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.
365 days after article 80
200 days after article 80
100 days after article 80
50 days after article 80
Witchcraft, an omnipresent element of centrafrican culture and society
In the Central African Republic (CAR), witchcraft is omnipresent: it dominates and shapes the daily life of the population, especially in rural areas. Witchcraft representations, which are an integral part of Central African customs and practices, provide an explanatory framework for all life events: death, illness, accidents, professional or academic failures, etc. The successive crises that have shaken the country since 2013 have reinforced the use of witchcraft as an explanation for the diverse misfortunes the popluation has experienced. An increased involvment of religious bodies in the ‘fight’ against witchcraft has also been noted during that perido.
In the Central African Penal Code, Articles 149 and 150 condemn ‘charlatanism or witchcraft practices likely to disturb public order or harm people or property’, including practices that cause ‘serious injury or permanent disability’ or ‘death’. Accusations of witchcraft, based on these two vague and imprecise articles, are very common and frequently lead to an outburst of violence by popular vindictiveness against the accused person: exclusion, lynching, or even, in the worst case, brutal execution. These allegations are used to get rid of people who have become undesirable in the community and disproportionately affect the vulnerable and isolated, especially elderly women.
The judicial treatment of the offence of charlatanism and witchcraft practices
The legal vagueness surrounding charlatanism and witchcraft practices (CWP) is acknowledged by most actors in the Central African judiciary and is a breeding ground for arbitrary decision-making. Judges tend to rely on their own convictions and beliefs when dealing with witchcraft cases. Moreover, faced with the difficulty of providing material proof of an act of witchcraft, most judicial actors consider the confession of the accused person as the ultimate evidence, regardless of the motives of the accused in making the confession, which is often used for purposes of social appeasement and/or personal protection. Furthermore, social pressure from the community and the so-called protection of public order, which is invoked as a higher principle, have a strong influence on the judges’ decision-making and even divert the course of justice in order to satisfy the majority of the population.
Furthermore, judicial intervention is not in capacity to ensure the protection and reintegration of those accused of CWP. By prosecuting a person for CWP, the court attests to the reality of her or his witchcraft and the convicted person will remain vulnerable to further convictions and even further violence (even after release from prison). Justice also has the effect of formalising the omnipresence of the witchcraft risk, contributing to the effervescence of such types of discourse. In the event of an acquittal, the population, mostly distrustful of the judiciary, may seek justice for themselves, indirectly encouraged by the apparent passivity of judicial institutions in dealing with the violence inflicted on accused persons.
Action by ASF and its partners
Since 2021, thanks to the support of the European Union, ASF and its partners (Centre for the Promotion of Children’s Rights (CPDE), Organisation of Young Leaders for Development (OJLD), Maison de l’enfant et de la femme pygmée (MEFP) and Défis et Objectifs Centrafrique (DOC)) have been intervening at the heart of the state and community justice systems by promoting access to justice and the defence of women accused of CWP. The observations presented above are drawn from the study ‘Witchcraft representations and judicial treatment of the offence of Charlatanism and Witchcraft Practices in CAR’. This study was commissioned by Avocats Sans Frontières as part of the project ‘Contributing to the sustainable respect of the right to a fair trial and human rights for women accused of witchcraft in CAR’, in order to further inform the organisation’s action and future interventions in this area.