Tunisia: proposed Counter-Terrorism Law infringes on human rights and erodes the rule of law

The ICJ today called on the Tunisian authorities to amend the deeply flawed draft Counter-Terrorism and Money Laundering law with a view to ensuring its full compliance with international standards.

“Tunisian authorities have obligations under international law to protect individuals under their jurisdiction against all acts of terrorism,” said Said Benarbia, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at the ICJ.

“At the same time, all counter-terrorism measures must fully respect human rights guarantees and the rule of law,” he added.

The draft Counter-Terrorism and Money Laundering law, revised since it was first introduced last year, was revived following a series of attacks against members of the security forces and the army and the deadly Bardo Museum (photo) attack on 18 March 2015.

In response to the killing of 38 tourists in Sousse on 26 June and the following declaration of a state of emergency on 4 July 2015 by the Tunisian President, the Tunisian Assembly of the People’s Representatives has accelerated the process of discussing and adopting the Draft Law.

The Draft Law criminalizes a wide range of acts through overbroad and imprecise definitions of terrorism and terrorism-related acts.

Such definitions could potentially have the effect of criminalizing activities not actually related to terrorism, or even the lawful and peaceful exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to freedom of expression, the ICJ says.

The ICJ is particularly concerned that the draft law grants, in its article 68, immunity from criminal prosecution for security forces, outside cases of self-defence, when using force in the course of their duties.

This provision requires amendment to ensure that it does not immunize use of force that violates the right to life in violation of international law and standards, including for instance intentional use of lethal force when it is not strictly unavoidable in order to protect life, the Geneva-based organization adds.

“The draft law should not dilute the specificity of terrorist acts by drawing ordinary crimes within the scope of the counterterrorism legislation, nor should it be used as a tool to shield members of security forces from accountability in cases of human rights violations committed in the course of their functions,” Benarbia said.

Furthermore, the bill contains provisions that could potentially result in undue prosecution of whistleblowers and journalists, or otherwise disproportionally limit the freedoms of expression and information in violation of international law, the ICJ notes.

A number of offences under the Draft Law are punishable with the death penalty.

The ICJ opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as a violation of the right to life and the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

The Draft Law also creates an exceptional regime for police custody, allowing the prosecutor to order up to a period of 15 days of detention (articles 37 and 39) without access to a lawyer or a judge, in violation of the right to liberty, fair trial guarantees, and guarantees for the prevention of torture and other abuses in detention.

It further provides for extensive infringements of the right to privacy through various forms of surveillance, and potentially breaches lawyers’ duties of confidentiality in ways that have not been justified.

“In reviewing and approving the Draft Law, members of the Assembly must ensure that it is fully in line with Tunisia’s obligations under international law, including those relating to the right to life, to liberty and to a fair trial,” Benarbia added.


Theo Boutruche, Legal Adviser of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +96 170 888 961 ; e: theo.boutruche@icj.org

Tunisia-Counter Terrorism Draft Law-2015-ARA (Full text in Arabic, PDF)


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