Magharebia (Washington DC)

Tunisia: Nation Examines Security Apparatus Overhaul

Tunis — Tunisian officials and activists met to exchange ideas about improving the country's security system.

The reform of Tunisia's security system will ensure the country's democratic transition, government officials and civil society groups agreed at a recent Tunis seminar.

"Reforming the security forces would necessitate the removal of many figures and many political parties...yet we will bear the responsibility," Interior Minister Ali Larayedh said at the December 4th event organised by the Centre for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CEID).

The process, he said, requires overcoming "difficulties of a political nature...difficulties of an economic and developmental nature, mainly illustrated by the increase of protests that affected the growth of economic investments; and difficulties of a security nature".

As to the specific security problems facing Tunisia after the revolution, Larayedh said, "We have to take terrorist threats in the region into consideration."

"We live in a region where terrorist networks may increase and our own children may be used in training them," the minister added.

Arayedh also talked about the "need to promote the social condition of security forces by improving their status and their families' conditions, and then improving all facilities, including security centres".

"Reforming the security system can't be made through an immediate break with the past; we have to rather move gradually and cautiously because we now need to keep a unified security institution away from all political tensions," he concluded.

According to CEID Director Radwen Masmoudi, the Tunis forum was "part of a national dialogue to help make the democratic transition a success". "Reforming the security system is necessary for the success of this transition because the former regime used this institution to perpetuate dictatorship and intimidate people, exactly as it used the media and judiciary to consolidate repression," he added.

The gathering featured a heated debate on what must be done to improve the security apparatus.

Mohsen Kaabi, a rights activist in the capital, said it was "necessary to reconsider a restructure so as to respond to the goals of revolution".

"I think that reforming the security system is closely tied to the reform of Tunisia's political system as a whole," agreed researcher and university professor Ali Allani said.

"The Interior Ministry must monitor some groups' activities, such as the League for the Protection of the Revolution, which sometimes plays the role of security system and judiciary," he added.

Bassem Bou Guerra, head of an association for the reform of the security system, said, "There can be no talk about reform without involving the civil society, which has ideas and visions that the ministry must benefit from".

"We have already sent several letters, with return receipt requested, to the Interior Ministry to involve us in the reform, but we haven't received any response," he added.

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