U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Tunisia
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Tunisia, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa1d14.html [accessed 24 September 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998
TUNISIATunisia is a republic dominated by a single political party. President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and his Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) continue to control the Government, including the legislature. The President appoints the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, and 23 governors. Four opposition parties hold 19 of the 163 seats in Parliament. The executive branch and the President strongly influence the judiciary. The police share responsibility for internal security with a paramilitary national guard. The police operate in the capital and a few other cities. In outlying areas, their policing duties are shared with, or ceded to, the national guard. Both forces are under the control of the Minister of Interior and the President. The security forces continued to be responsible for serious human rights abuses. Tunisia has made substantial progress towards establishing an export-oriented market economy based on manufactured exports, tourism, agriculture, and petroleum. The per capita gross national product for 1997 was approximately $2,000 while real per capita income grew by 6.9 percent. Sixty percent of citizens are in the middle class and enjoy a comfortable standard of living. Tunisia has a high level of literacy, low population growth rates, and wide distribution of health care. The Government's human rights performance improved in some important areas, but it continued to commit some serious abuses. The ability of citizens to change their government has yet to be demonstrated. Members of the security forces reportedly physically abused prisoners and detainees; there was only one publicly reported case, which the Government denied. Security forces also monitored the activities of government critics and at times harassed them, their relatives, and associates. Prison conditions reportedly ranged from Spartan to poor. The judiciary is subject to executive branch control, and due process rights are not always observed. The Government infringed on citizens' privacy rights. The Government continued to impose significant restrictions on freedom of expression, and journalists practice self-censorship. The Government demonstrated a pattern of intolerance of public criticism, enacting selectively enforced regulations that further restricted freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and association. The Government continued to use control of advertising revenue as a means to discourage newspapers and magazines from publishing material that it deemed undesirable. The Government frequently seized editions of foreign newspapers containing articles it considered objectionable. Towards the end of the year, the Government tolerated a higher degree of criticism in parliamentary debates and in the press. The Government limits partially the religious freedom of members of the Baha'i faith. The Government returned passports to several prominent human rights activists and to the families of at least 10 Islamist activists who live abroad, but continued to restrict the freedom of movement of other government critics and their family members. The Government resumed regular contact with the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH) in May, but ended it in August. It continued to place serious obstacles in the way of the LTDH's effective operation, subjecting League members and other human rights activists to reported harassment, interrogation, property loss or damage, loss of employment, and denial of passports. The Government continued to demonstrate its strong support for the rights of women and children, however, legal and societal discrimination against women continued to exist in certain areas.