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Armed forces law ‘establishes police state’, say Tunisian activists

July 20, 2017 at 11:58 am

Protesters flee from tear gas used by the Tunisian police in Tunis, Tunisia [Wassim Ben Rhouma/Flickr]

The National Union of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) and a number of human rights organisations called on the Tunisian government yesterday to withdraw a draft bill that would bolster impunity for security forces by granting them immunity from prosecution for the unnecessary use of lethal force as well as potentially criminalising criticism of police conduct.

SNJT President, Naji Baghouri, said on the side lines of a press conference held at the union’s headquarters:

We demand the immediate withdrawal of this law, which establishes a dictatorship and a police state that suppresses freedom of the press and the media and prevents organisations from uncovering violations of torture.

“The law undermines the entire democratic path and gains in the field of rights and freedoms, and [establishes] a police state that uses security to protect it,” he said, adding that all organisations are united in rejecting it completely.

The press conference was attended by 13 human rights organisations, including the National Union of Tunisian Journalists, the Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the National Committee for the Prevention of Torture.

Read: Tunisia urged to criminalise attacks on armed forces

In 2015 the Tunisian government proposed the repression of attacks against armed forces bill to curb attacks on security personnel, however the parliament withdrew following strong opposition from human rights organisations. The law was put before the parliament again after the death of a policeman who was burned by demonstrators in the province of Sidi Bouzid, in southeast Tunisia.

Baghouri explained that it is necessary to protect security forces, but the draft law gives them the right to kill without accountability.

“We demand the immediate withdrawal of this law, which will hinder our work. We visit detention centres to document violations, prepare reports and publish them, [actions] which will be criminalised by the proposed law,” said Hamida Al-Deridi, head of the National Committee for the Prevention of Torture.

“The law will enshrine the principle of impunity in complete contravention of international law and human rights principles,” she added.

Read: 47 arrested during clashes in Tunisia

On 7 July hundreds of members of the security forces demonstrated in front of the Tunisian parliament demanding the acceleration of the ratification of the draft law to protect them while performing their duties.

Tunisian Interior Minister El-Hadi Magdoub said in a previous statement that “60 security personnel have been killed and 2,000 others injured in terrorist attacks since 2011”.