Tunisia: the law against drugs grinds to a standstill

20 May 2016

Tunis, 20 May 2016 – In spite of declarations in the media and the adoption of a new bill by the Council of Ministers, the current anti-drug law is now entering its 25th year.  Even though it is largely considered to be unfair, ineffective and obsolete, this law continues to victimise the most vulnerable sectors of the Tunisian population.  ASF advocates for faster legislative reform on the issue.

Not only is it ineffective, as proven by the significant increase in repeat offences, the current law on drugs (Law no. 92-52) has long been used as a means to repress young people whilst also encouraging the spread of corruption. During recent electoral campaigns a number of political figures, aware of the failure of this repressive policy, have promised to reform the aspects of the law which relate specifically to drug users.

After a year of silence from the government in the face of constant pressure from civil society, the Council of Ministers finally adopted a new bill on the 30th December 2015. “In spite of this significant breakthrough, the bill’s adoption by the Parliament (ARP) does not yet appear to be a priority. And young people are still being arrested under the terms of the law and drug-users are continuing to fill the already massively overcrowded prisons where they represent something between a quarter and a third of all inmates”, warned Antonio Manganella, Director of Avocats Sans Frontières in Tunisia.

ASF along with the Tunisian League for Human Rights and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers have put forward a series of worrying statistics demonstrating the ineffectiveness of the law in a report published at the start of the year. “Three-quarters of people imprisoned for drug use are under the age of 30, more than half of those convicted are repeat offenders and drug addiction figures have reached 70% among young people”, explained Antonio Manganella.

The statistics reveal a constant increase in drug addiction and repeat offending, leading to the clear conclusion that law no. 92-52 has not actually reduced the number of offenses and has therefore failed completely both as a measure for prevention or deterrence and as a solution to the problem.

The new projected drug law was recently submitted to the ARP’s Commission for affairs relating to women, families, children, adolescents and the aged. “This first reading is a step forward but we deplore the lack of clarity over the bill’s legislative procedure; it has only been subjected to a preliminary study and has yet to be officially scheduled to pass in front of one of the legislative committees”, said Antonio Manganella.

This draft bill does, however, reveal its extreme importance for the people it is intended to deal with, that is the younger population; who is not targeted by government’s social policies and finds itself unable to see Justice and the State as anything other than remote, or even hostile, figures. “Rebuilding a sense of trust between citizens and Government authorities involves the removal of the ineffective and repressive laws which were typical of the regime prior to January 2011”, he concluded.

ASF is advocating for a speed up of parliamentary proceedings, notably by including the projected anti-drug bill on the agendas of the General Legislation, Human Rights and Civil Liberties Commissions, and also to ensure that the civil society can play an effective role in the parliamentary debates to come.

Full press release available here (French version)

Published in Detention | Legal aid | News | Tunisia

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