University of Minnesota

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of
Racial Discrimination, Tunisia, U.N. Doc. A/49/18, paras. 160-180 (1994).






Concluding observations of the Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination


160. The ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth periodic reports of Tunisia, submitted as a single document (CERD/C/226/Add.10), were considered by the Committee at its 1016th and 1017th meetings, on 2 March 1994 (see CERD/C/SR.1016 and SR.1017).

161. The report was introduced by the representative of the State party, who said that Tunisia had ratified most of the international human rights treaties. He reported on measures taken to strengthen protection against discrimination, such as the prohibition on defining nationality by racial or religious criteria, and the punishment under the Penal Code of incitement to racial hatred and defamation on grounds of racial or religious origin. He said that all Tunisians had an equal right to health, social protection, work, housing and justice.

162. The Committee thanked the representative for the State party's report and for the oral presentation. Members of the Committee congratulated Tunisia on the list of human rights enunciated in the Constitution and the fact that the Constitution recognized the primacy of duly ratified international treaties over internal legislation. They also expressed satisfaction at the measures taken by Tunisia to include human rights education in schools and to teach young people tolerance and cultural pluralism. However, they pointed out that no country could pride itself on being free of the problem of racial discrimination, regardless of how homogeneous the population was. Members of the Committee wanted to know whether there were still nomadic populations in Tunisia and, if so, whether their culture was being preserved and to what extent they participated in public life. They also asked whether the National Covenant, adopted seven years before, had been accepted by all political parties, including the opposition parties, and what place the Covenant held in relation to the Tunisian Constitution, as well as what its authority was in the Tunisian legal system. Members of the Committee asked for information on the follow-up by the Tunisian authorities to the World Meeting of National Institutions for the Protection of Human Rights, which had been held in Tunisia.

163. With reference to article 2 of the Convention, members of the Committee asked what mechanisms had been set up to ensure the independence of the human rights consultative bodies established to advise the President of the Republic, such as the Higher Committee of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the Administrative Mediator, and the human rights offices in the Ministries of Justice, the Interior and Foreign Affairs. Had those bodies issued reports on their activities and, if so, what was the content? Had the Administrative Mediator and the offices in the various ministries instituted judicial proceedings? They also asked whether the human rights enunciated in the Constitution were directly applicable by a court or whether that was possible only under special laws. Similarly, they wanted to know whether the provisions of the Convention could be invoked directly in court.

164. With regard to article 4 of the Convention, the members of the Committee noted that only press offences were mentioned in the report and not all the other offences that should be punishable, inasmuch as the Convention required States to declare illegal and to prohibit organizations and propaganda activities which incited racial discrimination. They wanted to know about the reasons for the departure of many Jews abroad, as well as the general living conditions of Jews in Tunisia. Which were the ethnic groups forming the 1 per cent of the population that were not Sunni of Arab-Berber origin, and what were their rights? What were the number and the origin of aliens living in Tunisia and what were their rights compared with the rights of Tunisians? Had there been cases of breaches of the rules governing the establishment of associations or organizations, or membership in such associations or organizations? What was the situation of an immigrant worker who was about to complete his labour contract for a maximum period of two years? Could the contact be renewed? Members of the Committee also wanted to know whether the Tunisian Government had taken steps to protect Tunisian nationals who were victims of discrimination abroad (including the victims of expulsion from Libya in 1985). Members of the Committee asked about the criteria used by the Ministry of Justice to decide whether or not a person applying for naturalization was likely to become integrated into Tunisian society.

165. With reference to article 5 of the Convention, members of the Committee asked for clarification about the arrests and trials (as well as torture and deaths in prison) in 1991 and 1992 of members of the Ennahdha Islamist party. They also wanted to know what the practical effects were of the prohibition of polygamy and the introduction of divorce as the only possibility of dissolving marriage. They would like the members of the delegation to inform the Committee of the public rights and freedoms enjoyed and practised by immigrants and resident aliens.

166. With regard to article 6 of the Convention, the members of the Committee deplored the absence of examples and statistical data on complaints, legal proceedings and convictions for racist offence.

167. In response to the questions and comments by the members of the Committee, the representative of the State party said that 5,000 Tunisians were not Muslim, including approximately 3,000 who were Jews, the remainder being Christians. About 25,000 foreigners were working in Tunisia. The representative went on to emphasize that there were no problems of racial discrimination in Tunisia. In connection with the questions about the 1987 National Covenant, he explained that the Covenant was a text negotiated with, and signed by, all the country's political and social forces. The text was not binding in law, but it acted as a code that was a commitment for all the country's economic and social forces.

168. In connection with the questions on the Higher Committee of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the representative said that it was an independent body, one third of the membership consisting of representatives of ministerial departments and two thirds of independent individuals. It could receive complaints from private individuals or non-governmental organizations and could conduct inquiries and make proposals for improvements in law and in practice. It published an annual report on the human rights situation and, following the World Conference on Human Rights, it had encouraged the convening of the World Meeting of National Institutions for the Protection of Human Rights. The role of the Administrative Mediator was to receive individuals or non-governmental organizations concerning administrative problems involving appeals from government agencies or public officials; it was empowered to make proposals to the President of the Republic. As to the status of international treaties in national law, in civil proceedings treaties could be invoked by the party concerned, whereas in criminal proceedings it was for the prosecutor to refer to the relevant conventions, which were binding and took precedence over Tunisian law.

169. Concerning the Berbers in Tunisia, the representative of the State party said that they were particularly well integrated into Tunisian society and had no grievances; he also said that there were no nomadic tribes in Tunisia. In connection with the questions about the Jews in Tunisia, the representative said that their departure to France (most had a French passport) could be explained partly by the collectivization and socialization policy of the 1960s, a policy that had applied to all Tunisians and was not discriminatory but had induced many Jews engaged in commerce to leave, and partly by events in the Middle East from 1967 which had created tensions in the region, causing many Jews to leave. There had been no Government aim to secure the departure of Jews from Tunisia. Most immigrants in Tunisia were Moroccans or Algerians, together with some Europeans employed by foreign companies. Tunisia had ratified the ILO conventions concerning equality of treatment of nationals and non-nationals in employment and occupations and equal remuneration and social security.

Concluding observations

170. At its 1034th meeting, on 15 March 1994, the Committee adopted the following concluding observations.

(a) Introduction

171. Appreciation is expressed to the State party for the detailed information contained in its report and the supplementary information provided by the State party representative.

(b) Positive aspects

172. The democratic changes that have taken place in the State party during the reporting period are welcomed and satisfaction is expressed concerning the various measures taken to promulgate legislation and create mechanisms for the implementation of its international human rights treaty obligations. It is also noted with appreciation that various human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations have been established in the State party.

173. It is noted with satisfaction that the Constitution recognizes the principle of the primacy of international law and that the provisions of the Convention are directly applicable. The various measures taken in order to promote through education and teaching the principles of tolerance and respect for fundamental rights in conformity with article 7 of the Convention are also welcomed.

(c) Principal subjects of concern

174. It is noted, however, that the report did not provide concrete information on the implementation of the Convention in practice and did not therefore fully comply with the State party's obligations under article 9 of the Convention. Regret is expressed over the absence of concrete information and statistical data in the report on the effective functioning of the recently established human rights bodies and mechanisms. While appreciation is expressed for the detailed information contained in the report, more focused data on the actual application of the Convention is required.

175. Concern is expressed that specific legislative and other measures to prevent and prohibit racial discrimination have not been adopted by the State party. It is noted that domestic legislation lacks provisions to implement fully article 4 of the Convention, in particular, provision declaring punishable by law all acts of racist violence, the incitement to such acts and the provision of assistance to racist activities, as well as the prohibition of organizations, activities and propaganda which promote and incite racial discrimination. It is stressed that the existing provisions of the Penal Code do not fully comply with the requirements of that article.

176. Concern is also expressed that the provisions of Organic Law No. 92-25 could be interpreted and applied in contradiction to the requirements of article (d) 5 (ix) of the Convention concerning the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

(d) Suggestions and recommendations

177. The Committee recommends that specific legislation be introduced to implement the provisions of article 4 of the Convention, taking into account general recommendation XV (42) of the Committee.

178. The Committee recommends that the next report of the State party should include information and statistical data about measures taken to implement the rights enshrined in the Convention and to guarantee effective remedies to possible victims of racial discrimination.

179. The Committee suggests that the State party consider making the declaration under article 14, paragraph 1, of the Convention.

180. The Committee draws the attention of the State party to the amendment to article 8, paragraph 6, of the Convention, which was approved by the fifteenth meeting of States parties and by the General Assembly in its resolution 47/111, and encourages the State party to expedite its action formally to accept that amendment.



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