Human Rights Watch (Washington, DC)

Tunisia: Strengthen New Constitution's Human Rights Protection - Guarantee Equality for All - Affirm International Law Obligations

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press release

On January 2, 2014, the plenary session of the NCA amended the internal rules of procedure, making the recommendations of the consensus commission binding on the various blocs within the NCA.

Al Bawsala, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch,and The Carter Center commended efforts by the Consensus Commission to reach agreements before the start of the voting process in order to avoid blockages during the plenary discussions, and to ensure that the process is as inclusive as possible.

Several of the commission's recommendations could help to strengthen constitutional protections for rights and freedoms, the groups said. Yet some do not go far enough, and several key issues remain unaddressed.

The organizations urged the assembly to address remaining gaps in the new draft and to consider the following recommendations for language not proposed for revision by the Consensus Commission:

- Reconsider the death penalty in the new constitution. Article 21 of the draft constitution provides that "the right to life is sacred, and it cannot be infringed upon except in grave cases provided for by the law".

The wording of this article is vague in that it does not specify which cases can legitimize infringements of the right to life and under what conditions.

The four organizations oppose the death penalty in all cases as it constitutes a violation of the right to life and the right to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

- Amend the phrase "the supreme/noble and universal human rights principles" in the preamble by deleting "noble/supreme,"as it may be interpreted to imply that there is a hierarchy of universal human rights.

The terminology "supreme/noble" was included in the fourth draft to replace a controversial reference to the "cultural specificities of the Tunisian people.

"While the new formulation in the preamble to universal human rights is an improvement, the apposition of "noble/supreme" might reintroduce relativity and erode the very meaning of universal human rights, which are by nature indivisible, interdependent and inter-related

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