As Tunisian political leaders struggle to work out the specifics for their new constitution it is vital that this document enshrines a robust level of individual rights to enable the flourishing of the people and nation of Tunisia. Among the most important of these rights – and an indicator of other rights – is the freedom of religion, including the right to adopt, change, or renounce a belief, and the freedom to live in accordance with ones beliefs in public and private, individually and in community with others. Absent these freedoms the state becomes complicit in the persecution of its citizens.
7/24/2013 Tunisia (HRW) – It is critically important to bring Tunisia’s new constitution in line with international human rights standards and Tunisia’s obligations under international law, four human rights organizations said today.
Al Bawsala, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and The Carter Center have independently followed the constitution-drafting process from its outset and have built a consensus around key issues of concern.
A Consensus Commission is currently in place at the National Constituent Assembly (NCA), and is charged with building consensus around the main contested issues in the final draft of the constitution, which was presented to the public on June 1, 2013. The commission’s work may prove critical as the Assembly prepares to vote on the constitution article by article, then in its entirety. With the aim of supporting a successful transition to democracy in Tunisia, in which human rights are respected, the groups urge the Consensus Commission and the NCA more broadly to consider the following recommendations:
- Include a general clause directly incorporating into Tunisian law human rights as defined by customary international law and international treaties ratified by Tunisia, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Amend the phrasing of “the supreme/noble and universal human rights principles,” as it may be interpreted to imply that there is a hierarchy of universal human rights, with some more important than others.
- Guarantee that domestic law reflects and respects Tunisia’s international commitments on human rights. The constitution should state that all treaties “duly approved and ratified” by Tunisia without exception have a status superior to national law. The assembly should also include a clause stating that the rights and freedoms set out in the constitution bind the legislature, the executive, the judiciary, and all organs of the state.
- Ensure that the scope of the right to freedom of religion and conscience covers all facets of these rights, including the freedom to adopt, change, or renounce a religion or belief, as well as the freedom to not practice a religion at all and the freedom to practice in public and private.
- Provide for the full protection of fundamental rights, including those pertaining to freedom of expression, assembly, health, education, food, water, association, movement and the right of access to information.