Tunisia-Human Rights Committee-Death Penalty

The Advocates for Human Rights, together with The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, La Coalition tunisienne contre la peine de mort, and ECPM (Together Against the Death Penalty), submitted a report on the death penalty in Tunisia for the 128th session of the Human Rights Committee.

Tunisia has observed a de facto moratorium on the death penalty since 1991 but has not formally abolished the death penalty. There are fears that support for this moratorium may be ending. Despite the informal moratorium, the State continues to sentence criminal defendants to death. Tunisia also continues to enact new laws whose penalties include capital punishment. Authorities may impose the death penalty for crimes which might not entail an intentional killing, such as treason or espionage, and for merely attempting a crime punishable by death.

Moreover, due process violations undermine the integrity of criminal investigations and trials, especially those of defendants facing a possible sentence of death. Despite taking significant steps toward due process guarantees, defendants suspected of terrorism can and often are denied access to counsel for 48 hours and detained without charge for 15 days. Authorities also appear to be denying suspects their judicial rights, especially in cases involving terrorism charges. In some cases, they have used force, duress, or misrepresentation to obtain waivers from suspects. Suspects also report that they were subject to torture during interrogation or pretrial detention.

The authors of this report suggest the following recommendations for the government of Tunisia:

  • Tunisia should take concrete steps to adopt a complete, formal abolition of the death penalty and ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.
  • While working toward complete abolition, the Tunisian Government should revise the narrowly restrict application of the death penalty to the most serious criminal offenses.
  • Tunisian authorities should cease introducing new laws that authorize capital punishment for additional crimes.
  • Tunisia should revise its criminal code to align domestic definitions of torture with international norms, including the standard articulated in Article 7 of the ICCPR.
  • Tunisia should amend domestic laws to formally prohibit torture, in law and practice, including specific provisions for protecting reporting parties and fostering greater accountability for perpetrators of torture.
  • Tunisia should ensure courts do not admit as evidence any statement obtained through torture or ill-treatment.
  • Tunisia should ensure any person arrested on suspicion of terrorism-related offenses is questioned only when their attorney is present and that the right to council is never abrogated.