At the 10th ExPEERience Talk, Nadia Ben Halim (consultant) and Zeineb Mrouki (Programme coordinator at ASF Tunisie) will present a study on corporate responsibility with regard to human rights in the textile sector in the governorate of Monastir in Tunisia.
The textile industry is now worth 3,000 billion dollars and is one of the world’s most important economic sectors. In Tunisia, clothing production accounts for a quarter of the country’s industrial output in terms of gross domestic product, making it a central sector of the Tunisian economy. However, for years, human rights organisations and official reports have documented systemic violations of workers’ rights (undignified working conditions, informal and illegal work, etc.). Among the companies guilty of flagrant violations of workers’ rights are many subcontractors of multinational companies. These systematically fail to meet their obligations and apply the duty of care throughout the supply chain, as required by international standards.
The study, based on documentary research, field surveys and, in particular, consultations with women workers in the textile sector in the governorate of Monastir, reveals systematic violations of workers’ rights, including the lack of social security cover, unfair dismissals, failure to account for overtime, and discrimination specifically targeting women. Recommendations are made to combat the impunity of companies in the face of the legal violations they commit.
This study is part of the PREVENT – Pour une Responsabilité et une Vigilance des Entreprises project, carried out in collaboration by Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF), the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES) and I Watch. In particular, this project has led to the establishment of a mechanism to provide access to information and legal assistance to those most exposed to violations by industrial companies, particularly in the textile sector.
The study will be published on the ASF website at the end of June. You can already read the policy brief on the ASF website: “Les travailleueur‧euse‧s du textile tunisien en quête de dignité et de justice face à des pratiques abusives et discriminatoires”.
The Alliance for Security and Liberties (ASL), of which ASF is a member, has published its fifth report on the rule of law and the state of freedoms in Tunisia. Begun in the aftermath of President Saïed’s coup de force on 25 July 2021, ASL’s quantitative and qualitative monitoring and analysis of the events, decisions and reactions that followed the controversial vote on the new Tunisian Constitution on 25 July 2022 is presented in this fifth edition.
More than a year and a half ago, on 25 July 2021, President Saïed activated Article 80 of the Constitution and established a state of emergency. This date marked the beginning of his dismantling of the institutions resulting from the post-2011 transition: parliament frozen and then dissolved, constitutional bodies dissolved, full powers by decree, ratification of a Constitution unilaterally drafted by Saïed and voted under deleterious conditions…
The picture painted by this bulletin leaves little doubt as to President Said’s autocratic intentions and his desire to close the chapter of democratic transition in Tunisia once and for all. He unilaterally imposes a political project with vague outlines but which is certainly vertical, authoritarian and populist.
Several trends and developments emerge from the monitoring and analysis work of the Security and Freedom Alliance.
At the institutional level, the period was marked by the vote and ratification of the new Constitution, which established the hypertrophy of the executive to the detriment of the legislative and judicial powers, which were considerably weakened. The polls leading up to the vote on the Constitution and the election of the first chamber of Parliament were characterised by their incompatibility with electoral norms and historically low turnout. The judiciary continues to be attacked and dismantled against the backdrop of a major socio-economic crisis.
At the same time, rights and freedoms continue to be eroded, in a context of instrumentalisation of the judiciary and the security apparatus, and repression of opponents, the press and trade unions. Arbitrary administrative measures to restrict freedoms and the adoption of liberticidal decree-laws have become common practice. The last few months have also been marked by a campaign of racist violence – supported by the state’s hateful rhetoric – against sub-Saharan populations, at a time when more and more migrants (Tunisian or not) are trying to reach Europe by sea, risking their lives.
Finally, the vice is tightening ever more on an opposition that is struggling to form a united front against the regime. The political scene remains unstable and shifting. Several opposition initiatives (civil and political) coexist but do not manage to constitute an opposition force capable of challenging the President’s authoritarian designs, while some of his allies are distancing themselves.
On the international scene, Tunisia is isolating itself. Condemnations have been mounting and even intensifying since the waves of arrests of public figures in recent months and the deployment of xenophobic rhetoric against sub-Saharan migrants. It is in this context that the President is undertaking diplomatic efforts, particularly with Arab states, to obtain international support.
L’Alliance pour la Sécurité et les Libertés
The Alliance for Security and Liberties (ASL) is an alliance of Tunisian and international civil society organisations based in Tunisia which, in the continuity of the Revolution of Freedom and Dignity, reflects, mobilises and acts so that Tunisia consolidates the construction of a democratic state whose public policies are at the service of the citizens guaranteeing peace, respect for their human rights and equality between all.
Although detention pending trial should be the exception rather than the rule, the use of pre-trial detention is highly prevalent in Uganda. In March 2022, over half of the prison population was awaiting trial, one of the main contributing factors to a prison occupancy rate of over 300%.
Prolonged pre-trial detention does not just lead to overcrowding, it also makes one more vulnerable to torture, ill-treatment and coercion to make a false confession. For a suspect or accused person, spending a significant amount of time awaiting trial in prison undermines its chance to benefit from a fair trial as well as its presumption of innocence.
There are safeguards in place in Ugandan law, including in the Constitution, to ensure that pre-trial detention is used sparingly and with respect for an accused person’s rights and freedoms. However, these provisions are often violated, whether due to abuse of power by officials, slow investigations, corruption, case backlog, ignorance of the law, and/or lack of adequate legal representation.
In 2021, ASF conducted a baseline study to gather much-needed evidence and data about the situation of pre-trial detainees in Ugandan prisons. The objective of the study was to provide an overview of the socio-economic profile of detainees, patterns of detention and arrest, and experiences of pre-trial detention.
The socio-economic profile of pre-trial detainees: What the baseline study tells us
In Uganda as in other countries around the world, pre-trial detention disproportionately affects the underprivileged. The majority of suspects and inmates surveyed (77%) had either no qualification or had only completed primary school. Only 8% were engaged in formal employment around the time of their arrest, while the rest were dependent on the informal sector or peasantry.
These dynamics have significant implications for the criminal justice system. Individuals from economically and socially disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to be involved in low-level petty offences as a way to make ends meet, in which case pre-trial detention may both be unnecessary and further reinforce their marginalization.
They are also likely to be less knowledgeable about their rights, encounter more challenges in accessing legal aid, and not have the resources and support networks to recover from a long period in pre-trial detention. Those with additional vulnerabilities, such as refugees, women and children also experience added challenges.
Constitutional and procedural safeguards
The Constitution of Uganda provides that a suspect detained at a police station should be produced before a magistrate within 48 hours. This is to allow for judicial control of the charge and necessity of detention. In the baseline study conducted by ASF, only 7% of suspects found in police custody had been there for less than 48 hours. The majority of suspects (63%) also did not know of their right to apply for police bond, which means that few were able to advocate for themselves.
In Uganga, the Constitution provides that pre-trial detention should not go beyond 60 days for non-capital offences, and 180 days for capital offences. In practice, 59% of inmates surveyed in prisons had spent over 180 days on remand. Several prisoners had been awaiting trial for several years, including a 21 year-old female prisoner who had been on remand for six years of her life. The recent passing of new bail guidelines is likely to worsen the situation.
Access to legal aid: a necessary but insufficient condition for the rights of detainees to be upheld
Of all the inmates surveyed, only 19% had accessed legal services during their time in detention. Free and accessible legal aid services are key in order to ensure that inmates are made aware of their rights and supported in moving their case forward or accessing bail. During the launch of the baseline study report, stakeholders from criminal justice institutions and legal aid service providers called for the National Legal Aid Bill to be passed into law so that access to legal aid is guaranteed to indigent or people in vulnerable situations.
However, more systemic changes are crucial in order to ensure that the use of pre-trial detention is limited to those cases for which it is necessary, and used in accordance with procedural and constitutional safeguards. From the point of arrest, all stakeholders in the criminal justice systems as well as the government of Uganda have a role to play in ensuring that individual rights and freedoms are respected, that the criminal justice system does not unduly criminalise the disadvantaged and that violations are duly identified, investigated and remedied.
Full policy recommendations are available in the baseline study report.
ASF’s work in pre-trial detention in Uganda
Since 2019, ASF and its partner the Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET) in Uganda, with funding from the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC), have been working to protect and promote constitutional and procedural rights in the administration of justice in Uganda. As part of this, free legal aid services have been provided in eight district to over 4000 pre-trial detainees. ASF also conducts sensitisation sessions to empower communities to enforce their rights, as well as local and national advocacy efforts for positive reform.
Registration for the international conference Lawyering for Change 2022 is open!
The event, organised by Avocats Sans Frontières, will take place on 12 and 13 October at the International Auditorium in Brussels
We are delighted to officialy announce the international conference Lawyering for Change. It will take place on 12 and 13 October 2022 in Brussels.
Lawyering for Change 2022 will bring together more than thirty speakers from different countries with different backgrounds and expertise, who will share their knowledge and their field experiences in order to shed light on the many challenges that exist today to strenghten access to justice and the rule of law.
Particular emphasis will be placed on the importance, in the face of contemporary challenges, of thinking in terms of cooperation, of developing coalitions between this multiplicity of actors, of creating networks and communities to foster collaboration and share knowledge.