continue on the same path.

OTHMAN JERANDI, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Migration and Tunisians Abroad, thanked the Committee Experts for their interest in the report of Tunisia and their highly constructive remarks.  The Committee’s comments put into word the challenges he had outlined at the beginning.  There remained areas of weakness, but Tunisia was committed to pressing ahead and implementing children’s rights to ensure their protection throughout the country.

MIKIKO OTANI, Committee Chairperson, said that, thanks to the cooperation of the Tunisian delegation, the dialogue had been productive despite the constraints of the online format.  The Committee extended its best wishes to the children of Tunisia.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/05/tout-en-saluant-les-importants-accomplissements-de-la-tunisie

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Ce document est destiné à l'information; il ne constitue pas un document officiel