Tunisia: UN expert urges human rights-based approach in fighting terrorism

Special Rapporteur Martin Scheinin

26 May 2011 – An independent United Nations human rights expert today urged Tunisia’s transitional Government to carry out the necessary reforms to ensure that its counter-terrorism measures comply with international human rights law.

“I call for measures against impunity to secure accountability for crimes and human rights violations committed in the name of counter-terrorism,” said Martin Scheinin, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, at the end of his five-day visit to Tunisia.

The visit was intended to assess progress in the implementation of the recommendations made after his previous mission in January last year and identify areas where reforms are necessary.

“The global threat of terrorism is real and can only be responded to through properly targeted and lawful measures, instead of using the notion of terrorism to suppress dissent,” Mr. Scheinin said a press release.

He offered to assist Tunisia to replace the abusive anti-terrorism law of 2003 with a proper legislative framework to bring the North African country’s anti-terrorism efforts in line with international legal standards.

Following up on his previous report in which he expressed grave concern over the activities of various entities in Tunisia’s security apparatus and the secrecy and impunity with which they operated, Mr. Scheinin welcomed the abolition of the Directorate for State Security by the transitional Government.

“Secrecy was an important element that contributed to the shield of impunity under which these actors could operate,” he said. “All security organs’ functions and powers must be regulated by publicly available laws. Such transparency avoids not only the creation of myths about what these agencies do, but also ensures accountability of these agencies if they commit illegal acts,” he added.

He commended the first steps taken by the transitional Government to establish accountability for those who attacked pro-reform demonstrators earlier this year, but underscored that “in order to look truly forward towards a new Tunisia, it has to come to terms with dark remnants of its past.

“Tunisia should continue to investigate ex officio allegations of torture and illegal detention, often committed under the pretext of the fight against terrorism,” he said. “Investigating, prosecuting and trying those responsible for the crimes in question can also help rebuild trust between the population and the security forces in the country.”

He also praised Tunisia’s decision to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the Optional Protocols to the Convention against Torture and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.


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