Human Rights Watch praises Tunisia on judicial reforms

AFP , Friday 5 Feb 2016

Lawyers Without Borders' chief of mission in Tunisia, Antonio Manganella (L) and Human Rights Watch's director in Tunisia, Amna Guellali give a press conference on February 2, 2016 (Photo: AFP)

Human Rights Watch has praised Tunisia on judicial reforms which it said amounted to a "significant breakthrough" in protecting the rights of detainees.

Parliament on Tuesday approved amendments to Article 13 of Tunisia's penal code to fall in line with the new constitution adopted two years ago as part of the country's political transition from dictatorship to democracy.

"Provisions to grant suspects the right to a lawyer from the onset of detention, and to shorten the maximum pre-charge detention are included in a revision of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CCP)," said the New York-based HRW.

"Tunisia's parliament made a significant breakthrough for human rights by approving proposed changes in detainee rights," it said.

"The new law has the potential to close loopholes that led to widespread abuses during the presidency of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali" who was overthrown in Tunisia's 2011 revolution, said Amna Guellali, country director for the rights group.

The new law takes effect on July 1.

HRW cautioned, however, that the law still has "several shortcomings" and urged the authorities to "adopt implementing legislation that could close the remaining loopholes".

Such legislation "should clarify that detention begins at the moment of arrest, to preempt alternative interpretations that would delay a detainee's access to a lawyer and presentation to a judge", it said.

Ghazi Mrabet, a lawyer and rights activist, told AFP he welcomed the amendments which he said could put an end to the use of violence against detainees and confessions being extracted under duress.

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