'Curtailing human rights' in Tunisia: Amnesty and LTDH condemn Saied's controversial draft constitution
Tunisia's League of Human Rights (LTDH) and Amnesty International have condemned Tunisian president Kais Saied's new draft constitution as a "dismantlement of democracy and human rights" in the North African country.
"The constitution draft gives the president a wide immunity during and after his presidency, which may allow [him/her] avoid legal accountability," wrote LTDH, one of the main human rights defenders groups in Tunisia, on Wednesday.
"While the draft on paper still upholds several key rights, it grants the President largely unchecked emergency powers that could be wielded to curtail human rights," Amnesty said on Tuesday.
After a fast-tracked drafting process, Tunisia's president Kais Saied announced on 30 June a new draft constitution, which he has vowed to make since taking over all extraordinary powers last year.
The new draft grants the President largely emergency powers, such as dissolving the parliament.
Since its release, the draft has evoked controversy.
Many Tunisians are today concerned that Saeid's draft if passed will be the last nail in the coffin of the North African country as a refuge of democracy in the MENA region.
Even the president of the National Consultative Body for the New Republic (NCBN), a committee created by Saied, said earlier this week that the draft published by president Saied is completely different to the version the committee had prepared. He warned that the draft is now paving paves the way for a "disgraceful dictatorship"
The draft proposes the creation of three High Judicial Councils (HJC) to oversee the judiciary but does not guarantee their independence.
The 2014 Constitution, which was drafted by the elected National Constituent Assembly over a two-year process, established the HJC as a judicial oversight body meant to shield judges from government interference.
Moreover, the draft constitution states that judges are appointed by direct presidential order upon recommendation from the HJC, a setback compared to the 2014 constitution, which required the president to follow a binding opinion of the HJC.
A simple comparison of Tunisia's 2014 constitution and the new draft shows that many articles in Saied's version were cut off or reworded to include unspecific terms like "as regulated by law."
LTDH flagged the term as an opportunity for the executive power to abuse the constitution.
In their published reports, both LTDH and Amnesty international highlighted the lack of commitment to international accords of human rights and gender equality.
"The proposed draft dismantles many of the safeguards provided in Tunisia's post-revolution Constitution and fails to provide institutional guarantees for human rights," said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International's Regional Director for MENA, as stated in Amnesty's report.
Moreover, article 5, which states that Tunisia "belongs to the Islamic Ummah" and says the state is required to "achieve the purposes of Islam in preserving [people's] souls, money, religion, and liberty," could facilitate passing mandates to discriminate against other religious groups, according to Amnesty.
"Leaders, lawmakers, and the courts [could] refer to 'purposes of Islam' as a basis for undermining human rights, especially when reviewing laws related to gender equality or individual rights and freedoms," wrote Amnesty in its report.
LTDH has also called on President Saied to withdraw the draft and launch an inclusive national debate.
Despite the critics, Saied asked Tunisians to vote for the constitution saying that it represents "the spirit of the revolution."
A referendum on the proposed new constitution is scheduled for 25 July, which marks a year since Saied took over all the extraordinary powers by decree.