Tunisia passes new law against terrorism
Some groups fear human-rights violations
tunis— Tunisia’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to pass a new anti-terrorism law after two devastating attacks against tourists, but critics say they fear that the legislation may endanger the North African nation’s hard-won freedoms.
Alone among the countries that experienced the 2011 uprisings of the Arab Spring, Tunisia emerged with a democracy, but amid a rise in attacks by Islamist radicals, the new government is increasingly considering stability and security over personal freedoms.
“There aremany holes in the law that could open the way to human rights violations,” said a statement by a coalition of 10 Tunisian civil society groups, including the bar association, the journalists’ union and several rights groups.
The law, which had languished in parliament for years and was approved late Friday, was fasttracked after gunmen attacked the national museum in Tunis in March and killed 21 foreign tourists. Three months later, a gunman attacked a resort in Sousse and killed 38 tourists, mostly Britons.
Since then, the government has mobilized 100,000 additional army and police units, including 3,000 dedicated to guarding hotels and tourist sites.
During debate on the law, police and military forces raided homes across Tunisia, arresting 16 people in the province of Bizerte on Thursday and killing one.
On Saturday, the government announced that further raids had been carried out in the capital, Sousse and the southern city of Sfax. Two suspected militants were also killed by police in the central city of Kasserine.
The law, which replaces one from 2003, is meant to aid this battle while still respecting human rights, according to Abada Kefi of the parliament’s legislation committee, who described it as “a balanced law.”
Some lawmakers have expressed reservations, even though 176 deputies voted for the law, 10 abstained and none voted against it. “The political wrangling will affect religious rights and freedom of expression,” said Sahbi Atig, a member of the moderate Islamist Ennahda Party, who feared that it would affect the “achievements of the revolution.”
The lawextends from six days to 15 the amount of time police can hold a suspect without chargesand without contact with a lawyer.
Death is the maximum penalty for terrorism, including disseminating information that results in the loss of life in terror attacks. Terrorism can also be defined as damaging public and private property during a demonstration.