On October 11, 2013, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Office welcomed the unanimous adoption of a new anti-torture law in Tunisia which will go about creating a new formal advocacy body dedicated to preventing and eliminating torture. The Office hailed the anti-torture initiative as a step forward in Tunisia’s ongoing transition to democracy since the country’s revolution that sparked the Arab Spring in December 2010.
Officially created by the Tunisian government on October 9, the Anti-Torture Initiative, formerly known as the National Body to Prevent Torture, is the first of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa, according to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) spokesman Rupert Colville. Tunisia has been taking steps to eradicate torture since June 2011, when the North African nation ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.
The Body will be independent from the Tunisian government, but it will have broad jurisdiction, which includes the power to visit and hold accountable all sites of detention in the country. Additionally, the largest UN committee, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, will also have permission to visit Tunisian detention sites as well as assist Tunisia’s new initiative in the implementation of such a national body.
The OHCHR bureau in Tunisia, which was established there about two years before the start of the Arab Spring, had an important role to play in the creation of the National Body to Prevent Torture in Tunisia through debates and consultation sessions. This collaboration with the international community also helped to bring together Tunisian governmental officials, such as the Ministry for Human Rights and Transitional Justice, as well as vital non-governmental officials such as national and international NGOs.
The president of Tunisia claims that this all-encompassing approach to the transition to democracy post-Arab Spring is necessary to see the “fruition of Arab revolutions.” In his statement to the General Assembly on September 26, President Marzouki advocated for a more stable Tunisia and other Arab Spring countries, as well as the international community’s support to make the transition, as was done with the creation of the National Body to Prevent Torture.
– Elisha-Kim Desmangles