Annual Report: Tunisia 2013

May 29, 2013

Annual Report: Tunisia 2013

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Torture and other ill-treatment

There were reports of torture and other ill-treatment by police. In August the Ministry of Human Rights and Transitional Justice said that, following a public consultation, it planned to establish a new independent national institution to combat torture. The proposed body would be empowered to visit places of detention and help draft new legislation, and would report annually and operate in line with international standards.

  • Abderraouf Khemmassi died on 8 September in police custody in Tunis, 11 days after his arrest for alleged theft. An autopsy attributed his death to a blow to the head and recorded other injuries. Four police officers were subsequently arrested and charged with causing his death.

Freedom of expression

Despite their stated commitment to respect freedom of expression, the authorities took action against journalists, artists, bloggers and critics using articles 121(3) and 226 of the Penal Code, which criminalize expression deemed to threaten public order, public morals or sacred values. In October, however, they said they would implement Decrees 115 and 116 of 2011 on the Press and Audiovisual Material.

  • Jabeur Mejri and Ghazi Beji were convicted of insulting Islam and Muslims under articles 121(3) and 226 of the Penal Code and article 86 of the Telecommunication Code in March, after they posted comments and images on the internet. Ghazi Beji fled the country and was sentenced in his absence. Both men were fined and sentenced to seven and a half years in prison, the maximum permitted. Their sentences were confirmed by the Monastir Court of Appeal on 20 June, following which the case was referred to the Court of Cassation, whose decision was still pending at the end of the year, at which time Jabeur Mejri was being held at Mehdia prison.

In June, Salafists attacked an art exhibition in Tunis, claiming that some of the artworks were offensive to Islam, sparking large protests in other cities. In September, protesters attacked the US embassy after a film deemed offensive to Islam was posted on the internet; four people were reported to have been killed in the violence and others injured.

  • Nadia Jelassi and Mohamed Ben Slima, artists associated with the art exhibition attacked by Salafists in June, were summoned to appear before an investigating magistrate on charges of attacking sacred values, offending public morals and disturbing public order. The case was ongoing at the end of the year.
  • Ayoub Massoudi was convicted in September of undermining the reputation of the army and defaming a civil servant. He received a suspended prison sentence of four months and was initially banned from travelling abroad. A presidential adviser, he had resigned and publicly criticized the extradition of former Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Al-Mahmoudi from Tunisia to Libya in June, accusing the Minister of Defence and the head of the army of failing to inform the President of the planned extradition. He was tried under Article 98 of the Code of Military Justice and Article 128 of the Penal Code.

Women's rights

Women continued to face discrimination in both law and practice. The government rejected recommendations made under the UN Universal Periodic Review to repeal discriminatory laws relating to inheritance and child custody. The Penal Code continued to provide, among other discriminatory measures, that a man who rapes or abducts a female minor can escape punishment by marrying her.