Tunisian government is 'rolling back' human rights reforms - new report

Progress on human rights in Tunisia following the ousting of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali is being rolled back by the current Tunisian government, Amnesty International warned today, as the country marks the first anniversary of the National Constituent Assembly elections.   In a new report, One step forward, two steps back?  (word), the organisation examines the challenges facing human rights in Tunisia since the October 2011 elections and identifies worrying trends.   In the months following the ousting of Ben Ali, the caretaker government made important reforms, including the release of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience held before the uprising, the introduction of new laws on press freedom, the lifting of restrictions on the creation of associations, and the ratification of international human rights treaties.  However, the new government has failed to maintain these initiatives and a number of setbacks now cast a shadow on Tunisia’s genuine commitment to human rights.   Recent months have seen increased restrictions on freedom of expression, with journalists, artists, critics of the government, writers and bloggers targeted under the guise of maintaining public order and morals. Protesters, who have continued to take to the streets in different parts of Tunisia to express their dissatisfaction with the slow pace of reform, have been met with unnecessary and excessive force. Amnesty has received reports of torture and other ill-treatment in the past year, many of them from protesters who alleged they were beaten during demonstrations, during arrest or in detention centres.   A state of emergency in place since Tunisia's January 2011 uprising has been repeatedly renewed, most recently until the end of this month. The Tunisian authorities have also appeared unable or unwilling to protect individuals from attacks by those believed to be affiliated with Salafist groups.    Meanwhile, Amnesty delegates have interviewed many families of those killed or injured during the uprising - in Kasserine, Regueb, Thala and greater Tunis. Many of these continue to feel they are still being denied justice and reparation.   In another worrying sign, Tunisia’s new government recently rejected the UN Human Rights Council’s recommendation, made during its Universal Periodic Review of Tunisia, to abolish remaining provisions of Tunisian law which discriminate against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, to abolish the death penalty and to decriminalise same-sex relations.   Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:   “Tunisia is at a crossroads. The authorities need to seize this historic opportunity and confront the painful legacy of abuse and violations of the past and enshrine in law and in practice universal human rights with the aim of making the rule of law a reality in the new Tunisia.   “Tunisia was the birthplace of the momentous events that swept the region in 2011. And while we acknowledge that measures were taken by the authorities to address the legacy of abuse and move forward, these did not go far enough, and there are now worrying signs that these and other urgently needed reforms could be at risk.   “The constitution, to be finalised in the coming months, is a key test that will demonstrate whether Tunisia is firmly anchored in human rights and rule of law.”

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