Tunisia: Civil Society Mobilises for the Adoption of Code for Individual Freedoms

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A report published today shows the readiness of most Tunisian political parties to reopen debates on a Code for Individual Freedoms, strengthening civil society organisations’ work to revive efforts for its adoption, just over a year after a bill was submitted in the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP). Although some subjects have aroused strong opposition, it is necessary to resume the debates in a progressive and constructive manner. With this in mind, the associations will meet on 30 and 31 January in Tunis to define their roadmap and remobilise journalists, decision-makers, and the general public until the Code is adopted.

The situation of individual freedoms in Tunisia has been the subject of intense efforts and debate aiming to bring Tunisian legislation into line with the principles of the 2014 Constitution and the country’s international human rights commitments, thanks to civil sosiety efforts during the former President Béji Caïd Essebsi period. Thus, the Commission on Individual Liberties and Equality (COLIBE) submitted its report to the President on 8 June 2018 (1).
Then, on 11 October 2018, 16 deputies from several parliamentary groups introduced a proposal for a Code for Individual Freedoms.

Lively debates have emerged on several key issues, such as gender equality in inheritance and the abolition of the death penalty.

The death of Béji Caïd Essebsi last July led to new elections, the arrival of recently elected President Kais Saied and a new, more conservative majority, but still no new government. While these events may have delayed the implementation of the new Code, they cannot interrupt the momentum underway.

Several months ago, the report "Bas les masques!" (2), published by the Collectif civil pour les libertés individuelles (CCLI), which brings together 40 Tunisian human rights associations, drew up an inventory of the problematic state of individual freedoms in Tunisia, contrary to the principles of the 2014 Constitution and international texts relating to equality, fundamental rights, public and individual freedoms, the elimination of discrimination against women and discrimination based on gender, identity, orientation and/or sexual expression (3). The study published today is complementary and lays out encouraging findings. It is the result of a survey among deputies from some of the most important parties represented in the Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP) and shows, in particular, that:
- Issues such as the protection of privacy or the decriminalisation of homosexuality are almost unanimously agreed upon among political actors and can therefore be worked on.
- Although the guarantee of freedom of conscience does not seem to be unanimous, the majority of actors are in favour of improving it.
- The abolition of the death penalty is no longer a taboo for the overwhelming majority of political parties, which opens up loopholes for deepening a constructive dialogue on this issue.
- The majority of political actors do not have a precise understanding of the proposed Code’s content. Likewise, their understanding of other political actors’ positions is often flawed, perceiving them as hostile to the project, which is not the case and may have reinforced prejudices against the proposal.
- While some issues are divisive, it is necessary to engage in the debate in a progressive manner, prioritising and starting with the least conflicting issues.

Drawing on these observations, the seminar on 30 and 31 January, which will bring together many Tunisian civil society actors, as well as guests from other countries, including Alice Mogwe, the newly elected President of FIDH, will aim to collectively determine future strategies to:

- Raise awareness among decision-makers, civil society and the media on the content of the proposed Code of Individual Liberties, in order to deconstruct misconceptions and misrepresentations and focus on the facts. This will be done through awareness campaigns in the regions, with local political and social actors.
- Propose training sessions on the content of the proposed Code for political party executives and deputies.
- Begin constructive work to support the APR agenda of the proposed code, once the new government is formed.

Download the reports

[EN - FR - AR] Code des libertés individuelles - Résumé Etude juridique
Code des libertés individuelles - Etude juridique
Code des libertés individuelles - Etude Sociologique
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