UN human rights expert Martin Scheinin [official profile] called on the Transitional Government of Tunisia Thursday to reform the counter-terrorism [press release] law to comply with international human rights law. Scheinin, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, called for accountability [full statement] for "human rights violations committed in the name of counter-terrorism" and encouraged Tunisia to "continue to investigate ex officio allegation of torture and illegal detention." Scheinin's remarks come at the end of a five-day tour of the country. Despite assurances that the abusive anti-terrorism law had not been used since ousting former president Ben Ali [JURIST report], the UN expert found that judges still detain people under the 2003 law [AFP report] which requires little evidence. Scheinin urged continued progress:
Changes in the way Tunisia's security organs operate should not be limited to slogans, but should result in concrete measures. The first steps have been taken to establish accountability for those who attacked the demonstrators in January of this year. I welcome this positive development, but want to stress that in order to look truly forward towards a new Tunisia, it has to come to terms with dark remnants of its past. ... Investigating, prosecuting and trying those responsible for the crimes in question can also help rebuilding trust between the population and the security forces in the country.Scheinin offered to assist Tunisia in replacing the 2003 law with a counterterrorism framework that complies with international law.
Last month, the US Department of State (DOS) [official website] released the 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices [materials] noting the recent uprising in Tunisia had an ambiguous impact on human rights [JURIST report]. In February, the Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs submitted a formal request to extradite former the president [JURIST report] following the filing of additional charges. Also in February, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called on the Tunisian transitional government to investigate incidents of police violence against protesters and end police brutality [HRW reports; JURIST report], and the UN reported that at least 219 died as a result of the protests, including 72 killed in prison riots.