Tu­nisia passes new law against ter­ror­ism

Some groups fear hu­man-rights vi­o­la­tions

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY BOUAZZA BEN BOUAZZA AND PAUL SCHEMM — As­so­ci­ated Press

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.

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