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Tunisia: UN to review new constitution 

The flag of the United Nations flies at half mast at the UN Headquarters in New York City, New York, during an outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus, on 17 April 2020. [EuropaNewswire/Gado/Getty Images]
The flag of the United Nations flies at half mast at the UN Headquarters in New York City, New York on 17 April 2020. [EuropaNewswire/Gado/Getty Images]

The UN said yesterday that it will review Tunisia's new constitution, on which a referendum was held on Monday.

This was made clear by Farhan Haq, the Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General during a press conference in New York in response to a question about Antonio Guterres's opinion on international human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, saying that the new constitution will undermine human rights and jeopardise the progress made since the 2011 revolution.

"What I can tell you is that we do take note of the preliminary results of the constitutional referendum that was held on Monday, 25 July, as announced by the electoral commission [in Tunisia]," said Haq. "The UN remains available to support the Tunisian people in addressing any existing challenges." He added that the UN will review constitution that has now been approved by voters in the referendum.

"Tunisia has adopted a new flawed constitution that dismantles or threatens key institutional safeguards for human rights," said Amnesty International on Wednesday. "It is deeply worrying that Tunisia has adopted a new constitution that undermines human rights and jeopardises the progress made since the 2011 revolution."

Amnesty's Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Heba Morayef, added: "The new constitution dismantles many of the guarantees to the independence of judiciary, removes protection for civilians from military trials and grants the authorities the power to restrict human rights or renege on international human rights commitments in the name of religion. This new constitution, that has now replaced the 2014 constitution, was drafted behind closed doors in a process entirely controlled by President Kais Saied. The Tunisian people were not provided with any transparency as to why the process was designed in this way, nor, for that matter, why the 2014 constitution needed to be replaced."

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The referendum was held exactly a year after what Morayef called "President Saied's power-grab during which the authorities targeted high-profile critics and political opponents through criminal investigations and prosecutions, eroding Tunisia's human rights protections at an alarming rate."

The new constitution, she concluded, must not serve as justification to go back on Tunisia's commitments under international human rights law. "The provisions of any constitution should be fully consistent and compatible with Tunisia's obligations under international human rights law."

Political opponents have rejected the referendum result, including the Republican Party (centre-left), the Democratic Current (socialist), the Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties (socialist), the Workers' Party (left wing) and the Democratic Modernist Pole party (left wing).

The Secretary-General of the Republican Party, Issam Chebbi, pointed out that "75 per cent" of eligible voters did not take part in the referendum. He accused the election commission of "falsifying" the turnout figures. Power, he added, has been "usurped".

While the coordinator of the Democratic Modernist party, Riad Bin Fadl, predicted that Saied's regime "will fall much sooner than we think," the Secretary-General of the Workers' Party, Hamma Hammami, called for the president to be taken as a "serious threat" to civil society. "We are facing a dictatorship and a political catastrophe that will be followed by an economic and social catastrophe."

Tunisia: Washington warns that new constitution could compromise human rights

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