COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE
9-20 November 1998
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE
19 OF THE CONVENTION
Conclusions and recommendations of
the Committee against Torture
88. The Committee considered the second periodic report of Tunisia
(CAT/C/20/Add.7) at its 358th, 359th and 363rd meetings, held on
18 and 20 November 1998 (CAT/C/SR.358, 359 and 363) and has adopted
the following conclusions and recommendations:
ratified the Convention on 23 September 1988 and made the declarations
provided for in articles 21 and 22.
second periodic report was due on 22 October 1993. The Committee
regrets that the report was received on 10 November 1997 only.
the period covered by the report measures were taken by the authorities
to build a legal and constitutional framework for the promotion
and protection of human rights. The Committee welcomes the establishment
of a number of human rights posts, offices and units within the
executive branch and within the civil society. The Committee also
welcomes the efforts that were made to raise the level of awareness
of the principles of human rights in the society. The Committee
noted, in particular, the publishing of a code of conduct for law
enforcement officials, the setting up of human rights departments
in Tunisian universities and the establishment of human rights units
in some key ministries.
Committee also notes that, for the first time, an independent commission
of investigation was established to examine the allegations of abuses
that took place in 1991.
Tunisian Constitution provides that duly ratified treaties have
a higher authority than laws. Thus, the provisions of the Convention
take precedence over domestic legislation.
and difficulties impeding the application of the provisions of the
Committee is aware of the challenges that were facing the Government
during the period covered by the report. However, the Committee
emphasizes that no exceptional circumstances can ever provide a
justification for failure to comply with the terms of the Convention.
Committee reiterates its views that the definition of torture under
Tunisian law is not in conformity with article 1 of the Convention,
as the Tunisian Criminal Code, inter alia, uses the term
"violence" instead of torture and article 101 of the Criminal Code
penalizes the use of violence only when it is used without just
Committee is concerned over the wide gap that exists between law
and practice with regard to the protection of human rights. The
Committee is particularly disturbed by the reported widespread practice
of torture and other cruel and degrading treatment perpetrated by
security forces and the police, which, in certain cases, resulted
in death in custody. Furthermore, it is concerned over the pressure
and intimidation used by officials to prevent the victims from lodging
Committee is concerned that many of the regulations existing in
Tunisia for arrested persons are not adhered to in practice, in
limitation of pretrial detention to the 10day maximum prescribed
immediate notification of family members;
requirement of medical examination with regard to allegations of
carrying out of autopsies in all cases of death in custody.
Committee notes that arrests are very often made by plain clothes
agents who refuse to show any identification or warrant.
Committee is particularly disturbed by the abuses directed against
female members of the families of detainees and exiled persons.
It has been reported that dozens of women were subjected to violence
and sexual abuses or sexual threats in order to put pressure on
or to punish their imprisoned or exiled relatives.
Committee feels that, by constantly denying these allegations, the
authorities are in fact granting those responsible for torture immunity
from punishment, thus encouraging the continuation of these abhorrent
Committee notes further that the State party does not accede to
requests of extradition of political refugees. The Committee expresses
its concern that this should not be the only exception for refusal
of extradition. In this regard, the Committee draws the attention
of the State party to article 3 of the Convention, which prohibits
the extradition of a person if "there are substantial grounds for
believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture".
Committee calls upon the State party to put an end to the degrading
practice of torture and to eliminate the gap between the law and
its implementation and in particular to take up the following measures:
ensure strict enforcement of the provisions of law and procedures
of arrest and police custody;
strictly enforce the procedures of registration, including notification
of families of persons taken into custody;
ensure the right of victims of torture to lodge a complaint without
the fear of being subjected to any kind of reprisal, harassment,
harsh treatment or prosecution, even if the outcome of the investigation
into his claim does not prove his or her allegation, and to seek
and obtain redress if these allegations are proven correct;
ensure that medical examinations are automatically provided following
allegations of abuse and an autopsy is performed following any death
in custody; and that the findings of all investigations concerning
cases of torture are made public, and that this information should
include details of any offences committed, the names of the offenders,
the dates, places and circumstances of the incidents and the punishment
received by those who were found guilty.
Committee urges the State party to take the following measures:
reduce the police custody period to a maximum of 48 hours;
bring the relevant articles of the Criminal Code into line with
the definition of torture as contained in article 1 of the Convention;
amend the relevant legislation to ensure that no evidence obtained
through torture shall be invoked as evidence in any proceedings,
except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the
statement was made.
Committee urges the State party to submit its third periodic report
by 30 November 1999.
of the Committee on the observations submitted by Tunisia
accordance with article 19, paragraph 4, of the Convention and rule
68, paragraph 1, of its rules of procedure, the Committee, on 26
April 1999, decided, at its discretion, to include the observations
on the Committee's conclusions and recommendations received from
Tunisia on 27 November 1998 in its annual report. The text of the
observations of the State party reads as follows:
"Comments by the Tunisian Government on the conclusions and recommendations
Committee against Torture following its consideration of Tunisia's
second periodic report
"Tunisia, which has ratified the Convention against Torture, is
one of the few countries to have made declarations under articles
21 and 22 of that Convention without entering any reservations.
It would like to point out that, pursuant to article 32 of the Tunisian
Constitution, conventions become law as soon as they are duly ratified.
political and legal commitment has been implemented in practice
and in all circumstances, through the strict application of ordinary
law, without any discrimination or exception. Moreover, though it
was faced with barbaric criminal and terrorist acts perpetrated
by fundamentalists throughout the period covered by the report (1990-1993),
Tunisia did not declare a state of emergency, introduce special
courts or employ special procedures, as permitted under article
4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
of torture, as given in article 1 of the Convention, is an integral
part of Tunisian law, because the Convention became law as soon
as it was ratified. Moreover, the international instrument takes
precedence over national law in the hierarchy of legal standards,
and national law is thus interpreted in conformity with the Convention's
raised by the Committee against Torture over the alleged wide gap
between law and practice with regard to the protection of human
rights in Tunisia has no basis in fact. All the abuses mentioned
have been the subject of administrative and judicial investigation
in conformity with the law. Moreover, political will has been demonstrated
many times by the setting up of commissions of inquiry.
as well as judicial penalties have been imposed on officials when
their responsibility has been established. The statistics published
by the special commissions of investigation as well as by the Higher
Committee on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms provide tangible
proof that no pressure or intimidation is used to prevent victims
from lodging complaints, and they also refute the allegation that
law-enforcement officials enjoy impunity.
the fact that complaints are registered by the human rights units
and the various administrative and legal bodies, and that the individuals
concerned are safeguarded against any possible pressure, invalidates
existing legislation and regulations in Tunisia relating to persons
under arrest are mandatory and must be strictly and promptly applied.
Consequently, any infringement is severely punished with disciplinary
and judicial measures. All departments with responsibility for places
of detention are obliged to keep a special numbered register including
the identities of all persons held in custody and indicating the
time and date that the custody period begins and ends (article 13
bis of the Code of Criminal Procedure).
checks are carried out regularly and severe penalties are provided
for by law in articles 172 and 250 of the Penal Code to curb abuses.
Following the conclusions of the report by the Chairman of the Higher
Committee on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, measures have
been instituted to improve monitoring of entries made in the registers.
Action is being taken in this regard to make officials more aware
of human rights culture (circulars issued by the Minister of the
Interior, notices in police stations, a code of conduct, training
at police and national guard schools, etc).
conclusions that laws have not been enforced are totally unfounded.
notification of an arrest to family members of the person being
held in custody is not, as stated in the Committee's conclusions,
a rule that is not adhered to in practice; it is in fact an administrative
measure which is implemented with a view to consolidating the protection
of human rights. The Committee's comment should have been included
in the recommendations rather than among the so-called 'subjects
examination, which is a right expressly guaranteed by law and can
be carried out at the mere request of the detainee or members of
his or her family, is in fact ordered whenever allegations of torture
are brought before the relevant administrative or judicial authorities.
Clearly, therefore, the Committee's criticisms in that regard in
no way reflect the real situation.
surprised at the Committee's concern over the practice of carrying
out autopsies in all cases of death in custody, since it was not
a subject of discussion between the experts and the Tunisian delegation.
Tunisia's report makes it clear that carrying out an autopsy is
standard practice in all cases of death in places of detention and
prisons, even when there is no allegation of torture. This practice
conforms to the provisions of article 48 of the law of 1 August
1957 governing the civil registry and the provisions of article
87 of the decree of 4 November 1988 on prison regulations.
comment on arrests made by plain-clothes agents who refuse to show
identification or a warrant is unfounded. Officers who carry out
arrests, whether they are in official uniform or in civilian clothing,
are obliged to disclose their identity and to show their professional
card. An officer failing to fulfil this obligation, may be subject
to disciplinary and criminal proceedings (article 250 of the Penal
Code). Any record of a statement taken by an officer who has not
specified his or her identity is annullable, since it violates the
interests of the accused and the fundamental rules of procedure
(article 199 of the Code of Criminal Procedure).
conclusions on allegations of sexual or other abuse against women
members of the families of detainees and exiled persons are so obviously
biased as to be absurd.
delegation has already refuted these allegations in an exhaustive
legal and practical analysis drawing attention to the lies and manipulation
perpetrated by extremist elements, which are intended to tarnish
Tunisia's image and arouse the sympathy of the countries where they
live, in the hope of obtaining permission for their families to
authorities challenge anyone to produce the slightest evidence in
support of these allegations.
would like to point out its significant achievements in protecting
and promoting women's rights, and to express its indignation at
the Committee's conclusions on the subject, which it judges to be
entirely unsubstantiated. Needless to say, the false allegations
which prompted these conclusions have not been the subject of petitions
to the courts or human rights units.
as the Committee recognizes, Tunisia prides itself on the fact that
it does not grant extradition requests for political refugees. It
would like to point out, however, that the task of assessing the
potential risk of torture in requesting countries belongs to the
Indictment Division of the Tunis Court of Appeal, which is responsible
for extradition matters. This court has a duty to observe the provisions
of article 3 of the Convention, an integral part of Tunisian law
which the judge is bound to respect.
Government wishes to express its profound regret at the Committee's
conclusions, which have ignored Tunisia's report as well as the
responses given by its delegation in the recent discussions.
of the points made in the conclusions were not even raised as subjects
for discussion between the members of the Committee and the Tunisian
delegation. This leads us to believe that the conclusions were reached
in advance and they clearly reflect the totally unjustified positions
of certain non-governmental organizations."