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TITLE:  TUNISIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                            
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


Tunisia is a republic in which the Constitution provides for a 
parliamentary democracy with separation of the executive, 
legislative, and judicial powers.  In practice, the President 
and his party dominate decisionmaking at all levels.  The 
President appoints the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, and the 23 
regional governors.  His Constitutional Democratic Rally Party 
(RCD) holds all 141 seats in the Chamber of Deputies.  The 
banned Islamist party, An-Nahda, was dealt a severe blow in 
1992 when 265 of its senior members were sentenced to prison 
terms for plotting to assassinate the President and overthrow 
the Government.  Arrests of Islamists and some extreme leftists 
continued in 1993.

Tunisia's internal security is maintained by civilian services 
which include a paramilitary national guard.  These services 
continued to be responsible for widespread human rights abuses, 
including torture, although not on the scale of previous 
years.  Police presence, while not as oppressive as in 1991 or 
1992, remained heavy in urban areas and on university 

Tunisia has a mixed economy dependent principally on revenues 
from agricultural products, tourism, petroleum, textile, 
clothing and other manufactured exports, and remittances from 
workers abroad.  It is now in the 7th year of a structural 
adjustment program designed to make the economy more market 
oriented, reduce staple food subsidies, and increase the role 
of the private sector.  Average annual real growth over the 
past 6 years has been approximately 4.9 percent, but 
unemployment has been high and now stands at about 13 percent. 

In 1993 Tunisia enacted a number of legal reforms to enhance 
the protection of human rights.  Nevertheless, many of the 
reforms have not yet been translated into real improvement, and 
many basic rights continued to be restricted.  The Government 
continued to seek out and arrest suspected members of the 
banned Islamist party, An-Nahda, and the banned Communist 
Workers' Party (POCT) and to harass their relatives and persons 
suspected of involvement with their organizations.  The 
prosecution of leading members of organizations critical of the 
Government, as well as the Government's harsh reaction to the 
circulation of a petition protesting human rights abuses, had a 
chilling effect on freedom of speech.  Despite amendments to 
the Press Code, press freedom also remained restricted.  Other 
significant problems include:  incommunicado detention, police 
abuse of detainees, the Government's refusal to publish 
detailed and specific information on the punishment of abusers, 
interference with the right to privacy, and the inability of 
citizens to change their government.  Amendments to the 
Personal Status Code, including an amendment granting women the 
right to transmit Tunisian nationality even when married to a 
foreigner and living abroad, further enhanced women's rights in 
1993.  A new electoral code will ensure limited opposition 
representation in the Chamber of Deputies to be selected in 
March 1994 elections.  The legal length of pretrial detention 
was reduced, forced prison labor was abolished, and some 
prisoners detained for membership in an illegal organization 
were pardoned.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or extrajudicial killing.  
The Government did not release any information cocerning the 
progress of its investigation into the death of Faisal Barakat 
or the judicial investigation into the deaths "under suspicious 
circumstances" of six others named in the 1992 Driss Report.

     b.  Disappearance

One case of disappearance came to light in 1993.  Relatives and 
coworkers of Kamel Ben Ali Matmati reported he was taken by 
police from his place of work in late 1991 and has not been 
seen since.  Family members believe he was taken to the Gabes 
police station, tortured, and died in custody.  Responding to 
inquiries, the Government stated that Matmati was convicted in 
absentia in May 1992 and remains a fugitive.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

Tunisian law forbids ill-treatment of detainees.  However, 
there continued to be credible reports that security forces 
sometimes mistreated detainees, particularly Islamists and 
extreme leftists suspected of antigovernment activities.  The 
beating of detainees is believed to remain widespread.  Many of 
the defendants in Islamist trials alleged their confessions 
were extracted through torture.  Human rights monitors in 
Tunisia, including those appointed by the Government, and 
oppositionists abroad generally agree that the practice of 
torture persists but not on a systematic and regular basis as 
was alleged during widespread roundups of Islamists in late 
1991 and early 1992.

Amnesty International (AI) reported in June that women 
relatives of imprisoned Islamists were harassed, tortured, and 
sexually abused in substantial numbers by security forces.  The 
Government immediately denounced the report as false, as did 
several opposition parties and government-affiliated women's 

The Government denies that torture is practiced as a matter of 
state policy, but acknowledges that unsanctioned abuses have 
occurred.  However, it continued to refuse to identify 
offending officers by name and provide information on sentences 
imposed, causing human rights monitors to question its 
professed desire to put an end to abuses.  In early 1993, the 
press reported that nine police and national guard officers 
were convicted and sentenced to prison terms of 6 months to 5 
years in cases that date back several years.  Government 
officials claimed that other officers have been punished as 
well.  A 1992 report by Presidential Human Rights Commissioner 
Rashid Driss reported that 116 police officers had been 
implicated in 105 cases of abuse and that 55 officers were 
subject to disciplinary procedures.  The Government released no 
further information on those cases.

As part of a campaign, initiated in 1992, to halt such abuses, 
the Government provides special human rights training for 
police, who are now required to sign a statement that they are 
aware of Tunisian and international human rights standards and 
will abide by them.  Police officers are provided with a manual 
including the texts of human rights documents, and human rights 
directives are posted in police stations.  In December the 
Justice Minister added a two-semester human rights training 
course on the scope and applicability of international treaties 
and conventions to the curriculum of the Magistrates' 
Institute, which trains all judges and prosecutors.  The 
Interior Minister in December also distributed human rights 
training material to nonpolice personnel. 

Prison conditions were generally adequate and did not threaten 
life or health.  Human Rights Commissioner Driss was given 
authority to conduct unannounced prison inspections and 
reported that conditions were improving, though very few visits 
actually were made.  In July the President ordered the 
abolition of forced labor for prison inmates as punishment for 

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Under Tunisian law, arrests may be made without a warrant in 
cases of felonies or crimes-in-progress.  These arrests must be 
reported immediately to the court, which determines if a 
detainee should be held or released.  Under a law adopted in 
1987, prearraignment detention is limited to no more than 10 
days (4 days initially, followed by an additional 4, and then 
an additional 2 if authorized by the prosecutor).  Attorneys, 
human rights monitors (including those appointed by the 
Government), and former detainees charged that this limit was 
frequently circumvented simply by delaying registration of the 
arrestee.  International human rights groups report 
falsification of arrest records is widespread.  Legally, an 
accused person must be informed of the grounds for arrest 
before questioning.  A detainee may request an examination by a 
medical doctor but may otherwise be held incommunicado.

During prearraignment detention, detainees do not have the 
right to a lawyer.  They do have a right to a lawyer at their 
arraignment, and the Government provides legal representation 
to indigents.  In certain instances, such as cases involving 
national security or felony indictments, pretrial detention may 
be for 6 months, renewable by an arraignment judge for up to 
two additional 4-month periods.  Prior to penal code reforms 
enacted in November, preventive detention for a total of 18 
months was allowed (an initial period of 6 months, renewable 
for two 6-month periods).  The examining magistrate at the 
preliminary hearing, which is supposed to occur within 10 days 
of arrest, decides whether to invoke pretrial detention.  While 
the law provides for bail, in practice it is very rarely 
granted.  In May and June, trials were held for at least 76 
Islamist defendants who had been in custody since December 1991.

Tunisian law specifies that no citizen shall be exiled from the 
country, and there were no reports of government-imposed exile 
in 1993.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

Tunisia's court system, modeled on the French system, is 
composed of regular (civil and criminal) courts, with appellate 
and supreme courts, and a Military Tribunal.  A state security 
court was abolished in 1987.  The Constitution provides for the 
presumption of innocence and states that the accused will be 
accorded "necessary guarantees" (not further specified in the 
Constitution) for his defense.  

The regular court system is highly centralized under the 
Justice Ministry.  An elected Supreme Council of the 
Magistrature, representing the judges, decides on matters of 
transfer and judicial discipline.  However, in practice, the 
executive branch retains control in naming, assigning, granting 
tenure, and transferring judges, thus making them susceptible 
to pressure in politically sensitive cases.

Police, prosecutors, and judges work closely together, and 
trials, rather than an adversarial proceeding, are dominated by 
the presiding judge.  Defendants have the right to be present 
and to be represented by counsel, at public expense if 
necessary.  Witnesses may be confronted.  However, the role of 
the defense attorney in such examinations is usually minimal.  
Although the court system is overloaded, in normal criminal 
cases the rights of the accused are generally respected.  There 
were again complaints in 1993, however, that the rights of 
those accused of involvement in cases of a political or 
security nature were not always observed or that their lawyers 
were given insufficient time to prepare for trial.  

Civilian trials are theoretically open to the public and both 
domestic and foreign observers are permitted to attend.  
However, access to trials involving Islamists or leftists is 
strictly controlled.  Family members and other interested 
parties must seek advance police approval to attend such 

The Military Tribunal is presided over by a civilian judge from 
the Court of Cassation (the highest court) and four military 
judges.  In addition to hearing cases involving the military, 
the Tribunal also may hear cases against civilians when 
national security is deemed to be involved.  As with the 
civilian courts, decisions of the Military Tribunal may be 
appealed to the Court of Cassation, the country's highest 
court, which, however, limits its review to matters of law and 
procedure, not facts. 

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

The Constitution provides for the inviolability of the person 
and the home and privacy in correspondence, "except in 
exceptional cases defined by law."  Police must have a search 
warrant, but this requirement is sometimes ignored in cases in 
which the authorities consider that state security is involved 
or in which a "flagrant crime" is deemed to have been 
committed.  Tunisian law specifies that, except in exceptional 
circumstances, arrests are to be made between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m.

The authorities continued to surveil Islamists, leftists, and 
others believed to associate with them, detaining their 
visitors for questioning and searching their homes without 
warrants.  Several human rights monitors and oppositionists 
accused the Government of harassment through acts of vandalism, 
theft, and burglary during the year.

There were reports of mail being opened and telephone 
conversations monitored, and the Government is believed to 
record some telephone conversations.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of thought, expression, 
and the press.  In practice, however, these freedoms are 
limited.  Tunisians are reluctant to discuss politics and 
sensitive issues in public.  The Press Code includes 
limitations on subversion and defamation based on broad 
internal and external security concerns, which are neither 
defined nor subject to judicial review.  These laws have been 
used against opposition members, particularly for alleged 
possession or circulation of illegal political tracts or 
correspondence.  Such charges were filed against some 
defendants in Islamist and leftist trials.  

In February the Government reacted harshly to the circulation 
of a petition critical of its human rights record.  The 
organizer was jailed for 2 weeks, a foreign national was 
dismissed from his government job and threatened with 
deportation, and the remaining 16 signers were called in by the 
police for interrogation.  In contrast, the Government took no 
action in April against over 200 signers after another petition 
critical of its policies was published.  In 1993 a student 
leader was arrested on drug charges, the head of a journalists' 
association was prosecuted on bad check charges, and a 
journalist who wrote an article deemed critical of the 
Government for a French publication faced formal disciplinary 
proceedings at work.  Questions remain regarding the validity 
of these charges, and these actions have had a chilling effect 
on freedom of speech and the press.

Freedom of the press is limited both by restrictive laws and 
practices and by self-censorship arising from a fear of 
government sanctions.  Amendments to the Press Code in 1993 
suggested that restrictions were being eased.  Nevertheless, 
many of the changes so far have been largely cosmetic, and 
press freedom remained controlled.  The Press Code prohibits 
defamation of government officials.  The 1993 amendments make 
proof that the published material in question is true a valid 
defense against a libel charge brought by a minister or a 
deputy, as long as it is related to their official duties.  
Proof is still not a valid defense, however, in cases of libel 
brought by the President.  In the past, charges of libel and 
spreading false information have been the two main bases for 
suits against the media.  No new charges were filed in 1993.  

In 1993 the Press Code also was amended to expand the 
definition of libel to include the expression of opinions based 
on racism or religious extremism.  Journalists express concern 
that the vague language of the amendment gives the Government 
another tool that can be used against the press.

In practice, the Government exerted considerable control over 
the editorial content of newspapers, providing extensive 
advance guidance on important issues and reprimanding editors 
when guidelines were crossed, further encouraging 
self-censorship.  There was, however, some increase in press 
coverage of the activities of opposition parties, and several 
opposition party newspapers resumed publication with the help 
of government subsidies.

Government advertising and subscriptions, an important source 
of revenue for some newspapers, is one of the means used to 
exert pressure on the press.  In January the Government 
withdrew its advertising and canceled all its subscriptions to 
a weekly news magazine, urging private subscribers and 
advertisers to do the same, after the magazine published an 
article that was deemed to cast Tunisia in a negative light.  
In July, after the Journal appealed to the President, the 
Government resumed buying some advertising on a very limited 
basis but, at year's end, had yet to renew its subscriptions.

Prepublication censorship under the 1988 Press Code, which is 
still valid, requires the printer to deposit copies of all 
publications prepared in Tunisia with the Secretary of State 
for Information and the Interior and Justice Ministries prior 
to public release.  The Interior Minister may order seizure of 
all copies of a single issue of a publication if the Ministry 
deems the issue would "disturb public order."  The ruling on 
the publication has to be made within 3 days from the time of 
submission and may be appealed to an administrative court.  
Political tracts must also be submitted for approval.  In 1991 
the Government announced the President's decision not to 
enforce prepublication censorship, but it has retained the 
right to do so.

Although publications are no longer routinely censored prior to 
publication, the possibility of seizure without compensation 
after publication significantly increases the financial risk to 
publishers.  In 1993 there was a reduction in the censorship of 
foreign newspapers, although the Government at times delayed 
circulation of papers containing negative articles for 1 or 2 
days, lessening the demand for them and thus their readership.  
The Government also banned the sale of a French magazine  
containing an article, written by two Tunisians, considered 
critical of the Government.

The Government controls television and radio, and media 
coverage of the Government is consistently favorable.  The 
Italian state television channel Rai Uno is available to 
viewers in much of the country, as is a French state channel, 
France 2, on which Tunisian news was substituted for French 
news.  Some French newscasts were resumed in July after having 
been replaced with local programs since December 1992.  
Licenses for satellite dishes are freely granted, and more than 
10,000 homes and multifamily dwellings had them in 1993.  

While there are no official limitations on academic freedom, 
professors often practiced a form of self-censorship, avoiding 
classroom discussions that were either critical of the 
Government or supportive of An-Nahda.  Police presence on 
campus was heavy at times.  However, the police did not 
interfere when small-scale student strikes were held in March 
to protest academic reforms.  The president of the Tunisian 
General Student Association was later arrested and convicted on 
a drug charge.  While some described the charge as "trumped 
up," the Government claimed it was unrelated to his political 
role.  After appeals on his behalf, the court permitted him to 
remain free pending his appeal, which had not been heard by 
year's end. 

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly, but any 
group wishing to hold a public meeting, rally, or march must 
apply to the Government for a permit 3 days in advance.  The 
Government normally approves such permits, except in cases 
involving proscribed political parties or associations.

The Law on Political Parties stipulates that every political 
party must reject all forms of violence, including fanaticism 
and racism and other discrimination.  No party may claim to 
represent a religion, race, sex, or region.  No party may 
receive funds from a foreign party or material aid directly or 
indirectly from foreign countries or foreigners.  All party 
members must have been Tunisian citizens for at least 5 years.  
There are seven legal parties.  No new parties registered in 
1993, but the Tunisian Communist Party transformed itself into 
a leftist grouping under a new name, the Renewal Movement 
Party.  In addition, there are several unrecognized parties, 
including the Islamist An-Nahda Party, which claims a large 
membership and aspires to recognition, and the extreme left 
Tunisian Communist Workers' Party ("POCT"), a smaller 
organization which remains underground.  An-Nahda is ineligible 
for recognition because it is a party that claims to represent 
a religion.

In March 1992, the Government amended the Law on Associations 
making it illegal for an officer in a political party to serve 
as an officer of a private "general" association and also for 
such an association to reject membership applications.  The 
result of this amendment was the closure for several months of 
the Tunisian Human Rights League from June 1992 to March 1993.  
The League was permitted to resume its operations pending a 
judicial ruling on its status.  The law is not known to have 
been applied against any other organization.  (See also Section 
4.)  Human rights monitors claim that this amendment is one of 
the means by which the Government seeks to control all 
associations.  Other means include the threat of arrest or 
prosecution of association leaders and the provision of 
subsidies which make organizations financially beholden to the 

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution establishes Islam as the state religion but 
allows the practice of most other religions.  Since 1984 there 
has been a ban on public Baha'i religious activities because 
the Government considers this faith a heretical sect of Islam.  
Moreover, proselytizing for religions other than Islam is 
prohibited, although no specific sanctions are prescribed.  
Foreigners caught proselytizing have been threatened with 
expulsion.  The Constitution calls on all political parties to 
respect and defend Tunisia's Arab-Muslim identity, and the 
President as well as the parents and grandparents of the 
President must be Muslim.  The Government controls the mosques 
and pays the salaries of the prayer leaders.  According to the 
1988 Law on Mosques, only government-appointed personnel may 
lead activities in the mosques, except with permission from the 
Prime Minister's office.

Jews comprise the largest religious minority, with a population 
of as many as 2,500.  The Government assures freedom of worship 
for the Jewish community, safeguards its safety, and pays the 
salary of the Grand Rabbi of the community.  Tunisia encourages 
Jewish tourism and gave widespread media coverage to the annual 
Jewish pilgrimage to the Tunisian island of Jerba in May.  
Tunisia's very small community of Christians is composed mainly 
of foreign nationals, who freely attend church services.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

There is freedom of movement within Tunisia, and people are 
free to change their place of residence or work at will.

In 1993 there were an increasing number of credible complaints 
that the Government withheld passports in certain cases, and 
Islamists continued to complain of difficulties in obtaining 
international travel documents.  The Government stated it 
denies passports only to persons with legal problems at home or 
abroad and to those persons who are not likely to use them for 
tourist purposes.  However, lawyers who have defended Islamist 
clients and persons associated with leftist or opposition 
causes also reported they and their family members were unable 
to obtain or renew passports.

There is no arbitrary restriction on emigration or 
repatriation.  Approximately 570,000 Tunisians are living 
abroad.  Tunisia does not accept refugees for permanent 
resettlement and is not a country of first asylum.  There were 
no cases of forced repatriation.  There are approximately 50 
refugees with resident status and approximately 4,000 
Palestinians residing in Tunisia.  A growing number of 
Algerians moved to Tunisia in 1993 as the security situation in 
Algeria deteriorated.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

The ability of the citizens of Tunisia to change their 
government through democratic means has yet to be 
demonstrated.  The ruling RCD and its direct predecessor 
parties have controlled the political arena since 
independence.  The largest opposition party, the proscribed 
Islamist An-Nahda party, received 18 percent of the vote in the 
legislative elections in 1989, when its candidates were 
permitted by the Government to run as independents.  However, 
the party remains illegal and is in disarray following the 
conviction in 1992 of nearly all its leaders for plotting to 
overthrow the Government.  Rachid Ghannouchi, the nominal head 
of the party, was sentenced in absentia to life in prison in 
1992.  In 1993 he was granted political asylum in Great 

The Constitution provides for a parliamentary democracy with 
separation of the executive, legislative, and judicial powers.  
The all-RCD legislature remains subordinate to the executive 
branch.  Portions of the plenary sessions are sometimes 
televised.  Media representatives, diplomats, and other 
visitors are permitted to attend plenary sessions, but 
committee debates are in closed sessions and receive little 
media coverage.  

The President appoints the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, and the 
23 governors.  The executive is dominated at the national, 
regional, and local levels by the President and his party.  
Government and RCD mechanisms are hardly distinguishable; the 
President of the Republic is also the President of the party, 
and the Secretary-General of the party holds the rank of 
Minister of State.

At the time of the last legislative elections in 1989, the 
Tunisian Electoral Code provided for a majority winner-take-all 
system.  As a result, the dominant RCD was allotted all 
parliamentary seats after winning 80 percent of the popular 
vote.  In 1993 the Electoral Code was amended to ensure 
representation of opposition parties.  The winner-take-all 
system remains in place, but some 19 additional "national" 
seats were added to the chamber which will be reserved 
proportionally for parties that do not otherwise win 
representation in the chamber.  Opposition parties that 
participate in the March 20, 1994, elections are assured of at 
least token representation in the chamber.  Elections for the 
Presidency and the Chamber of Deputies are held every 5 years.  
Voting is by secret ballot.  All legal parties are free to 
present candidates.  However, to run for president a candidate 
must gather the signatures of at least 30 members of the 
Chamber of Deputies or presidents of municipalities.  In 1993 
there was only one person among the authorized opposition 
parties who was not a member of the President's RCD.  By the 
end of 1993, all the legal opposition parties and many 
professional organizations and associations had endorsed 
President Ben Ali for reelection.

While there are no legal impediments to women's participation 
in government and politics, they are underrepresented and hold 
very few senior leadership positions.  In 1993 the President 
promoted one woman to ministerial rank and one to the 13-member 
ruling party RCD Politburo  There are 6 female members in the 
141-seat Chamber of Deputies, and a woman is the second Vice 
President of the Chamber.  In municipal councils, 11 percent of 
the members are women.  Ten percent of the members of the 
Economic and Social Council are women.

There is a small Berber minority, constituting about 3 percent 
of the population, which is able to participate freely in the 
political process.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Several human rights organizations are active in Tunisia and 
are recognized by the Government, but they are subject to a 
variety of restrictions.  The Tunisian Human Rights League was 
forced to suspend its operations in 1992 following amendments 
to the Associations Law (see Section 2.b.), but was permitted 
to resume its activities in March pending a judicial 
interpretation of the law.  Despite the League's resumption, it 
has yet to recover fully from its period of suspension.  The 
League is scheduled to hold its first congress since 1989 in 
early 1994.  The Arab Institute of Human Rights, founded in 
1989, is a collaborative effort of the Tunisian Human Rights 
League, the Arab Organization for Human Rights, and the Union 
of Arab Lawyers.  The International Committee of the Red Cross 
(ICRC) operates a regional office in Tunis.  The Maghreb Human 
Rights League is headquartered in Tunis.

In 1993 the Higher Committee for Human Rights and Basic 
Freedoms, formed by President Ben Ali in 1991, released a 
report  "Human Rights in Tunisia: 1991-1993."  The report does 
not address specific problems or cases but merely lists the 
accomplishment claimed by the Government.  Human rights 
monitors are skeptical of the independence and effectiveness of 
offices created in 1992 to coordinate human rights concerns in 
the Interior, Justice, Social Affairs, and Foreign Ministries.

In 1993 AI officials, including its secretary general, met with 
the Foreign Minister and other Tunisian officials.  Another AI 
representative visited Tunisia and issued a report alleging 
that security forces were responsible for torture, widespread 
harassment, and sexual abuse against women relatives of 
incarcerated Islamists.  The Government strenuously disputed 
the report's findings, as did several of the opposition parties 
and prominent women activists.  

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status


In 1993 the Chamber of Deputies adopted major changes to the 
1956 Personal Status Code, which established equal rights for 
men and women in most fields.  The Chamber also amended the 
Penal, Labor, and Nationality Codes to further enhance and 
protect women's rights.  These changes increased the legal 
rights and protection enjoyed by women and children, including 
allowing women to transmit Tunisian nationality even though 
married to a foreigner and living abroad.  Criminal penalties 
for wife beating were strengthened; labor laws were amended to 
further reduce job discrimination based on sex; and a fund was 
established to pay child support until delinquent fathers can 
be found and made to pay.  Inheritance laws are still governed 
by Islamic law, which favors male descendants.  The husband is 
still recognized as the head of the household, even though 
maintenance of the family is a joint effort and the wife's 
wishes are to be respected.

According to the 1989 census, 48.1 percent of females over the 
age of 10 were illiterate, compared with 26.3 percent of 
males.  There is a significant trend, however, toward greater 
educational and professional opportunities for women, and the 
number of women in the medical, legal, and other professions 
continued to grow steadily.  Twenty-five percent of Tunisian 
magistrates are women.  In 1992 women comprised an estimated 25 
percent of the work force, a figure that probably understates 
their presence as many women were employed in the informal 
sector and seasonally in agriculture.  According to figures 
released in 1992, 21 percent of civil service employees were 
women, who were predominantly found in the fields of education, 
health, and social affairs at the lower or middle levels.  

Violence against women does occur, but there are no official 
statistics or studies on the subject.  In 1993 the Government 
initiated a survey on violence against women.  The media has 
begun to break its silence on this issue, which had seldom been 
raised publicly given the importance attached to family privacy 
in this traditional society.  A woman deputy called on the 
Religious Affairs Minister to instruct religious leaders to 
address the problem in mosques to emphasize that Islam does not 
condone violence against women. The Tunisian Association of 
Democratic Women (ATFD) operates a small office which provides 
counseling services to battered and abused women 6 days a 
week.  An attorney and psychologist are on duty 2 days a week.  
However, very few women have used the organization's services.  
No other support groups or shelters are known to exist.  A 
battered woman was still most likely to seek shelter with her 
extended family.

There are several active women's rights groups in Tunisia, the 
most influential being the RCD-affiliated National Union of 
Tunisian Women (UNFT), the Tunisian Association of Democratic 
Women (ATFD), and the Tunisian section of the Worldwide 
Movement of Mothers (MMM).


Laws protecting the rights of children are included in statutes 
governing education, health, inheritance, adoption, and child 
custody.  The Personal Status Code, in particular, provides 
important guarantees for children in cases of adoption and the 
right to custody of minor children in the case of death or 
incapacitation of the father.  Education is mandatory to age 
16.  The Government has an ambitious plan to reduce mortality 
rates by reducing malnutrition, reducing the incidence of 
low-weight births, and reducing iron and vitamin deficiencies 
in women.  

     Indigenous People

The small Berber minority constitutes approximately 3 percent 
of the population.  Less than half of them have retained their 
native language.

     People with Disabilities

The rights of the people with disabilities are protected by a 
law enacted in 1981 that prohibits discrimination based on 
disabilities and mandates that at least 1 percent of public 
agency and private sector employees be disabled persons.  There 
are approximately 10 nongovernmental organizations that address 
the rights of disabled persons.  These organizations receive 
government financing administered by the Ministry of Social 
Affairs and operate schools and other social programs for the 
benefit of the disabled.  They also bring pressure on the 
Government to show sensitivity to the problems and rights of 
the disabled.  The Ministry of Education operates one school 
for the deaf and two for the blind.  All public buildings 
constructed since 1991 must guarantee accessibility to 
physically disabled persons.  Many cities, including Tunis, 
have begun to install wheelchair access ramps on city 
sidewalks, and there is a general trend toward making public 
transportation more accessible to disabled people.  Disabled 
persons also receive special cards from the Government which 
entitle them to such benefits as unrestricted parking, priority 
in receiving medical services, priority on public 
transportation, and some discounts.  Vehicles purchased to 
transport disabled people are exempt from taxes and customs 

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Tunisian Constitution and the Labor Code stipulate the 
right of workers to form unions.  The central labor federation, 
the Tunisian General Federation of Labor (UGTT), claims about 
15 percent of the work force as members, including civil 
servants and employees of state owned enterprises.  The UGTT 
and its member unions are legally independent of the 
Government, the ruling party, and other political forces but 
operate under government regulations which have to some extent 
restricted their freedom of action.  The UGTT's membership and 
officers include persons associated with all political 
tendencies.  The current leadership follows a policy of 
cooperation with the Government, and there are credible reports 
that the UGTT receives substantial subsidies from the 
Government to supplement the officially mandated monthly union 
contributions from UGTT members.  Most incumbent UGTT officials 
on the national, regional, and federation levels were reelected 
in 1993 in voting which some observers claimed was influenced 
by the Government.

Dissolution of a union requires action by the courts.  There is 
no requirement for a single trade union structure; the fact 
that Tunisia has a single labor central (the UGTT) is a result 
of historical circumstances, not government action.  However, 
the Government has decreed that UGTT member federations are the 
labor negotiators for collective bargaining agreements which 
cover 80 percent of the private sector work force, whether 
unionized or not (see Section 6.b.).

Unions, including those for civil servants, have the right to 
strike, provided 10 days' advance notice is given and the UGTT 
approves.  The 1993 report of the International Labor 
Organization's (ILO) Committee of Experts (COE) cited the Labor 
Code provision that the UGTT approve strikes as being 
inconsistent with ILO Convention 87 on freedom of association.  
However, these restrictions on strikes are rarely observed in 
practice.  In recent years, the majority of strikes were 
illegal because they were not approved in advance.  In the 
first 6 months of 1993, there were 23 legal strikes and 245 
illegal strikes.  The Government did not prosecute workers 
involved in illegal strike activity.  Tunisian law prohibits 
retribution against strikers, but some employers punish 
strikers who are then forced to pursue costly and 
time-consuming legal remedies to protect their rights. Labor 
disputes are settled through conciliation panels on which labor 
and management are equally represented.  If conciliation fails, 
arbitration may be pursued, provided both sides agree on an 
arbitrator.  The need for agreement, however, has meant that 
the latter mechanism is rarely used.  Nearly all strikes in 
1993 were settled through conciliation.

Unions in Tunisia are free to join federations and 
international bodies.  The UGTT is a member of the 
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and various 
regional groupings.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The right to organize and bargain collectively is protected by 
law and practiced throughout the country.  Wages and working 
conditions in Tunisia are set through the negotiation by the 
UGTT member federations and employer representatives of 
approximately 47 collective bargaining agreements which set 
standards applicable to entire industries in the private 
sector.  The UGTT is by law the labor negotiator for these 
agreements, which cover 80 percent of the private sector work 
force, whether unionized or not.  The Government's role in 
concluding these agreements is minimal.  It has, however, lent 
its good offices if talks appear to be stalled.  The Government 
must approve the collective bargaining agreements (although it 
cannot modify them) and publish them in the official journal 
before these agreements acquire legal validity.  No agreement 
between a union and an individual firm may be concluded unless 
there already exists an agreement applicable to that firm's 
economic sector.  

The UGTT also negotiates with the various ministries and 208 
state-run enterprises in the public sector.  In 1993 the UGTT 
concluded 3-year public and private sector collective 
bargaining agreements calling for an average 5 percent annual 
wage increase.  

Antiunion discrimination by employers against union members and 
organizers is prohibited by law, and there are mechanisms for 
resolving such disputes.  However, the UGTT has complained 
about what it claims are increasingly vigorous antiunion 
activities by private sector employers, particularly the firing 
of union activists and employers' use of temporary workers as a 
pretext to avoid unions, which in certain factories, especially 
in the textile sector, account for up to 80 percent of the work 
force.  The Labor Code extends the same worker rights 
protection to temporary workers as to permanent workers, but 
its enforcement in the case of the former is much more 

Two export processing zones, authorized by a 1992 law, have not 
yet begun operations.  Workers in export firms have the same 
right to organize, bargain collectively, and strike as those in 
nonexport firms.  The unionization rate is about the same, even 
though export firms are more likely to be antiunion.  The State 
pays the employer contribution to the social security system if 
the firm produces primarily for export.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Compulsory labor is not specifically prohibited by Tunisian 
law, but there have been no reports of its practice in recent 

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

For manufacturing, the minimum age for employment is 15 years; 
in agriculture it is 13.  Tunisian children are required to 
attend school until age 16.  Inspectors from the Social Affairs 
Ministry check the records of employees to verify that the 
employer complies with the minimum age law.  Despite this law, 
young children often perform agricultural work in rural areas 
and sell food and other items in urban areas.  Small 
enterprises in the informal sector (which employs approximately 
20 percent of the work force) reportedly violate the minimum 
age law frequently.  The UGTT has expressed concern that child 
labor--frequently disguised as apprenticeship--still exists, 
principally in the traditional craft sectors such as ceramics 
and stone carving.  Young girls from rural areas are sometimes 
placed as domestics in urban homes by their fathers, who 
collect the child's wages.  Workers between the ages of 14 and 
18 are prohibited from working from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.  Children 
over 14 may work a maximum of 4.5 hours a day.  The combination 
of school and work may not exceed 7 hours.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Labor Code provides for a range of administratively 
determined minimum wages.  Two increases in both the 
agricultural and industrial minimum wage in 1993 followed the 
rise in the cost of living.  Even supplemented by 
transportation and family allowances, the minimum wage is 
barely adequate to provide a decent living for a worker and his 
family.  Effective in August 1993, the minimum monthly 
industrial wage is roughly $127 (127 Tunisian dinars) for a 
40-hour workweek and $145 for a 48-hour week.  The minimum 
agricultural wage was set at $4.36 per day.  

Tunisia's Labor Code sets a standard 48-hour workweek for most 
sectors and requires one 24-hour rest period.  The workweek is 
40 hours for those employed in the energy, transportation, 
petrochemical, and metallurgy sectors.

Regional labor inspectors are responsible for enforcing 
standards.  Most firms are inspected about once every 2 years.  
However, the Government often encounters difficulty in 
enforcing the minimum wage law, particularly in nonunionized 
sectors of the economy.  Moreover, a considerable amount of 
labor takes place in the informal sector, which falls outside 
the purview of labor legislation.

The Social Affairs Ministry has an office with responsibility 
for improving health and safety standards in the workplace.  
There are special government regulations covering many 
hazardous jobs--e.g., mining, petroleum engineering, and 
construction.  Although the Ministry maintains offices 
throughout the country, these regulations are enforced more 
strictly in Tunis than in other regions, where much work, 
especially in construction, is performed in the informal 
sector.  Working conditions and standards tend to be better in 
firms that are export-oriented than in those producing for the 
domestic market.  Industrial accidents rose 19 percent to an 
annual rate of 36,693 in 1992, despite an intensive public 
awareness campaign in the media.  Workers are free to remove 
themselves from dangerous situations without jeopardizing their 
employment.  Workers may take legal action against employers 
who retaliate for taking such action.

[end of document]


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