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The Republic of Tunisia



The level of democracy and rule of law in Tunisia is laudable by many standards, considering where the country was six years ago and before the downfall of former President Ben Ali in 2011. Although the current Government recently passed a controversial amnesty law granting immunity for certain past crimes of corruption, reports say that it is simultaneously undertaking genuine efforts to combat present corrupt activities, while also strengthening efforts to fight impunity for human rights violations.


Treaty ratification Process

The current constitution of Tunisia vests the power to ratify treaties in both the Legislative and Executive branches. The Assembly of the Representatives of the People (ARP), which is the legislative body of the country, must ratify treaties related, among other things, to international organizations, financial obligations of the state, or dispositions of a legislative character. Therefore it is likely that the Malabo Protocol must be ratified by the ARP because it creates an international entity. The ARP may adopt an international instrument only by an absolute majority vote, after a draft law for ratification of the agreement has been forwarded by the Head of the Government. In exceptional circumstances, the President of the Republic may also call for a referendum on draft laws concerning the “ratification of treaties, freedoms and human rights, or personal status” after the ARP adopts them. If the President calls a referendum, he or she waives the right to return the draft law to the ARP for further consideration. Agreements that must be ratified by the ARP only take effect after their enactment through legislation. Once a treaty has been ratified, however, no further domestication is necessary as Tunisia is a monist state.


State of legislation on International and transnational crimes

Tunisian domestic law does not criminalize the core international crimes (genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression), As a signatory to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and a monist state, however, domestication is not a requirement for the judiciary to apply international crimes (with the exception of the crime of aggression whose definition has to be ratified separately to that of the Rome Statute). In 2011, about 300 peaceful demonstrators were killed during the Arab Spring demonstrations that led to the collapse of former President Ben Ali’s regime. Even though Ben Ali was sentenced in absentia to life in prison in connection with the killings, the court was unable to recognize the acts as international crimes (like crimes against humanity), most likely, because of the absence of a domestic legal framework penalizing such a crime. In 2014 some of his former aides were also sentenced for their role in the killings. But the victims’ families have expressed their deep disappointment over the sentences imposed, which they consider too “lenient”.


Human Rights treaty signing and ratification trends

While Tunisia has ratified most United Nations (UN) treaties which have human rights and crimes as their subject matter, it has not done the same for treaties adopted under the auspices of the African Union (AU).[1] Tunisia also ratifies UN instruments relatively quickly after signing them (24 months on average), while the average time is more than twice as long for AU treaties (62 months).[2] No information could be obtained on the reason behind Tunisia’s reluctance to ratify some AU treaties and why it takes the country a longer period of time to ratify AU treaties in comparison to UN ones.


AU Judicial bodies membership

Treaty Signature Ratification
Protocol to the African Charter on Human And Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights Yes Yes
Protocol of the Court of Justice of the African Union Yes(A)
  Protocol on The Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights (Merger Protocol) Yes No
Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights No No


[1] The calculation only includes treaties which are signed and subsequently ratified and hence does not consist treaties which have been acceded to by Tunisia. Annex – treaty signing and ratification trends calculation chart: Tunisia.

[2] Ibid.