Tunisia: Members of parliament must reject legalizing impunity for security forces

Tunisian members of parliament must reject a draft law which would reinforce impunity for security forces and shield them from any criminal responsibility for using lethal force to protect security buildings, Amnesty International said ahead of a parliamentary discussion on the bill expected to take place on 6 October 2020.

Under Article 7 of the proposed bill Number 25/2015, 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 proportional to the danger. The bill, first proposed by the government to parliament in April 2015, was reintroduced in 2017 at the demand of police and has been heavily criticized by Tunisian and international civil society organizations.

“Despite positive amendments to the proposed bill that have eliminated alarming infringements of the rights to freedom of expression and access to information that were in previous drafts, the bill still has provisions which would impede accountability for serious human rights violations,” said Amna Guellali, Amnesty International's Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

We call on members of Tunisia’s parliament stand up for human rights by rejecting this appalling bill. They must ensure that the security forces act in accordance with international rules and standards on the use of force and are held accountable for arbitrary or abusive force.
Amna Guellali

“Time and time again, Tunisian and international civil society organizations have fought against this bill, warning of the detrimental impact it would have on the rule of law. If adopted, this draft law would reinforce the culture of impunity and send an alarming message to the security forces that they have the green light to use force as they see fit without worrying about being held accountable.”

The bill would mean that the security forces would be legally authorized to respond with lethal force to an attack on security buildings, even when there is no danger to their lives or the lives of others and no risk of serious injury.

Under international standards, police must not use firearms except in self-defense or defense of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury. The use of firearms solely to protect property is prohibited.

The Tunisian security forces have long enjoyed impunity for grave human rights violations such as the excessive use of force against peaceful protestors in Tatatouine last June and the security interventions that lead to the death of Omar Laabidi and Aymen Othmani in 2018. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees during anti-terrorist operations, as well as arbitrary practices during arrests have all gone largely unpunished. 

“We call on members of Tunisia’s parliament stand up for human rights by rejecting this appalling bill. They must ensure that the security forces act in accordance with international rules and standards on the use of force and are held accountable for arbitrary or abusive force.” Said Amna Guellali.