The conviction of five people for the charge of “public indecency” after smoking a cigarette or eating in public during the month of Ramadan is a clear violation of individual freedoms in Tunisia, said Amnesty International.
In the latest incident, a man was sentenced to one month in jail for “public indecency” in the town of Bizerte, northwest of Tunis, for smoking outside a courthouse on 12 June. A day earlier, dozens of protesters took to the streets in Tunis to demand their right not to fast during Ramadan. He is the fifth man to be sentenced by the same court to a jail term for breaking his fast during Ramadan this month. Four other men were sentenced to one month in prison after eating in public on 1 June.
Imprisoning someone for smoking a cigarette or eating in public is an absurd violation of an individual’s personal freedomsHeba Morayef, North Africa Research Director at Amnesty International
“Imprisoning someone for smoking a cigarette or eating in public is an absurd violation of an individual’s personal freedoms. Failing to conform to religious and social customs is not a criminal offence,” said Heba Morayef, North Africa Research Director at Amnesty International.
“The Tunisian authorities should not allow vaguely worded charges to be used to impose harsh sentences on spurious grounds. Everyone should have the right to follow their own beliefs in matters of religion and morality.”
There are no laws in Tunisia requiring individuals to fast or preventing them from eating publicly during Ramadan. The insistence of the court to use penal code articles that come under the
“offence againstmorality” section to restrict individual freedoms is inconsistent with Tunisia’s progress in terms of the respect of human rights.
International human rights law and the Tunisian constitution both guarantee the right to freedom of conscience and the freedom of religion. Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, also protects the right not to profess or practice any religion or belief.