DIGNITY co-hosts major seminar with Tunisia’s Ministry of Justice

PUBLISHED 14.12.2016

Last week DIGNITY and Tunisia’s Ministry of Justice hosted a high-level seminar on combating torture in Tunisia in the wake of the Arab Spring.

On Thursday 8 December, DIGNITY and the Tunisian Ministry of Justice hosted a seminar aiming to assess Tunisia’s progress in the fight against torture and discuss the path forward in this regard. Among the key note speakers were Tunisia’s Minister of Justice, Minister of Health and the Minister in charge of relations with constitutional bodies, civil society and human rights.

The seminar was a result of an ongoing collaboration between Tunisia and DIGNITY. Since 2013 DIGNITY has cooperated with the post-revolution government to build capacity for investigating and prosecuting cases of torture in Tunisia. Great steps have been taken since the 2011 revolution and today legislative and institutional reforms have taken place. At this point, steps towards their implementation are needed.

The focus of the seminar was the implementation of the recommendations from the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT), which were issued earlier this year, following Tunisia’s examination by the Committee in April 2016.

Since its beginning, the collaboration between DIGNITY and the Tunisian Ministry of Justice has included a range of activities, including the drafting of a nation-wide guide for judges and prosecutors on the role of the justice sector in combating torture. The Guide was launched by the Minister of Justice at a high-level seminar in 2014, and it has since served as basis for the training of 150 judges and prosecutors throughout Tunisia.

The aim of this 2nd high-level seminar was to take stock of the developments, and to share experiences about how best to combat torture and impunity and to ensure protection of victims and witnesses. A total of 175 persons attended the seminar, including prosecutors and judges, civil society organizations, international organizations, and embassy officials.

The seminar covered several topics of which the major ones were the UN CAT recommendations addressing specifically the role of judges and prosecutors, regarding:

  • The inadmissibility of evidence obtained through torture in court proceedings
  • Steps for combatting impunity for perpetrators of torture
  • The importance of the protection of victims and witnesses of torture

There was a broad consensus on the progress achieved in the fight against torture in Tunisia: “It was remarkable to see how advanced and in-depth the discussions regarding the issue of torture were at the seminar last week, compared to the first seminar held in 2014.” says Jo-Anne Prud’homme, legal advisor at DIGNITY.

The collaboration between the Tunisian government and DIGNITY continues indefinitely and aims to ensure that judges and prosecutors are upholding their responsibilities to ensure the prevention of torture and impunity for torture, with the aim of ending the practice in Tunisia.

At the seminar were also the following organizations and official offices:

  • Civil Society for Human Rights
  • The National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture
  • The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • The United Nations Development Programme
  • The International Legal Assistance Consortium
  • The International Bar Association
  • The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network

The seminar and the Danish-Tunisian cooperation are funded by the Danish-Arab Partnership Programme of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.