Human Rights Watch has recently criticized the inaction of Tunisian authorities in the attempt to bring home the children of Tunisian ISIS fighters. The NGO says that 200 Tunisian children are currently being held in prisons and camps in Libya, Syria and Iraq. In an interview with Amna Guellali, Human Rights Watch director for Tunisia, we touch on an HRW study concerning the situation of these children today.
On January 11th, Al Bawsala, I Watch and the editor-in-chief of Nawaat filed an appeal for abuse of power along with a request to suspend the execution against the special presidential pardon granted on December 10th, 2018 2018 by President Béji Caid Essebsi to Borhen Bsaies.
On December 23, 2018, Falikou Coulibaly, president of the Association of Ivorians in Tunisia, was killed during a robbery in Soukra (Greater Tunis). As protests led by the Subsaharian community multiplied across the capital, Nawaat met Eric. Settled in Tunisia since March 2017, the 31 year old Ivorian—like hundreds of his compatriots, has found himself uncapable of regularizing his status. Forced to relinquish his studies, Eric got a job as a construction worker. Racist acts of aggression, a lack of medical care and an exploitative work situation are some of the challenges he faces on a daily basis.
Bitterness, disgust, anger were feelings commonly expressed when we spoke with Tunisian employees working at foreign NGOs based in Tunisia. Today, several individuals open up about the economic discrimination experienced by local personnel working in foreign non-profit organizations.
After ongoing negotiations that began on July 15, 40 irregular migrants in territorial waters were brought to the commercial port of Zarzis after being intercepted on their way from Libya to Europe. On Wednesday, August 1, the migrants accepted landing in Tunisia as their legal status is settled to determine whether they will be deported or granted asylum. Their arrival on Tunisian soil marked the end of 18 perilous days at sea after the migrants were refused entry into European ports.
The tragedies continue one after another off Tunisia’s coasts. The last to date, along the shores of the islands of Kerkennah, cost the lives of 84 individuals according to a statement made by the Interior Ministry as the search for 28 missing migrants continues. 20 years after the closure of European borders following the Schengen Agreement, where does Tunisia’s migratory policy stand?
In Tunis, many practice the fast during Ramadan, abstaining from food and drink from sunup to sundown, just as many do not. At any time of day, you can find the latter crowded into the smoky refuge of one of the cafés and restaurants that continue to serve throughout the day, recognizable by their shutters partially pulled down over doorways or faded newspapers pasted across window fronts, discreet signals to non-fasting passers-by that inside, it’s business as usual. But this activity remains susceptible to police harassment justified by Interior Minister Lotfi Brahem, dismissed on June 5 after being vehemently criticized by NGOs.
The legal framework governing associations is high on the reforms agenda, at least according to a meeting held by Mehdi Ben Gharbia and a group of legal experts in February. The initiative echoes a recent Financial Action Task Force evaluation in which Tunisia was knocked down a grade for its non-profit sector. And while the fight against money laundering and terrorism is the government’s key argument when it comes to reforming legislation on associations, the proposed amendments, in parallel with the demonization of certain associations, portend rights violations and a gradual lockdown of the sector.
They arrived in La Marsa from Choucha refugee camp in June 2017, and were supposed to stay for a few days time while their situation was worked out. But still today, the 34 exiles remain in La Marsa. After fleeing Libya in 2011, their asylum applications were rejected in 2012 by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). They eagerly hoped for the re-examination of their files during the six years they spent in Choucha. Eight months after their arrival in La Marsa’s youth center, their living conditions have severely deteriorated and the competent authorities have abandoned their case.
Just in time for long-awaited municipal elections on May 6, 2018, Tunisia’s 12 new administrative courts are finally up and running. Prior to the creation of these regional chambers, all complaints concerning violations and abuse of power by public authorities were filed with the administrative judiciary headquartered in the capital. Despite delays and funding constraints that have beleaguered their organization, a dozen new chambers and 60 newly-appointed judges have hit the ground running since they became operative on February 22 of this year. For in addition to its day-to-day litigations, the administrative judiciary has a pivotal role to play in ensuring the integrity of upcoming local elections.
In parliament this week, deputies fixed the date on which they will elect the first four members of Tunisia’s Constitutional Court. Long held up in the selection process, the assembly now has less than a month to approve candidates before voting on March 13, 2018. Four years after the adoption of a new Constitution and three years after passing the organic law concerning the Constitutional Court, deputies have been under mounting pressure to establish the unique authority with the capacity to ensure the constitutionality of the laws. Consensus is at once the main cause of delays and also the solution of last recourse. At this late phase, will it enable them to move forward?
Tunisian legislation adopted in July 2017 to eliminate violence against women finally went into effect on February 1. Organic law n˚2017-58 of 11 August 2017 amends certain discriminatory provisions of the penal code and requires State institutions to develop a coordinated approach to prevention as well as assistance and support for victims of violence. The adopted text is the culmination of numerous drafts and a years-long struggle by a few civil society associations. Now that the legal means are more or less in place, the question is how, and with what means, to implement anticipated reforms?
In November, Lawyers Without Borders (ASF) and the Tunisian Bar Association (ONAT) launched a campaign to speed up the implementation of legislation intended to protect the rights of detainees. It has been almost two years since parliament voted to reform Tunisia’s penal code through the adoption of Law n°5-2016, known more simply as Law 5. And yet statistics and testimonies indicate that misconduct by officials and human rights abuses committed in police stations and detention centers remain commonplace. What will it take for old practices to be replaced by the procedures set out in the new legislation?
On November 15, after nearly two weeks of fervent critique and promises of public demonstration, the Interior Ministry stepped in to stay a polarized debate around a bill concerning the repression of abuses against armed forces. In an attempt to appease security unions backing the measure and civil society groups opposing it, Interior Minister Lotfi Brahem insisted before parliament’s General Legislation Commission on Wednesday that the Ministry is taking the concerns of all sides into consideration. Brahem proposed the creation of a joint committee to draft a new law that will protect security agents and their families « with consideration for human rights principles and in respect of constitutional provisions ». For now, the current controversial text remains in parliament for further examination.
Two weeks ago, minister of the Interior Lotfi Brahem received Italian ambassador to Tunisia Raimondo De Cardona to strengthen cooperation on fighting crime and tackling illegal immigration. On the same day, October 18, 25 years old, Ahmed, from Redeyef reached Lampedusa illegally, on a boat carrying Tunisian youth mainly from the same small mining town in the mid-western governorate of Gafsa.
Researcher at Harvard University and third in the order of succession to the Moroccan throne, Hicham Alaoui was expelled from Tunisia on 8 September 2017, few hours after landing in Tunis. The Boston resident, nicknamed the « red prince », was to speak in an academic symposium on Sunday organized by Stanford University. In spite of our numerous requests, Tunisian authorities have refused to reveal the motives behind their decision. Moulay Hicham, who is known for his critical views on authoritarianism in the Arab world and Morocco in particular, responded to Nawaat’s questions. Interview.
Voter registration for Tunisia’s municipal elections closed on August 10, bringing the total number of citizens registered to over 5.7 million. Of the 1.3 million Tunisians living abroad, 8,838 registered to vote in the elections scheduled for December 17th. As the country prepares for its first district-level elections since the revolution, the Fédération des Tunisiens pour une Citoyenneté des deux Rives (FTCR) and partnering organizations are leading a discussion on the role of Tunisian immigrants in local governance in their towns and cities of origin.
Thursday, June 15, 2017, protesters demanding employment during the Haremna (We’ve grown old) sit-in in Meknassi, governorate of Sidi Bouzid, blocked the road to trucks carrying phosphate from Gafsa. The trucks had been mobilized to replace two trains that have been held up for the past two months in Meknassi. Sit-inners aim to put pressure on the government which has yet to follow through on its agreements with the town’s unemployed. Following confrontations between police and protesters over acts of civil disobedience in January 2017, Meknassi today lives a precarious peace as citizens continue to protest.