UPR of Tunisia: post-Jasmine Revolution, Tunisia shows progress but appreciates the challenges ahead
Thursday, 24 May 2012 16:33


On Tuesday the 22nd of May, the working group on the UPR examined the human rights situation in Tunisia. The session had been widely anticipated as Tunisia has showed itself to be particularly committed to achieving a successful transition after the Jasmine Revolution of 2011.


The delegation was led by Mr Samir Dilou, Minister for Human Rights and Transnational Justice. In his opening speech Mr Dilou introduced the report as a product of cooperation between all elements of civil society in the context of the radical change following the revolution. He painted the new Tunisia as a country that combines an Arab Islamic identity, modern trends and values of peace, democracy, and human rights. Mr Dilou also emphasised the will of the new Tunisia to cut itself from the previous regime. To this effect, key developments include enhanced cooperation with the international human rights system, ongoing reforms of the judiciary and security services, as well as the establishment of a pluralist democratic state. He also mentioned the importance of the new Financial Law of 2012, that would contribute to economic and social changes in the way of supporting those most vulnerable and providing basic services throughout the country. In the framework of international cooperation, he reminded the Working Group of the numerous implemented recommendations from the 2008 UPR, such as the signing of Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and that of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Torture (CAT).


Seventy-seven States signed onto the speakers’ list, giving just over a minutes and a half for each to voice their praise and concerns. Contrary to the first cycle of the UPR, Arab States were not alone in voicing their praise, with most other States also commending Tunisia for its will to complete the democratic transition and the improvements in human rights in the light of the challenges prior and since the revolution. The delegation thanked States for the praise but stated that it did not need any flattery. It stated that it would transmit all recommendations to the Government and would endeavour to comply with them.


Despite the impressive positive developments since the last UPR in 2008, numerous themes from that review emerged again at this session:


  • Praise for the moratorium on the death penalty and the signing of the optional protocol to the ICCPR, two strong recommendations from the first cycle. However, the Working Group remained adamant on its de jure as well as de facto abolition, adding the ratification of the second optional protocol to the ICCPR to the list of recommendations.
  • While the withdrawal of reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and new legislation regarding gender equality and women’s rights were applauded as implementations of previous recommendations, concerns remained regarding marriage, child custody, guardianship, and inheritance rights, as well as effective and equal access to justice and the labour market. This was also linked to the need to counter the patriarchal society and violence against women in Tunisia, points made by Poland, Thailand, and Uruguay.
  • Numerous states repeated a previous recommendation to expedite reforms of the judiciary in order to guarantee its independence in theory as well as in practice.
  • Note was taken of the fulfilment of previous recommendations by the passing of numerous new press laws, but concerns remained about reports of the application of recent legislation restricting freedom of expression. Recommendations were made to include freedom of expression, press freedom, and access to information in the constitution. This was also linked to concerns over the need for mechanisms for inclusive national dialogue between the Government and civil society.
  • Australia and the United States particularly voiced concerns about violence against protesters, recommending that security sector reform and human rights training be prioritised.


The meeting also saw States move beyond the issues raised in the first cycle, with new concerns including the need for education reforms and enhanced realisation of children’s rights, measures to address disparities between rural and urban areas, improved detention conditions, and the need for measures to combat religious, gender and sexual discrimination to be integrated into all relevant legislation.


There were also concerns expressed by numerous States on the need for redress, accountability, and justice regarding acts committed prior, during, and after the revolution.


In his responses to the issues raised, Mr Dilou stated his conviction that the new constitution, legislative measures, and the incorporation of human rights education throughout society, as mentioned in his opening speech as well as in the detailed report, would address many of the concerns raised. However, he added, change was not an overnight process and financial constraints should be acknowledged as well as the particular context of the Arab Spring. Emphasis was put on the need for on-going international support to complement the existing consultative approach that Tunisia is taking with other States and international mechanisms. Since the change in Government, Tunisia has welcomed two special rapporteurs (several more visits are scheduled for 2012) while also benefiting from consultations with Latin American and European countries that have gone through a similar transition. The delegation added that the issue of the death penalty and homophobia required a credible national debate in order to justify any further changes, echoing its hopes from the first cycle for a change in people’s attitudes on the death penalty.


The delegation closed the session by stating that it was looking forward to continuing a dialogue of ‘constructive interaction’ by engaging on the numerous recommendations and areas for improvement highlighted by the Working Group.


At the adoption of the report on Tunisia by the Working Group, the troika announced that Tunisia had accepted the 'overwhelming majority' of the recommendations made to it. Two recommendations were rejected, one to amend the penal code to legalise same-sex relations, and the other relating to the decriminalisation of defamation. It gave no explanation regarding the former, while in relation to the latter it stated that it the recommendation had been formulated in the report out of context, compelling it to reject it. 

The delegation affirmed its commitment to fulfil all its obligations under international human rights law and to strengthen its cooperation with the international human rights system, including with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the special procedures. It thanked those States that made voluntary contributions to the budget of the OHCHR office in Tunis and called on States to continue that support.  The delegation concluded by noting that the few recommendations it had left pending for consideration until the 21st session of the Human Rights Council were those that touched on sensitive issues such as religion and culture, requiring consultation with all sections of the population to achieve a broad-based national consensus on these issues. It added that the Government's stance towards those most of those recommendations was favourable but that it respected the people's will. 

Last Updated on Friday, 01 June 2012 15:30
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