DIGNITY has supported the Ministry of Justice in Tunisia in developing guidelines to decrease the extensive use of pre-trial detention and increase the ability of judges to play a preventive role.
In a high-level event in Tunis on 12 March 2021, the Tunisian Ministry of Justice in cooperation with the Higher Judicial Institute launched a set of ‘Guidelines on the Use of Pre-Trial Detention’.
The use of pre-trial detention in Tunisia is particularly relevant to the prevention of torture. We know that the risk of torture and ill-treatment is highest during the initial hours of arrest and the pre-trial detention phase. Therefore, how pre-trial detention is used is likely to have a direct effect on the risk of people being subjected to torture and ill-treatment.
»In Tunisia as with many other countries, there is a clear trend to overuse pre-trial detention in criminal justice systems. The Ministry of Justice’s decision to issue these guidelines shows it is committed to tackling the issue of pre-trial detention and this is to be applauded«, says Rachel Towers, Legal Advisor at DIGNITY.
The launch of the guidelines is the culmination of several years’ work, during which DIGNITY provided technical legal support to the Ministry of Justice Working Group tasked with drafting the guidelines. The Guidelines will be used in the training of new and experienced judges at the Tunisian Higher Judicial Institute.
The guidelines reflect the international standards that Tunisia must follow when resorting to the use of pre-trial detention and the safeguards that must be in place to ensure that torture and other forms of ill-treatment are prevented during the pre-trial stage of the criminal justice process.
The launch event was attended by a range of actors including criminal judges, the Interim Minister of Justice, the Attorney General, the Management of Penal Affairs and representatives from the Danish-Arab Partnership Programme (DAPP).
The interim Minister of Justice (Mrs Hasna Ben Slimane), as well as the Director of the Higher Judicial Institute (Mr. Ahmed Yahyaoui) highlighted in their opening speeches the importance of the Guidelines in reducing the number of detainees held in pre-trial detention as a solution to reduce overcrowding and the risk of ill-treatment.
This is the second set of guidelines produced by the Ministry of Justice with DIGNITY’s support. The first guidelines focused on building the capacity of the judiciary to combat torture. »The development of both these Guidelines shows the significant efforts – and progress – that Tunisia is making to align its criminal justice system with international human rights obligations. We look forward to continuing our cooperation and supporting the Ministry of Justice and other important state actors in the country to further reform its criminal justice system«, says Jo-Anne Prud’Homme du Hancourt, Country Director of DIGNITY’s Office in Tunisia.
Photo: The General Director of the Higher Judicial Institute, Mr Ahmed Yahyaoui, receiving a token of appreciation for the good cooperation between DIGNITY, the Ministry of Justice and the Higher Judicial Institute on preventing torture.
Photo by Suleyman Ben Nasr from DIGNITY’s Office in Tunisia.