Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly (NCA) approved on Tuesday chapters of the new constitution which guarantees the “republican” nature of the security apparatus and the army and their “full impartiality” in politics. The assembly passed an amendment to Chapter 6 of the draft, criminalising takfir (accusing others of apostasy) and incitement to violence.
Chapter 17 of the draft constitution stipulates: “The National Army is a republican one. It is a military power based on discipline; structured in accordance with the law. It undertakes the role of defending the nation, its independence and territorial integrity. It is committed to full impartiality. The national army supports civilian authorities in accordance witth the law”.
Chapter 18 states: “The National Security Agency is a republican one. Its forces are tasked with preserving security and public order, protecting individuals, institutions and properties, upholding the law while respecting liberties; and uphold impartiality”.
Previously, the NCA approved chapter 16 which stipulates that “the state monopolises the formation of the Armed Forces and National Security forces within the framework of the law and in a manner that serves national interest.”
The ex-Minister of the Interior Lotfi Ben Geddo said last September that all political parties in Tunisia desired to “infiltrate” the ministry. In a speech before parliament, Ben Geddo said: “There are people inside the ministry who pledge loyalty to a particular side in politics. We will fire all of those.” He urged parties to adhere to impartiality so as to allow the Ministry of the Interior to carry out its duty.
The National Security Agency in Tunisia employs 70,000 officers, according to statistics announced by security syndicates recently. The number of army officers is around 60,000, statistics published by the Ministry of Defence in 2013 revealed.
The NCA passed an amendment to chapter 6, based on which takfir and incitement to violence are criminalised. This came after an opposition MP claimed that takfiri groups issued a fatwa urging his murder against the backdrop of statements by the Ennahda Party leader accusing him of anti-Islam tendencies.
The amendment reads: “The state is the guardian of religion. It guarantees the freedom of belief and conscience and the freedom to practice religious rituals. It protects sanctities, and guarantees the impartiality of mosques and houses of worship away from political party agendas. Takfir and incitement to violence are strictly prohibited”.
When it came to the vote, 131 out of 182 members favoured this amendment.