Tunisia should rewrite oppressive anti-terror law: UN

UN`s Martin Scheinin said the law "was used to crackdown on dissent".

Updated: May 27, 2011, 11:16 AM IST

Tunis: Tunisia should rewrite an anti-terrorism law that was used by the recently-ousted autocratic regime to suppress all forms of dissent, a UN rights expert said on Thursday.

"The 2003 law is based on an abusively broad definition of terrorism," Martin Scheinin, the UN`s expert on protecting human rights in the fight against terrorism, told journalists.

The law "was used as a tool of repression, to crackdown on dissent”, Scheinin said at the end of a five-day visit to the country.

He said officials from Tunisia`s interim administration told him that the law has not been used since the ouster on January 14 of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, who led the country for 23 years.

But, during a visit to a prison near Tunis, he learned that judges still placed people in remand while citing the 2003 law, which allows for detention even where the evidence is flimsy, Sheinin said.

He called on the country to Tunisia to replace the 2003 law through an agreed legislative framework.

"Tunisia should continue to investigate torture practiced under claims of anti-terrorism," he said.

He argued that prosecuting everyone implicated in serious crimes, including in the security forces, "would help rebuilding trust" between the government and the people.

In February a UN human rights mission urged Tunisia to investigate and prosecute allegations of violations carried out by Ben Ali`s security forces during the uprising, when scores of people were killed.

Also on Thursday, the head of Tunisia`s election panel said it had postponed a constituent assembly vote to October 16, despite the government wanting it to go ahead on July 24.

Bureau Report