13 May 2015
Tunis, 13 May 2015 – ASF (Avocats Sans Frontières) and a dozen other international non-governmental organisations for the defence of human rights raise the alarm about the risks associated with the passing of a security bill. The bill before the Tunisian parliament concerns state secrets and the “denigration” of the security forces. Some of its provisions pose a threat to freedom of expression. ASF is calling for this bill to be brought into line with international standards and the Tunisian Constitution.
Following the attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis on 18 March 2015, the government put in April 2015 a controversial bill concerning the repression of attacks against the armed forces before the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP).
The security situation in the country has undoubtedly been shaken in recent months by a series of deadly attacks leaving both civilian and military victims. However, having analysed the bill, the international NGOs fear that certain provisions could hinder freedom of expression and help to establish impunity for the security forces.
“These provisions, such as the introduction of the offence of denigrating the police and other security forces, are troubling. They could criminalise the behaviour of journalists, whistleblowers, human rights defenders and any other individual who criticises the police”, says Antonio Manganella, ASF Head of Mission in Tunisia. “In its current form, the bill also authorises the security forces to use deadly force, even if this is not strictly necessary to protect human life”, continues Mr Manganella.
Like other NGOs, ASF believes that the bill must be amended to bring it into line with international human rights standards and the Tunisian Constitution. If the Tunisian security forces need to be able to protect the people against potential attacks, this must take place with respect for human rights. It follows that international standards, such as the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials must be respected.
“If the government does not withdraw the bill in its current form, we call upon the Representatives of the People to radically amend it when it is debated in parliament”, calls the ASF Head of Mission in Tunis.
ASF’s call is part of a widespread movement among civil society within Tunisia and internationally. Tunisian organisations, including several partners of ASF, have also recently expressed their opposition to the bill.
The controversy surrounding this bill falls within a specific political context. Following the 2014 elections – the second democratic elections to be held since the 2011 revolution – the new government should concentrate its efforts on consolidating constitutional measures in order to guarantee the freedom and protect the rights of citizens in the face of the abuses which characterised the Ben Ali regime.
Joint statement (English and Arabic) by ASF and Amnesty International, ARTICLE 19, Action of Christians Against Torture, Réseau Euro-méditerranéen des Droits de l’Homme, Fédération Internationale des Droits de l’Homme, Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists, International Media Support, Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture, Oxfam, Reporters Sans Frontières, and The Carter Center.