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Open letter for the attention of the President of the Republic, the President of the Superior Council of Magistracy and the Tunisian Government

Mr. President of the Republic

Mr. Head of Government 

Mr. President of the Superior Council of Magistracy

Mr. Minister of the Interior 

Mr. Minister of Social Affairs

The organizations signing this letter aim to contribute to the efforts of the Tunisian State in the management of the unprecedented health crisis caused by the COVID-19 virus, and it is in this perspective that we are addressing you today. 'hui.

We are fully concerned about the health risk to which healthcare staff working in hospitals and in detention are exposed on a daily basis, as well as prison officers, magistrates who continue to work and the security forces who ensure that the obligation of confinement and curfews are observed to the extent possible.

We salute the work carried out by the General Committee for Prisons and Rehabilitation and by all prison officers for the protection of the prison population. We are all aware that, in the context of overcrowding that we are experiencing, and the limited possibilities of social distancing between inmates that this causes, the outbreak of COVID-19 in prisons would generate a health disaster that would go beyond the sole framework of prisons. 

We fear that the efforts implemented by the prison administration are jeopardized by the insufficient number of releases following the presidential pardons of March 20 and 31, 2020, the continued detention of pre-trial detainees and the continued detention, in particular people arrested for violating the curfew or the compulsory confinement. According to information available to our organizations, more than 1,500 people have been arrested on these grounds in the past 16 days, and a number of them detained. 

We are also aware of the difficulties law enforcement agencies face in implementing measures restricting freedom of movement, undertaken to limit the spread of the virus. At the same time, we share the concerns of Tunisian citizens and foreign residents, legal or otherwise, the most disadvantaged for whom these measures have particularly damaging economic consequences.

Finally, we are sensitive to the fears of the administration of justice, relating to the spread of the virus within it, which have legitimately led to a slowdown in judicial activity, including in criminal matters. Nevertheless, we believe that it is everyone's duty to ensure that this slowdown does not result in a disproportionate violation of the rights of the defense and the rights of persons deprived of their liberty. We are particularly concerned that the slowdown in judicial activity will result in the prolongation of preventive detentions and result in limited possibilities for lawyers to submit requests for the release of their clients.

Confident that the management of the health crisis can be reconciled with respect for human rights, we would like to share the following recommendations with you:

Regarding the reduction of the prison population, we call for: 

  • Mr. President of the Republic to pardon new prisoners as soon as possible, in particular elderly prisoners, suffering from chronic or serious illnesses, and / or not constituting a danger to society
  • Mr. President of the Superior Council of Magistracy à :
    • Ensure that the slowdown in judicial activity does not lead to the time limits for pre-trial detention being exceeded for detainees whose cases are still at the investigation stage,
    • Call on the magistrates to make decisions on the release of detainees if they consider that this measure does not constitute a danger for justice and the security of society.
    • Call on the magistrates that pre-trial detainees can request release from investigating judges or trial judges, depending on the progress of their case, if necessary by adapting the methods of referral to the judicial authorities;
  • Mr. Minister of Social Affairs ensure that newly released prisoners in vulnerable situations benefit from material support and psychosocial support in order to cope with their new situation of freedom, as well as the social and economic constraints caused by the health crisis .

Regarding the prosecution and penal sanction of the confinement obligation and the curfew, we call on: 

  • Mr. Head of Government à :
    • Amend article 312 of the Penal Code by a decree-law in order to declassify the offense from a misdemeanor punishable by a fine, and / or make it eligible for a sentence of community service in accordance with article 15bis of the Penal Code
  • Mr. President of the Superior Council of Magistracy à :
    • Direct prosecutors to stop ordering preventive detention of those arrested for violating the confinement or curfew obligation, and return cases for trial after the confinement is lifted;
    • Call on prosecutors to limit the length of police custody to a maximum of 12 hours for the aforementioned offenses in order to limit exposure to the virus not only of detainees but also of security guards;

Finally, we would like to ask you, Mr. Head of Government, to ensure the protection and support of the most vulnerable people for whom the confinement obligation prevents them from meeting their most basic needs. We ask you to redefine the exceptions to the general ban on displacement in order to ensure that this ban is reconciled with the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living, to guarantee and to facilitate the displacement of civil society actors. who come together to strengthen the efforts of public institutions and citizens who have urgent needs and who go beyond the exceptions prescribed in Government Decree No. 156 of the year 2020. 

More generally, we would be grateful if you could communicate precisely to the general public the exceptions provided for in the confinement obligation.  

In these difficult times we would like to assure you of our support and active collaboration in the efforts of the State to limit the spread of the virus. 

The signatory associations: 

- Tunisian Forum of Economic and Social Rights

- World Organization Against Torture

- Al Bawsla

- Jamaity

- Lawyers Without Borders

- Solidar Tunisia

- Mobdiun

- Psychologists Of The World -Tunisia

- Tunisian League for Human Rights

Organization Against Torture in Tunisia

- Tunisian Association of Young Lawyers

- Tunisian Association for the Defense of Individual Freedoms

- I Watch

- Association of Jurists of Sfax

- Beity Association

- Democratic Transition and Human Rights Support Center

- Al-Karama Association

–        Association for the Promotion of the Right to Difference

- Damj, the Tunisian Association for Justice and Equality

- Fanni Roghman Anni

- Association Horizon d´Enfance

- Acquired art

- Association No Peace No Justice

- Tunisian Association for the Fight Against STDs and AIDS

- Aswat Nissa Association

Tunisian Association for the United Nations

- Tunisian Association for Positive Prevention

- International Association for the Support of Political Prisoners


Thursday, April 9, 2020

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