Tunisia: a state of emergency to justify the restriction of rights and freedoms

TunisiaHuman rights defendersNews

Tunis, 2 April 2019 – ASF and eight of its partners formed the Alliance pour la Sécurité et les Libertés, calling on Tunisian deputies not to adopt the bill for the organisation of a state of emergency in its current form. Far from improving security in the country, it endangers people’s rights and freedoms and curtails constitutional protections. The state of emergency is a measure permitting the authorities to take exceptional steps if the country is in imminent danger. Those measures, which are accompanied by a strengthening of executive powers in relation to other powers, are by their nature oppressive. It is therefore essential that they respect the principles of proportionality and necessity set out in Article 49 of the constitution. The judicial and legislative authorities must be able to oversee the restriction of rights and freedoms. People who are affected by the measures must be notified of them and be able to appeal against them before a judge. “However,” as Oumayma Mehdi, ASF Project Coordinator in Tunisia, explains, “the bill proposed by the President of the Republic offers no such guarantees. It contains many ambiguities and inaccuracies that could lead to serious violations of the fundamental rights and freedoms protected by the constitution.” The bill defines a state of emergency as “when serious events occur,” without defining the terms “event” or “serious”. It does not specify that the objective of administrative measures taken in the context of a state of emergency must be to guarantee a rapid return to normalcy for institutions. In its current form, the bill decrees that the state of emergency could last up to six months and then be extended by three months, without specifying a limit on the number of times it can be renewed. The bill grants near-absolute power to the executive through administrative measures that are inappropriate and that restrict freedom, and the conditions of which are lacking in detail: refusal of the right to remain, house arrest, prohibition of meetings, gatherings, marches, and demonstrations, interception of phone calls and correspondence, suspension of the activities of associations, etc. Furthermore, the bill does not propose sufficient and effective means of recourse and does not require the oversight of parliament. It also imposes excessive and discriminatory sentences for cases of non-compliance with the measures taken by the authorities. “In its current version, the bill is a tool for justifying the abuse of measures that restrict freedom, not a way of ensuring a rapid return to the rule of law. For all these reasons, we call on the deputies not to adopt this bill in its current form and to comprehensively amend it,” states Oumayma Mehdi. >> Download the complete analysis of the bill in French and in Arabic * Consisting of Al Bawsala, the Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Economiques et Sociaux, Jamaity, the Ligue Tunisienne des Droits de l’Homme, Mobdiun, the World Organisation Against Torture, Psychologues du Monde-Tunisie, and Solidar Tunisie.