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Human rights in Tunisia: between stagnation and regression

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Amnesty International’s report titled ‘One step forward, two steps back’ raises questions about whether Tunisia is stagnating or regressing regarding the situation of human rights.

Kacem Jlidi
29 October 2012

Amnesty International’s demoralising report titled ‘One step forward, two steps back’ is bringing generous affirmation among Tunisians on the fluctuating situation between stagnation and regression regarding the situation of human rights.  

The report is overlooking Tunisia’s reformist progress on the various areas of human rights since it’s landmark free, fair and democratic elections on October last year.

The excessive use of force, torture, ill-treatment, the battered freedom of expression and the continuance of the death penalty are among the highlights of the Country report.

‘The NGO is providing an unflattering portrait of the situation. Much remains to be done’, says Sana Sbouï, a journalist writing for the award winning collective blog Nawaat.org.

The elected National Constituent Assembly, tasked with drafting a new Constitution within a year, has failed to meet their deadlines. This means that Tunisia will most likely continue to be led by an interim government that suffer under questions about it's very legitimacy.

The report emphasised the numerous cases of ill-treatment and violence by the police against Tunisian protesters who have taken to the streets to express their dissatisfaction at the slow pace of post-revolution reform.

‘Protesters, who have continued to take to the streets in different parts of Tunisia to express their dissatisfaction with the slow pace of reform, have been met with unnecessary and excessive force', says the report. ‘Many of them who alleged they were beaten during demonstrations, during arrest or in detention centres’.

While the death penalty remains in effect, no death sentences have been imposed and there were no executions since the revolution. According to Amnesty, Tunisia has maintained a moratorium on executions since 1991. Yet the death penalty was one of the first expected penalties to be reformed since several members of the ruling Islamist party Ennahda had been sentenced to death.

Ultimately, the report’s findings are not surprising and the general sentiment expressed in it were reflected on the October 23rd, when the people protested the ineffectiveness of their leaderswhile the heads of legislative and executive powers called for a celebration of Tunisia’s first free and democratic elections,

An understandable reaction, indeed. The economy is deteriorating, living costs and food prices are rising while unemployment remains one of the most pressing social challenges.

In addition, we should not forget the yearlong demands for judicial system reform, media reform, bringing the thieves and killers to justice and finalising a gender sensitive constitution in line with the world’s human rights conventions.

The questions to be asked are to what extent is the current government planning to bring real reforms and how soon, and what will be the street reaction in the coming days?

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