British Embassy Tunis, Tunisia

Guest blogger for Rose de Mendonça

Part of FCDO Human Rights

26th June 2014 London, UK

Tunisia: helping put in place an Anti-Torture Culture to match the legislation

Guest blog by the British Embassy Tunis, Tunisia

The slogans of the 2011 Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia were ‘Freedom’ and ‘Dignity’. Tackling torture, widespread under the Ben Ali regime, was among the popular demands in the aftermath of the overthrow of Ben Ali.

Respect for Human Rights is a key goal of Tunisia’s new democratic system. Successive governments since the revolution have made clear their commitment to establishing sustainable Human Rights institutions and promoting a culture based on equality and respect of rights and liberties in line with international standards.

In January this year, Tunisian lawmakers agreed one of the region’s most progressive constitutions, which in Article 23 explicitly “protects human dignity and physical integrity and prohibits mental and physical torture”.

Tunisia is also one of the few regional countries to have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) in June 2011, under which Tunisia should implement the National Prevention Mechanism (NPM).

Preventing torture is one of the UK’s Human Rights priorities, as set out in the FCO’s annual Human Rights report. As part of our work in this area, the FCO is supporting the Geneva-based NGO Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT), which is working with the Tunisian government on implementing the NPM.

Implementing the NPM will be important to ensure that the culture of tackling torture on the ground is embedded alongside the legal framework. As the UN Rapporteur Juan E. Méndez said when he visited Tunisia recently “having a strong political will and ordering torture not to be committed is not enough to end the cycle of impunity and eradicate torture”. He highlighted the importance of cultural reform alongside institutional and legal changes to strengthen safeguards and prevention.

To that end, in April APT launched an Arabic guide to the monitoring of police by independent observers as part of a joint seminar with the Tunisian Ministry of Interior. This kind of work prepares the ground for the National Authority for the Prevention of Torture which will be established shortly in Tunisia.

The UK is a strong partner and supporter of Tunisia’s efforts to prevent torture “now and in the future”.

The British Embassy in Tunis recently co-hosted a seminar bringing together HR experts, judges, lawyers and members of parliament including the National Constituent Assembly Commission for Rights, Freedoms and External Relations, the Tunisian League for Human Rights, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and INSAF to identify areas where further support, policies, and capacity building are needed to implement the UN Convention.

It will be primarily for the Tunisian authorities, the Tunisian judicial system, Human Rights institutions, and Tunisia’s strong civil society to ensure that Tunisia eradicates torture for good. But the international community can support their work and the FCO, through the Embassy in Tunis, are doing our bit to help.

2 comments on “Tunisia: helping put in place an Anti-Torture Culture to match the legislation

  1. Although in Article 23 explicitly “protects human dignity and physical integrity and prohibits mental and physical torture” but it still that in jail, some are still abused 🙁

  2. Dear British Embassy Tunis & FCO-Team ” Human Rights”,
    well, a real great Guest blog worth to read . Of course , I can ´t comment the entire story. So pls. let me just pick up the to me most notable lines : #1 :
    the Tunisian agreement to sign & to join this “most progressive” constitution – esp. in context with this well described Article 23.
    #2 : the launch of APT ´s ( Association for the Prevention of Torture) Arabic guide which allows independent reporters or also NGO ´s ” Journalists sans frontières ” to observe the current human rights situation in this part of the Arabian world. And this with more or less full support by a Tunisian Ministry. So there ´s hope , that other North-African Arab states ( e.g. Algeria & Morocco) will also follow.

    Best wishes , Ingo-Steven , Stuttgart

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