1. The Committee considered
the fourth periodic report of Tunisia (CCPR/C/84/Add.1) at its 1360th
to 1362nd meetings, held on 18 and 19 October 1994, and adopte* the
2. The Committee welcomes
the timely submission of the fourth periodic report of Tunisia and
appreciates the promptness with which the State party continues to
meet its reporting obligations under the Covenant. The report contains
useful and detailed information on measures taken by the Government,
particularly with regard to legislative reform and institutional developments
affecting the application of the Covenant. However, the Committee
notes that the report does not contain sufficient information on factors
and difficulties encountered in the implementation of the Covenant.
3. The Committee also
welcomes the presence, during the examination of the report, of a
high-level and competent delegation of experts knowledgeable in the
implementation of the Covenant in Tunisia. The delegation provided
much useful and updated information which facilitated a constructive
dialogue with the State party.
B. Factors and difficulties
affecting the implementation of the Covenant
4. The Committee is aware
that Tunisia is in a period of economic, political and social transition
and that it has to face the challenge of extremist movements.
C. Positive aspects
5. The Committee notes
with satisfaction the attempt to build a comprehensive constitutional
and legal framework for the promotion and protection on human rights.
The Committee welcomes recent progress in enhancing and strengthening
that framework, notably the establishment of a number of human rights
posts, offices and units within the executive branch with a view to
ensuring greater conformity of Tunisian law and practice with the
Covenant and other international human rights instruments.
6. The Committee also
notes with satisfaction recent legislative reforms aimed at bringing
Tunisian law into closer harmony with the requirements of the Covenant.
In this connection, the Committee welcomes changes in the Penal Code
which have reduced the duration of preventive detention, and strengthened
sanctions in cases of family violence directed against women. The
Committee also welcomes recent reforms in the Personal Status Code
and other laws aiming to guarantee and reinforce the equal rights
of women in a number of areas, including divorce, custody and maintenance
and to strengthen the protection of women against violence.
D. Principal subjects
7. The Committee cannot
conceal its disappointment with the deterioration in the protection
of human rights in Tunisia in the period under review. It is concerned,
in particular, with the growing gap between law and actual practice
with regard to guarantees and safeguards for the protection of human
rights. Although there is now in place an impressive array of State
organs for the promotion and protection of human rights at various
levels, the Committee notes that they have been concentrated exclusively
within the executive branch of the Government. Consequently, it is
not clear whether there are sufficiently independent mechanisms within
the public administration and the judiciary to effectively monitor
and enforce the implementation of existing human rights standards,
including the investigation of abuses.
8. The Committee is particularly
concerned with continuing reports of the abuse, ill-treatment and
torture of detainees, including deaths in custody under suspicious
circumstances. In this connection, it appears that Tunisian regulations
are not strictly adhered to with respect to the prompt registration
of persons arrested, the immediate notification to family members,
the limitation of pre-trial detention to the 10-day maximum, the requirement
of medical examinations whenever allegations of torture or other abuse
and the carrying out of autopsies in all cases of death in custody.
It is also not clear whether these and other requirements are being
systematically monitored and whether investigations are automatically
undertaken in all cases where there are either allegations or suspicious
circumstances indicating that torture may have taken place. The Committee
is also concerned that present laws overly protect Government officials,
particularly those concerned with security matters; it is particularly
concerned that those government officials who have been found guilty
of wrong-doing remain anonymous to the general public, becoming immune
from effective scrutiny.
9. The Committee is concerned
about the independence of the judiciary. It is also concerned by the
reports on harassment of lawyers who have represented clients accused
of having committed political offences and of the wives and families
of suspects. With respect to article 6 of the Covenant, the Committee
is concerned over the large number of crimes in Tunisia for which
the death penalty may be imposed.
10. The Committee is concerned
that, despite the significant progress which has been achieved regarding
the equal rights of women, there remain a number of outdated legal
provisions that are contrary to the Covenant. Those provisions concern
the status of married women and their equal rights in matters of child
custody, the transmission of nationality and parental consent for
the marriage of minor children. The Committee is also concerned with
legal discrimination against non-Muslims with respect to eligibility
for public office.
11. The Committee is concerned
that dissent and criticism of the Government are not fully tolerated
in Tunisia and that, as a result, a number of fundamental freedoms
guaranteed by the Covenant are not fully enjoyed in practice. In particular,
it regrets the ban on the publication of certain foreign newspapers.
The Committee is concerned that those sections of the Press Code dealing
with defamation, insult and false information unduly limit the exercise
of freedom of opinion and expression as provided for under article
19 of the Covenant. In this connection, the Committee is concerned
that those offences carry particularly severe penalties when criticism
is directed against official bodies as well as the army or the administration,
a situation which inevitably results in self-censorship by the media
when reporting on public affairs. The Committee also notes with concern
that it is not clear how procedures ensure independent review on the
merits, including judicial appeal, in cases where those provisions
of the Press Code have been invoked.
12. The Committee is concerned
that the Associations Act may seriously undermine the enjoyment of
the freedom of association under article 22, particularly with respect
to the independence of human rights non-governmental organizations.
In this connection, the Committee notes that the act has already had
an adverse impact on the Tunisian League for Human Rights. The Committee
believes that the Political Parties Act and the conditions imposed
on the activities of political parties, do not appear to be in conformity
with articles 22 and 25 of the Covenant. The Committee is also concerned
that, under the Passport Act, the grounds for refusing a passport
are not clearly specified by law in a way that complies with article
12 of the Covenant, leaving open the possibility of refusal on political
or other unacceptable grounds.
13. The Committee is concerned
that, while generally there is a well protected freedom to practice
and manifest one's religion, this right is not made available in respect
of all beliefs.
E. Suggestions and
14. The Committee recommends
that steps be taken to strengthen the independence of human rights
institutions in Tunisia and thereby close the gap between law and
practice and enhance the confidence of the public in those institutions.
The Committee emphasizes that the work of the "médiateur administratif",
the Presidential Human Rights Commissioner and any commission investigating
reports of human rights abuses should be transparent and the results
should be made public. The Committee notes that a better balance is
needed between State and private institutions concerned with human
rights and, in that connection, suggests that steps be taken to provide
more encouragement to human rights non-governmental organizations
in Tunisia. The Committee also recommends that steps are taken to
strengthen the independence of the judiciary, particularly from the
15. The Committee strongly
recommends that the State party consider ratifying or acceding to
the first Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights. Acceptance of the first Optional Protocol would
strengthen the capacity of the Government with respect to inquiries
into allegations of human rights abuses and also in regard to further
elaborating jurisprudence relating to human rights matters.
16. With respect to reports
of torture and abuse of detainees, the Committee strongly recommends
closer monitoring of the arrest and detention process; systematic,
prompt and open investigation into allegations; prosecution and punishment
of offenders; and the provision of legal remedies for victims. There
should be strict enforcement of registration procedures, including
prompt notification of family members of persons taken into custody,
and the 10-day limit to preventive detention. Steps should also be
taken to ensure that medical examinations are automatically provided
following allegations of abuse and that thorough autopsies are performed
following any death in custody. In all cases where investigations
are undertaken, the findings should be made public.
17. The Committee also
recommends that the State party take steps to reduce the number of
crimes for which the death penalty may be imposed and envisage acceding
to the Second Optional Protocol to the Covenant.
18. With respect to discrimination,
the Committee recommends that a further review of relevant legislation
be undertaken with a view to amending the law where necessary in order
to bring it into conformity with the requirements of the Covenant.
Such a review should focus on the equal rights of women, particularly
in regard to their parental and custodial rights and the transmission
of nationality, as well as on existing legal impediments to the equal
participation of non-Muslims in Presidential elections.
19. The Committee recommends
that measures be taken to ensure the exercise of the freedom of opinion
and expression in accordance with article 19 of the Covenant. In particular,
there should be a review and, where appropriate, amendment of those
provisions of the Press Code which unduly protect Government policy
and officials from criticism. Provision should also be made for independent
judicial review of all sanctions imposed under the act.
20. The Committee also
recommends that a review be undertaken of the Associations Act, the
Passport Act and the Political Parties Act to ensure that they are
in full conformity with the requirements of the Covenant. With respect
to freedom of religion, the Committee recommends that there be close
and independent monitoring of the exercise of that right by all groups
in Tunisia. The Committee emphasizes that its General Comment on article
18 should be reflected in Government policy and practice.
* Adopted at its 1383rd
meeting (fifty-second session) on 2 November 1994.