Tunisian parties urged to uphold human rights
By Monia Ghanmi for Magharebia in Tunis – 29/09/11
A human rights watchdog invited Tunisian election candidates to sign ten pledges to reaffirm their commitment to implementing democratic reforms.
Nine months after the revolution, "Tunisians are still waiting for the authorities to deliver on their promises of change", Amnesty International (AI) said in a September 27th statement.
"Tunisians have endured many broken promises and have lost trust in the country's institutions," the London-based group added. "The uprisings demonstrated that people will not be satisfied with piecemeal, cosmetic reforms but expect bold and far-reaching change to the institutions that have failed them."
According to Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, AI Deputy Director for the Middle East and North African, Tunisians "still have little confidence in the authorities to deliver them justice dignity and institutions they can trust".
"The upcoming elections are an opportunity for political parties to fulfil the promises that they have made and to move from rhetoric to concrete steps towards human rights and the rule of law," she added at a Tuesday conference. "Only that way will the cycle of abuses that fuelled the protests of December and January be broken."
By signing the manifesto, Constituent Assembly hopefuls vowed to enact reforms that would uphold civil liberties, end discrimination and investigate past abuses. The signees also professed their commitment to combating torture, ending incommunicado detention, reining in security forces, reforming the justice system, respecting socio-economic rights, ending gender-based violence and abolishing the death penalty.
"Signing the declaration of human rights before the elections is an opportunity for parties to send a clear message that they are serious about meaningful rights reforms in the country," said Sondes Gardouj, Chairwoman of Amnesty International's branch in Tunis. "This would bring back trust to the Tunisian citizens and reassure them of their future."
Tunisia faces an important opportunity to implement true reforms, and political parties must place human rights ahead of their interests, said Lotfi Azzouz, Executive Director of Amnesty International in Tunis.
According to Popular Unity Party member Zakia Safi, the democratic process cannot be built without an assurance of human rights in accordance with the criteria set by international conventions.
Not everyone, however, endorsed the document in its entirety. Some parties considered certain points contradictory and incompatible with local culture.
"We must not embrace the culture of others and forget the culture of right," said Ali Khachnaoui, a representative of the Ummah Party for Freedom and Justice.
The main points of contention are capital punishment and women's rights. According to Khachnaoui, the death penalty "comes from the Qur'an" and "cannot be touched".
The issue has stirred controversy in Tunisia. A group of 13 human rights organisations last week called for launching a campaign to eliminate the death penalty and include the ban in the future constitution.
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