The Tunisian Parliament should amend or reject the revised Draft Organic Law No. 25-2015 on the protection of security forces scheduled for discussion in Parliament today, said the ICJ. The Law if adopted would reinforce impunity for violations committed by security forces and undermine the rule of law and human rights.
The revised Draft Law was approved by the Parliamentary Commission in July 2020, following unsuccessful attempts to adopt it in 2015 and 2017.
Article 7 of the Draft Law provides for the exoneration of security forces from criminal responsibility for using lethal force to repel attacks on a security building, when the force is necessary and proportional to the danger posed to the building. In 2017, the ICJ and other organizations urged Parliament to reject a prior draft which included the same provision.
“More than 10 years after the uprising, Tunisia’s security forces continue to enjoy impunity for decades of serious human rights violations,” said Said Benarbia, the ICJ’s MENA Programme Director.
“The Parliament should adopt all the effective measures at its disposal to end such impunity, not entrench it by allowing the use of lethal force when it’s not strictly necessary to protect lives.”
Article 7 of the Draft Law would preserve the operation of Law No. 69-04, which permits the use of firearms to defend property, “mitigate” a resistance, or stop a vehicle or other form of transport in the context of public meetings, processions, parades, public gatherings, and assemblies. It allows for the use of lethal force to disperse an unlawful gathering where other means of dispersal have failed.
Under international law, including the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force, the intentional use of lethal force must be reasonable, necessary and proportional, and is only permissible if strictly necessary to protect life from an imminent threat to life, not a threat to property.
In the context of non-violent assemblies, the use of force should be avoided and, where unavoidable, restricted to the minimum extent necessary against only those individuals posing an imminent threat of death or serious injury.
The Draft Law appears to preserve an exemption under article 42 of the Criminal Code and Article 46 of Law No. 82-70 on the Statute of Internal Security Forces of 6 August 1982. Article 42 of the Criminal Code provides that a person is not liable for crimes under the Criminal Code, including homicide, if their acts were carried out pursuant to other laws or orders from a competent authority. Article 46 of Law No. 82-70 limits this immunity in relation to orders given to officers of the Internal Security Forces by requiring the orders be given “by their superior in the framework of legality.” Under international law, superior orders cannot serve as a ground of defence to a crime of unlawful killing by a State agent, such as a member of a security force.
“The Tunisian Parliament should reject the Draft Law and conduct a complete review of all laws regulating the conduct of the security forces to ensure they meet standards necessary to protect the population from the excesses demonstrated in the past,” said Kate Vigneswaran, the ICJ’s MENA Programme Senior Legal Adviser.
“Members of the Parliament should send a clear, unequivocal message that the impunity of the security forces can no longer be tolerated.”
Said Benarbia, Director, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +41-22-979-3817; e: said.benarbia(a)icj.org
Kate Vigneswaran, Senior Legal Adviser, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +31-62-489-4664; e: kate.vigneswaran(a)icj.org
Tunisia-draft law security forces-News-2020-ARA (story in Arabic, PDF)News