Tunisia

Last updated: 22 June 2021

Update

The Tunisian President announced an extension of the state of emergency for six months, starting from December 26, 2020. A state of emergency has been in effect since a suicide attack on a police bus in November 2015.

Coronavirus Response

On April 4, 2020, under Article 70 of Tunisia’s Constitution, the Parliament adopted a law allowing the Prime Minister to issue decrees for two months without referring to the legislature. After the two-month period, any decrees issued by the prime minister would be submitted to parliament for ratification. One day earlier, on April 3, the Interior Ministry deployed surveillance robots in parts of the capital, Tunis, to ensure that individuals were observing the government’s lockdown orders. Individuals approached by the robot had to present their ID and papers for the police to verify remotely. Later, on May 19, 2020, Tunisia released a contact-tracing application that tracked individuals’ whereabouts in real time, using Bluetooth signals and GPS location data, to detect users who may have had contact with individuals infected with COVID-19. The app uploaded location data and personal information, including phone numbers, to a centralized database that was accessible to the National Observatory of Emerging Diseases. For more details, see the ECNL-ICNL COVID-19 Civic Freedom Tracker’s entry for Tunisia.

Introduction

The 2011 Revolution was the beginning of a new era for civil society and civic freedom in Tunisia. Since the country’s independence in 1956 and particularly after Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s assumption of the presidency in 1987, civil society had atrophied under authoritarian rule. The governing law on associations, Law 154 of 1959, made associations subject to approval by the Ministry of Interior. Only those organizations which received authorization from the state and remained in the state’s favor were allowed to operate. Following decades of repression, civil society organizations (CSOs) were weak and few in number when street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire and revolutionary protests began in late 2010.

Nonetheless, the Revolution brought civic activism to the forefront, and CSOs emerged to play a crucial role in shaping both the transition period and post-revolution state. Pressure from civil society was instrumental in compelling authorities to adopt a Constitution with expansive human rights protections, and for the free and fair, democratic elections that followed. Indeed, four CSOs were internationally recognized for their work to preserving the democratic transition. Moreover, the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 for its role in arranging negotiations and forging compromises among opposing political forces.

A post-Revolution decree governing CSOs—Decree Number 88 of 2011—marked a clear break with the past, replacing Law 154 and standing out as one of the most enabling civil society laws in the Middle East and North Africa region. The Decree provides broad protections for the exercise of freedom of association and support for a free and independent civil society sector, including provisions for public funding and prohibitions on state interference in organizations’ operations.

Nonetheless, CSOs in Tunisia continue to face obstacles in their everyday operations and activities. The right to peacefully assemble or protest remains governed by an extremely restrictive law from 1969 that gives officials broad discretion to suppress public assemblies. Further, Tunisia has been under a continuous State of Emergency since November 25, 2015, which allows for further limitations on individuals’ and organizations’ civic freedoms. Among other things, the emergency law authorizes officials to impose curfews and ban public protests altogether without a court order.

In 2018, a number of high-profile associations in the country have campaigned to preserve Decree 88 of 2011, fearing that government amendments to the law would reduce CSOs’ freedom. The government pledged in early 2019 that it would not amend or replace Decree 88, but instead issue a series of related laws to address gaps and other challenges in the Decree. It remains to be seen whether those additional laws create an enabling environment for CSOs.

By the end of 2019, legislative and presidential elections were held, after which a complex political scene emerged. This led to a severe political crisis, with two governments forming in 2020 concurrent with the COVID-19 pandemic and an unprecedented deterioration of the economic and social situation. These events caused the debate on the revision of Decree 88 to be postponed until a future date and to no longer be a priority for the government. Nevertheless, government violations of Decree 88 continue at the level of implementation and also at the legislative level because associations have been forced to register in the National Register of Institutions.

Lastly, on December 26, 2020, the President decided to extend the state of emergency for a period of six months. This extension differed from previous extensions that were for a period of one month. The state of emergency has existed without interruption throughout the entire country since November 24, 2015 as a result of a terrorist attack on the presidential security bus in Tunis.

Organizational Forms
Associations, Foreign Organizations, Networks
Registration Body
Secretary General of the Government
Approximate Number Approximately 23,500 Associations (August 2020)
Barriers to Entry Mandatory legal establishment by notification. Additional constraints on foreign organizations to establish and operate in Tunisia.
Barriers to Activities None
Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy None
Barriers to International Contact None
Barriers to Resources Foreign funding requires public notification, and may only come from a country with diplomatic relations with Tunisia.
Barriers to Assembly Prior notification to the state at least three days before an assembly; officials may object on broad grounds.
Population
11,811,335 (July 2021 est.)
Capital
Tunis
Type of Government
Republic
Life Expectancy at Birth
Male: 74.6 years
Female: 78.1 years (2020 est.)
Literacy Rate
Male: 89.6%
Female: 74.2% (2015 est.)
Religious Groups
Muslim (official; Sunni) 99.1%, other (includes Christian, Jewish, Shia Muslim, and Baha’i) 1%
Ethnic Groups
Arab, Berber
GDP per capita
$10,756 (2019 est.)

Source: CIA World Factbook

Ranking Body
Rank
Ranking Scale
(best – worst)
UN Human Development Index
95 (2020) 1 – 189
World Justice Project Rule of Law Index
56 (2020) 1 – 128
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index
95 (2020) 178 – 1
Transparency International
69 (2020) 1 – 180
Freedom House: Freedom in the World
Status: Free
Political Rights: 32
Civil Liberties: 39 (2021)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
40 – 1
60 – 1

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements
Ratification*
Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
Yes 1969
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1)
No
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
Yes 1969
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR)
No
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)
Yes 1967
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
Yes 1985
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
No
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
Yes 1992
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW)
No
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
Yes 2008
Regional Treaties
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
Yes 2008

 

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

Constitutional Framework

The 2014 Constitution of the Republic of Tunisia provides broad protection for individuals’ right to freedom of association and assembly. Article 35 states that “[t]he freedom to establish political parties, unions, and associations is guaranteed.” The only stipulation is that “[i]n their internal charters and activities, political parties, unions and associations must respect the provisions of the Constitution, the law, financial transparency and the rejection of violence.” The Constitution also states, in Article 37, that “[t]he right to assembly and peaceful demonstration is guaranteed.”

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

Relevant national legislation includes the following:

  • Decree Number 88 of 2011 pertaining to the Regulation of Associations
  • Decree Number 5183 of 2013 pertaining to the Control of the Standards, Procedures, and Criteria for Public Funding of Associations
  • Law No. 69-4 of 1969 regulating Public Meetings Processions, Parades, Demonstrations, and Gatherings

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

1. By the end of 2019, legislative and presidential elections were held, resulting in a political crisis, with two governments forming in 2020, at the same time that the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in an unprecedented deterioration of the economic and social situation. These events deprioritized and delayed discussions on revising Decree 88 on Associations. Nevertheless, government implementation of Decree 88continues to be problematic, with associations being forced to register in the National Register of Institutions.

2. In March 2019, the government released a draft law on the creation of an electronic platform for CSO registration. While the draft law would overcome the challenge of Decree 88’s highly centralized registration process, it contains a number of problematic aspects, including provisions that would contradict Decree 88’s system of registration by notification and introduce additional reporting requirements that are linked to penalties for noncompliance.

3. Tunisia’s government has made or is planning to make several changes to other laws affecting CSOs that appear to be aimed at least in part at compliance with the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental entity that in February 2018 “blacklisted” Tunisia as a country considered to be at high risk of money-laundering and terrorism financing. The enacted and proposed changes may unduly burden CSO funding, violate their privacy rights, and pose other challenges.

4. As part of its initiative to address gaps and shortcomings in Decree 88, the government is expected to issue draft laws on establishing foreign CSOs, on public benefit organizations, and on foundations.

5. The relevant committee at the Parliament has approved the State of Emergency draft law, which raises concerns among Tunisian CSOs because it would impede the freedoms of association and assembly. The draft grants a Ministry official the power to suspend the activities of organizations proven to have contributed to, or participated in, activities contrary to security and public order during the State of Emergency.

6. On August 6, 2020, Law No. 36 was issued relating to “Crowdfunding.” The law opens the door for associations and organizations to obtain funding for their projects. The implementing rules for the law have not yet been issued. An Arabic copy of the law is available.

7. There has been significant opposition to Draft Law No. 25/2015 related to the protection of the internal security forces and customs office, which was approved by the General Legislation Committee in July 2020. It has been criticized by national and international organizations that consider it a major step backward for human rights and a step forward for entrenching impunity. Under Article 7 of the proposed law, security forces would not be held criminally responsible for using lethal force to repel attacks on security buildings if the force they use is deemed to be proportionate to the danger. This is especially concerning because of the frequent violations against citizen’s rights by security forces. As a result, the government was urged to withdraw the bill in October 2020 ahead of parliamentary discussion on the law.

Please help keep us informed; if you are aware of other pending initiatives, write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

Organizational Forms

Decree 88 provides for three organizational forms: associations, networks of associations, and foreign organizations. An association is defined as “an agreement between two or more persons by virtue of which they operate permanently to achieve objectives that do not include the realization of profits.” Article 47 of the Decree also provides that the “regulations of this decree do not apply to associations that are regulated by special laws.” This exception has created uncertainty as to which associations have their own laws and are exempt from the regulation of Decree No. 88.

The Law of Associations in Tunisia – Decree No. 88 of 2011 – does not contain provisions on the organizational model and the state of public utility.

Public Benefit Status

Decree 88 does not provide for public benefit status, nor does it address tax or customs exemptions for associations. Furthermore, Article 39 of the Decree requires that associations use the same accounting practices as those required for companies, meaning that not-for-profit entities must abide by the same system and standards as for-profit entities. This is costly for associations both in terms of staff time and financial resources.

Barriers to Entry

Only two individuals are required to form an association in Tunisia. Founders must be at least sixteen years old, and Tunisian nationals or foreign residents of Tunisia. Founders may not hold management posts in political parties.

Members of an association must be Tunisian nationals or foreign residents; be at least thirteen years old; accept the association’s bylaws in writing; and pay the association’s subscription fee.
Associations in Tunisia are legally established by sending a registered letter of notification to the Secretary General of the government and a copy of the letter to the Official Gazette of Tunisia for publication. The letter must contain a declaration providing the title, purpose, objectives, and address of the association and any branches it may have. It must include copies of the national identification cards of the founders, as well as the Tunisian residency permits for any foreign founders. The letter must also include two original copies of the articles of association, signed by the founders, containing:

  1. The official name of the association, in Arabic and any foreign language if appropriate;
  2. The address of the association’s headquarters;
  3. A statement of the association’s objectives and their method of implementation;
  4. Membership and termination criteria and the rights and duties of each member;
  5. A statement of the association’s organizational structure, method of election, and the powers of each administrative body of the association;
  6. Identification of the body within the association which has the power to amend the internal bylaw and make decisions regarding dissolution, merger, or division;
  7. Definition of the decision-making methodology and mechanisms of dispute resolution;
  8. The amount of the monthly or annual membership fees, if any.

A notary public must certify that the letter contains the above contents before it is sent. Associations must pay a nominal fee for the notification, including approximately $50 in publication fees to the National Gazette. According to Article 12 of Decree 88, an association is considered legally constituted on the date the letter is sent, and acquires legal personality on the date that the notification is published in the Gazette. Until these steps are complete, an association may not open a bank account, enter into contracts or agreements, or undertake activities.

Lastly, the newly adopted National Registry of Institutions Law 52 of 2018 makes it mandatory for all associations to register with the National Registry. Associations that do not comply with this obligation are subject to a number of criminal penalties.

Barriers to Operational Activity

Tunisian law does not place significant restrictions on associations’ activities. Decree 88 provides that associations’ activities and funding must abide by the principles of rule of law, democracy, plurality, transparency, equality, and human rights. Associations may not engage in incitement for violence, hatred, fanaticism or discrimination, nor may they undertake commercial activities in order to profit their members or evade taxes.

The Decree specifically guarantees associations’ rights to engage in other activities, however: Article 5 provides for associations’ right to access information; evaluate state institutions and submit recommendations to improve their performance; organize meetings, demonstrations, conferences, workshops and engage in “all types of civil activities;” publish reports and other information materials; and conduct opinion polls. Further, the government is required to “make all necessary arrangements” to ensure that individuals are protected from violence, threats, or any coercive measures in their exercise of the right to freedom of association.
Under the law, associations have relatively limited reporting and other administrative requirements.

Under the law, associations have relatively limited reporting and other administrative requirements.” Associations whose revenues exceed 100,000 Tunisian Dinars (approximately $45,000) must retain a state-approved auditor; the auditor’s annual report must be submitted to the government and published, along with the association’s financial statements, in one written media outlet and on the association’s website. An association that receives public funding must provide an annual report to the Accounts Department, describing its funding sources and expenditures. An association that receives funding from a foreign source must also inform the Secretary General via a registered letter of the funding amount, source, and purpose. The notification must also be published by a written media outlet and posted on the association’s website. The same notification procedure is required if the association makes any revision to its bylaws, within one month of the revision.

The Decree also provides that public authorities may not impede or hamper associations’ activities, directly or indirectly. The Decree specifically precludes the freezing of an association’s bank accounts except by a judicial decision. Despite the guarantees of state protection noted above, a number of organizations continue to report harassment from security authorities, including unannounced visits to organizations’ headquarters and interrogations of their staff.

In November 2016, some members of Tunisia’s legislature, the Assembly of the Representatives of the People, expressed a desire to amend the Decree, in particular with regard to enhancing oversight and control of associations that receive foreign funding. This occurred in the context of the government moving to prosecute, dissolve, and halt the activities of numerous associations on the basis of suspected links to terrorist organizations.. The Minister of Relations with Constitutional Bodies, Civil Society and Human Rights had announced at that time that the government had frozen the activities of 38 associations among 157 that were suspected of having provided direct or indirect support to terrorist entities.

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

There are no barriers to speech or advocacy in Decree 88, including political advocacy. On the contrary, while Decree 88 prohibits associations from collecting or donating money to support political parties or candidates, it expressly protects the right of an association “to express its political opinions and positions vis-à-vis issues of public affairs.” As noted above, the Decree also provides in Article 5 for association’s right to evaluate state institutions and submit recommendations to improve their performance. These provisions provide broad protection for associations to freely engage in advocacy and reform work.

Barriers to International Contact

There are no major legal barriers to international contact in Decree 88 or other laws. However, the Decree includes additional requirements for foreign organizations seeking to register and operate in Tunisia: Under Decree 88, foreign organizations abide by the same notification process in order to register, however the government may reject the notification letter within thirty days of receiving it. Nothing in the law prohibits communication between associations in Tunisia and individuals and organizations outside Tunisia.

Barriers to Resources

Tunisian law generally does not constrain associations’ ability to secure resources from private individuals and organizations in Tunisia. Funding from foreign donors is subject to some conditions, however. Decree 88 provides that associations may not receive funding from a country that does not have diplomatic relations with Tunisia, or a country that “defends the interests and policies” of such countries. An association that does receive donations or grants from foreign sources must inform the Secretary General of the source, value, and purpose of the funds, via a registered letter, within one month of the decision to request or accept the funds. The association must publish the same information on its website and in a written media outlet within one month.

Article 36 of Decree 88 provides that the state will allocate funds from the public budget to assist and support associations according to their “efficiency, projects, and activities.” A separate decree, Number 5183 of 2013 pertaining to the Control of the Standards, Procedures, and Criteria for Public Funding of Associations, governs this system of public funding. Decree 5183 appears designed both to support associations in their work, and to create a mechanisms akin to a public procurement process. Nonetheless, in implementation Decree 5183 has proven problematic, and sometimes at odds with its expressed purpose in assisting and supporting associations in Tunisia. A number of CSOs have called for the amendment of the Decree because of these problematic aspects.

Lastly, the government has recently enacted amendments to Tunisia’s Counterterrorism and Anti-Money-Laundering Law. The amendments create challenges for CSOs access to funding, including by prohibiting not-for-profit organizations from accepting funds exceeding 500 Tunisian Dinars (approximately 167 USD) if the funds are paid through multiple associated transactions. The amended law also stipulates that a competent court may issue a decision dissolving a not-for-profit organization if it has been proven that its administrators or members were involved in any crime enumerated in the law. Some revisions to the Law in 2019 have caused some banks and financial institutions to refrain from opening accounts for associations.

Barriers to Assembly

The 2014 Constitution of Tunisia provides in Article 37, that “[t]he right to assembly and peaceful demonstration is guaranteed.” However, Law Number 69-4 of 1969, which remains in effect, strictly regulates public meetings, processions, parades, demonstrations and gatherings. Tunisia’s State of Emergency law, which was imposed on November 25, 2015 and continually renewed thereafter, allows for additional limitations on public assemblies, such as allowing authorities to impose curfews and ban public protests altogether without a court order.

Vague Provisions. Law Number 69-4 contains a number of vague provisions concerning which assemblies are permissible. For instance, the Law provides that authorities may prevent any protest that is expected to disturb the peace or “public order.” It is unclear how authorities would be limited in determining what they “expect to disturb the peace” or what defines “public order.” If authorities decide to prevent an assembly, the assembly organizers may challenge the decision, and the Law requires that the Interior Ministry “look into the issue.” The provisions regarding the Ministry’s required response is very vague, and does not indicate whether the assembly organizers actually have a right of appeal or what such an appeal process might be. No provisions indicate that a court or other neutral arbiter is involved in deciding on the organizers’ challenge. The vague terms used in these provisions are subject to various interpretations, such that they grant authorities broad discretion to deny and unduly restrict citizens’ right to peaceful assembly.

Law 69-4 also places responsibility on assembly organizers to stop any action that is against the law, or any speech that might harm public security or morals, or incite people to commit crimes. This contravenes the rights of individuals to freedom of peaceful assembly under international law. Individuals do not cease to enjoy the right to peaceful assembly as a result of sporadic violence or other punishable acts committed by others if the individual in question remains peaceful in his or her own intentions or behavior

Advance Notification. Law 69-4 requires prior notification for any public meeting. The notice should be made by at least two people with Tunisian citizenship who live in the area where the meeting will take place. The notifying parties must give their full identification, and must provide the place, day, and time that the meeting will take place as well as its purpose. Notification must be served to the responsible authority at least three days before the meeting takes place, but no more than fifteen.

Spontaneous Assemblies and Counter-Demonstrations. Law 69-4 does not allow unplanned protests that authorities have not been notified of.

Time, Place, and Manner Restrictions. Law 69-4 provides that no assemblies may take place on public roads. It also bans assemblies after midnight, unless the take place near stores or businesses that are open, in which case they may continue until the time that the stores close. While the Law does not ban specific types of assemblies, its grant of power to authorities to stop any assemblies that are “expected to disturb the peace or public order” means that authorities have broad discretion to suppress almost any kind of assembly.

Police Enforcement. In the years since the Revolution, most peaceful assemblies have proceeded and have not been banned. Nonetheless, there have been several recent incidents where security officials have forcefully dispersed peaceful demonstrators. For instance, in September 2015, security forces violently dispersed peaceful groups of demonstrators in Tunis and Kairouan, both groups protesting against a proposed economic reconciliation bill. A number of participants in both protests were injured.

Criminal Penalties. Law 69- provides that any individual who holds a public meeting or assembly without notifying the government beforehand may face three months in prison. If authorities reject an individual’s notification of a planned assembly, but the individual holds it regardless, any individuals who participate may be subject to jail sentences of up to two years.

Barriers to Public Participation

– The Prime Minister’s Circular No. 31, 2014, urged the adoption of a participatory process when the government prepares legislative texts.

– The Bylaws (Rules of Procedure) of the Assembly of People’s Representatives, 2015, require that plenary sessions be public and provide civil society the right to make comments on draft laws.

– The Local Communities Law, 2018, mandates public participation at the local level.

At the same time, there are still a number of challenges.

Accessibility of Draft Legislation

Based on the Prime Minister’s Circular No. 31, the Government presents draft legislation, through the legislation.tn website, to the Assembly of People’s Representatives for approval and invites the public to provide comments and suggestions. Draft legislation is publicly accessible for 20 days on the website and citizens can provide input on the legislation for the Government’s consideration. Based on public input, the Government Legal Counselor may amend the draft laws and post them again or refer the draft laws to the relevant authority for ratification. The Prime Minister’s Circular No. 31 recommends that ministries adopt citizens’ proposals whenever possible.

In practice, however, since 2018, draft legislation has not been posted on the government’s legislation.tn website. Several civil society representatives have complained about the lack of consultation and coordination relating to draft legislation.

Parliamentary Consultation with Citizens

Since Tunisia’s revolution in 2011, the Assembly of People’s Representatives has facilitated civil society input to special committees that convene discussions on draft laws. According to the Bylaws (Rules of Procedure) of the Assembly of People’s Representatives, 2015, special committees are required to interact with civil society on drafts laws. (Chapter 81) Special committees must announce the dates and agendas of their meetings on the Assembly of People’s Representatives website. (Chapter 76) Meetings shall “accept the attendance of citizens, civil society representatives, journalists, and media” and “publish the decisions, results of voting, and minutes of the meetings in the Tunisian official gazette” and on the Assembly of People’s Representatives website, as well as on radio and television for broadcasting to Tunisian expatriates all over the world. (Chapter 103)

At the same time, however, there are procedures that impede participation. Chapter 103 of the Rules of Procedure states that “The acceptance of citizens, representatives of civil society, guests and media in places is according to the internal system set by the office.” Currently, the Parliament Office receives requests of those associations wishing to participate in the work of the Assembly. The permanent secretary then prepares a list of the representatives of associations who can enter the Assembly, but without any clear criteria on acceptance or denial, giving the Parliament Office wide discretionary power.

To improve participation, several civil society representatives met with the President’s assistant in charge of relations with civil society on June 30, 2020, to discuss the draft of the Covenant between the Assembly of People’s Representatives and Civil Society. Chapter 2 of the Covenant states: “Both sides recognize that the adoption of a partnership is the basis of any cooperative relationship and an integral part of the democratic process. Participatory democracy is achieved through community participation in the legislation and supervision of the Assembly of People’s Representatives, which guarantees effective citizenship.”

Local-level Public Participation

Public participation still remains “new” at the local and regional levels, and only became legalized when the Local Communities Law went into effect in 2018. The Local Communities Law stipulates many ways to ensure the participation of residents and representatives of associations and CSOs in local decision-making, especially regarding preparing development programs that are required to have participatory democracy mechanisms.

Indeed, it is mentioned in Chapter 29 of the Local Communities Law that if a decision is taken within the framework of development preparation programs without consulting civil society, the decision can be appealed in the Administrative Court and a request made to defeat it.

Chapter 30 of the Law also requires all local governments to keep a record of the opinions and questions of civil society and responses to such questions. An electronic system can be adopted to keep this record.

In addition, Article 62 of the Governmental Decree No. 744 of August 23, 2018 addresses participation within municipal councils as follows: “Council sessions shall be open to the public and civil society organizations within the limits of the seats available in the meeting room and reserved for the public.” However, the presence of citizens and representatives of civil society in general remains weak and ineffective at times. This is due to the failure of some municipal councils to respect these legal documents, which results in turn from the lack of financing and the absence of a participatory culture among members of municipal council.

Marginalized Communities

Homosexuality in Tunisia is still prohibited by law. Article 206 of the Criminal Code requires a prison sentence for those who engage in homosexual relationships, and two people were sentenced to imprisonment in 2018 for such a relationship. Therefore, the participation of homosexual groups in public life does not exist.

UN Universal Periodic Review Reports
Universal Periodic Review: Tunisia
Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs

Tunisia

USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes
None
U.S. State Department
2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Tunisia
Fragile States Index Reports
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index 2019
IMF Country Reports
Tunisia and the IMF
Human Rights Watch
World Report 2020
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library
Tunisia

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change. If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

General News

Tunisian Civil Society and the Shrinking Margin of Freedom (June 2021)
Tunisia’s democratic successes are primarily thanks to civil society’s tireless efforts and persistence, which have helped to make it the only free Arab country. Achievements on the human rights front, however, have not been matched by an improvement in living standards, causing widespread public dissatisfaction. Indeed, on the tenth anniversary of the revolution this January, large numbers of Tunisians took to the streets for countrywide demonstrations despite a national curfew due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Citizens protested against deteriorating economic conditions during the pandemic, which saw Tunisia record the highest number of deaths per capita in Africa. Making matters worse, Abir Moussi, MP and president of the Free Destourian Party (PDL), launched an attack in March on the National Democratic Institute (NDI) over its parliamentary youth training program, accusing it of interfering in Tunisia’s internal political affairs.

Tunisia-Abir Moussi: Parliamentary assistants are paid by foreign organizations (November 2020)
Parliamentary assistants are paid by foreign organizations and are therefore held accountable to these organizations, PDL leader Abir Moussi said. “This is a camouflaged colonization,” she said, recalling that the training program of the Parliamentary Academy is likewise completely supported by the UNDP (United Nations Development Program).

Presidential statement in favor of death penalty is shocking (September 2020)
Tunisian President Kais Saied announced his position in favour of resuming executions during the National Security Council meeting, saying “murder deserves the death penalty”. He made the remarks following the recent murder of a girl in Ain Zaghouan. Responding to the announcement, Amna Guellali, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: “Tunisia has not carried out any execution since 1991. The President’s announcement in favour of the death penalty is shocking and contravenes the decades-long established practice of not carrying out executions. President Saied is the first president to ever announce intentions to implement death sentences in Tunisia.

Tunisia issues the National List of Persons, Organizations and Entities associated with terrorist crimes (September 2020)
It becomes evident that there is only one organization on this list for associations with terrorism, namely Ansar al-Sharia, which has been banned since 2014.

National Registry of Institutions, stepping on the toes of Tunisia’s civil society organizations (September 2018)
In June 2017, Tunisia’s Ministry of Civil Society and Human Rights pledged to reform the legal framework regulating associations, an attempt to « harmonize » the sector with the fight against terrorism and money laundering. The government’s proposal to amend Decree 88 of 2011, widely regarded as an important gain of the revolution for freedom of association, was perceived as a significant threat to this constitutional right. But while Tunisian and international civil society organizations had their gaze fixed on protecting Decree 88, the threat materialized in a far less obvious form: draft law 30/2018 on the National Registry of Enterprises, precipitously passed into law by parliament on July 27, 2018.

The Quiet Threat to Human Rights in Tunisia (August 2018)
The critical importance of CSOs makes Law 30 of 2018, which the Tunisian parliament adopted on July 27, very worrisome. The law establishes a national registration of institutions and requires public and private companies, including CSOs, to register with this new entity. The law came in response to the European Parliament adding Tunisia to its list of countries at “high risk” of money laundering and terror financing in February, a decision that harmed efforts to rebuild the Tunisian economy and that many European parliamentarians criticized as undeserved.

U.S. Congress sounds alarm over Tunisia’s proposed NGO law (July 2018)
While U.S. lawmakers have been among Tunisia’s most enthusiastic cheerleaders since the 2011 Jasmine Revolution, a proposed Tunisian law to more tightly regulate nongovernmental organizations has prompted Congress to issue a rare rebuke against the Arab world’s newest democracy. Senate appropriators are demanding a report on the Tunisian government’s efforts to pass a bill that would supplant existing NGO regulations and potentially give the government more control over civil society.

Ministry of Relations with Constitutional Bodies, Civil Society and Human Rights to conduct regional consultation meetings (April 2018) (Arabic)
It is expected that the Ministry of Relations with Constitutional Bodies, Civil Society and Human Rights will conduct a number of regional consultation meetings to explain the reasons for proposing a new law regulating the work of associations in Tunisia in the regions and in Tunis by inviting associations and taking their point of view. It will be four major consultations meetings. The last meeting will be within September 2018.

Municipal elections will be held in Tunisia (April 2018) (Arabic)
On May 6, 2018, municipal elections will be held in Tunisia. A significant participation of civil society is expected. In addition, for the first time, the security officers will participate in the elections in Tunisia.

Tunisia Passes Controversial Law, Undermining Democratic Transition (October 2017)
Tunisia’s parliament passed a controversial law that effectively grants amnesty to public officials involved in corruption under the Bourguiba and Ben Ali dictatorships from 1955 through 2010. The law, which faced intense opposition by civil society, ensures impunity for the very kind of corruption that the Tunisian people sought to eliminate in the 2010-2011 revolution.

Draft Law Could Return Tunisia to a Police State (June 2017)
Since the fall of the government of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, Tunisia’s nascent democracy has made great strides. These include the adoption of a new constitution, greater media freedom, and free and democratic elections. A draft law before parliament threatens these achievements and risks returning Tunisia to the police state of the Ben Ali government. The “Prosecution of Abuses against the Armed Forces” draft law was submitted to Parliament in April 2015 after several attacks by militants that killed dozens of policemen. It was subsequently blocked following criticisms from civil society groups and international bodies, but was revived following the violent death of a policeman in Sidi Bouzid in July 2017. The parliamentary commission on general legislation has announced that it is planning to submit the bill to a plenary vote before July 25, 2017. If the measure is adopted and interpreted in a literal way, it will effectively turn members of the Tunisian security forces into “super citizens”: no one will be allowed to criticize them, film them, question their arbitrary behavior, or call for justice for unjustified use of lethal force.

Tunisia cracks down on NGOs (June 2017)
On June 12, the Tunisian government issued a statement ordering all non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to declare all funds they receive from abroad and threatened to prosecute any party that failed to comply. The move, unprecedented since the fall of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, has sparked controversy in the local civil society sector. Human and civil rights activist Sami Ben Salameh believes that non-transparent NGO funding represents a major problem in Tunisia. Despite the importance of foreign funding in ensuring the continuity of vital NGO activities, questionable funding by foreign parties often leads to controversies related to national security and to the independence of NGOs. Independent political analyst Mondher Bedhiafi, however, noted that the Tunisian government will face several challenges in addressing the issue of foreign funding, including the difficulty of prosecuting suspicious activities by NGOs in court. “NGOs are likely to win any judicial proceedings aimed to dissolve them or suspend their activities for lack of appropriate evidence,” he said.

Civil Society Groups Join Efforts to Halt Public Sexual Harassment (November 2016)
A coalition of civil society organizations have launched a new campaign to combat sexual harassment. The campaign, titled “One Day … One Struggle,” aims to raise public awareness about women’s rights and the reality of sexual harassment through social media posts, outreach campaigns, and public dialogue sessions.

Revolution a Fading Memory, Economic Frustrations Grow in Tunisia (October 2016)
Tunisia was the sole political success story of the “Arab Spring” protest movement that swept the Arab world in 2011: the one country where a long-serving authoritarian leader was toppled without triggering violence or civil war. But six years after the uprising, Tunisia’s much-praised model of democratic transition is souring for many of the country’s people.

Human Rights Report Slams Government Use of House Arrests (October 2016)
An investigative report by Human Rights Watch condemned the Tunisian government’s extensive use of house arrests. The report concludes that such measures lack appropriate documentation, rely on insufficient evidence, and escape judicial oversight, ultimately amounting to a massive breach of individual liberties.

Tunisia: LGBT Group Suspended (January 2016)
Human Rights Watch writes that the Tunisian authorities’ decision to suspend the activities of the LGBT rights group Shams is a setback for individual freedoms and equal rights in Tunisia and a dangerous Precedent for Freedom of Association. Shams works on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights.
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The foregoing information was collected by Mohamed Fadhel Hamdi, President of the Associations and Sustainable Development International Observatory, in Tunis, Tunisia.