Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2017, 16:28 GMT

Tunisia: Solidify Rights Protections in Constitution

Publisher Human Rights Watch
Publication Date 19 March 2012
Cite as Human Rights Watch, Tunisia: Solidify Rights Protections in Constitution, 19 March 2012, available at: [accessed 16 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Tunisia's National Constituent Assembly (NCA) should draft a constitution that protects human rights, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to assembly members. The constitution should make international human rights treaties part of domestic law and avoid overly restrictive clauses that qualify the rights guaranteed by those treaties, Human Rights Watch said.

The new constitution, which the assembly is drafting and will vote upon, will shape the country's legal and political system in the wake of the 23-year rule of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted by a popular rebellion in January 2011. The inclusion of robust affirmations of human rights could impel legislators to revise the many existing laws that curtail freedom of expression and assembly, and other rights. Affirming these rights in the constitution could also impel judges not to enforce those repressive laws as contrary to the constitution, Human Rights Watch said.

"The Constituent Assembly has an important opportunity to ensure a break with the abusive practices and laws of the Ben Ali era, by adopting robust guarantees for human rights" said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch urged assembly members to make explicit in the constitution:

  • The supremacy of human rights treaties ratified by Tunisia over domestic law and the applicability of customary and conventional international law in Tunisian courts.
  • Fundamental rights as well as the narrow grounds on which they can be restricted, while avoiding vague qualifying language, such as that the rights are to be exercised "according to the law," which can rob those rights of their essence.
  • Implementing mechanisms for human rights, which could include establishing a constitutional court and/or a requirement for all courts and state bodies to comply with and uphold the human rights set out in the constitution.

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