The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001.  Please see for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date.  This site is not updated so external links may no longer function.  Contact us with any questions about finding information.

NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Department Seal




The Republic of Tunisia is dominated by President Zine 
el-Abidine Ben Ali and the Constitutional Democratic Rally 
(RCD).  Ben Ali was elected to a second 5-year term in March.  
He ran unopposed.  The President appoints the Prime Minister, 
Cabinet, and 23 Governors.  In the March election, the RCD won 
144 out of the 163 seats in Parliament.  Four nominal 
opposition parties hold the remaining 19 seats.  In 1992 the 
Government banned the Islamist party, An-Nahda, after a court 
sentenced 265 of its members to prison for allegedly plotting 
to assassinate the President and overthrow the Government.

The internal security forces include a paramilitary national 
guard organized within the Ministry of Interior.  The security 
services continued to be responsible for human rights abuses, 
including torture, though the number of known cases appears to 
have declined significantly in 1994.  They were allegedly 
responsible for the deaths of three persons in their custody.

The major sectors of the economy include agriculture, tourism, 
petroleum, textiles, clothing, and other manufactured exports, 
and remittances from workers abroad.  Despite a severe drought, 
the economy continued its noninflationary growth in 1994, led 
by a 17.7-percent jump in tourism.

Complaints of police abuse, including torture, declined 
significantly in 1994, due in part to government efforts to 
educate its police force and prosecute offending officers.  The 
security forces also made fewer security-related arrests 
compared to 1993.  However, significant human rights abuses 
continued.  The Government imprisoned two self-proclaimed 
presidential candidates, as well as an opposition candidate for 
Parliament who complained to a foreign journalist about the 
results of the national elections.

The Government also stifled freedom of speech and the press.  
The authorities dismissed a journalist from his government job 
for providing an interview with one of the unofficial 
presidential candidates to a foreign publication; banned two 
French newspapers indefinitely for criticizing the Government; 
declined to renew the residency of a foreign correspondent, 
requiring him to depart the country; denied an entry visa to 
another foreign journalist to cover the elections; and 
interrupted telephone service to one foreign press service for 
1 week and instructed its resident correspondent to depart the 

The police harassed several of the 117 women who signed a 
petition asking the Government to move more quickly on human 
rights reforms.  Additionally, the Government continued to seek 
out and arrest suspected members of An-Nahda and the banned 
Communist Worker's Party (POCT) and to harass their relatives 
and friends, including repeated interrogations and home 
searches without warrants.  Other significant human rights 
problems include:  incommunicado detention, the Government's 
refusal to publish information on the punishment of security 
personnel who have abused prisoners, and governmental 
interference with the right to privacy.


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

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Three reports of deaths in custody came to light in 1994.  On 
February 27, the police arrested Lotfi Ben Mohammed Guelaa, a 
student in Paris and a leader in an Islamic student group, 
after his arrival at Djerba airport.  In early March, Guelaa 
died in his police cell.  The Government says he committed 
suicide by hanging himself.  The authorities arrested Ismail 
Khmira in 1991 for his suspected involvement with An-Nahda.  He 
died in prison on February 25 of pneumonia according to the 
Government.  The National Guard arrested Ammar Beji on November 
9 after he became involved in an argument with a government 
official near Sfax.  The guard said Beji hanged himself in his 
police cell on November 10.  The Government has not made public 
its investigations into the deaths of Guelaa, Khmira, or Beji.  
A possible fourth death in custody remained unconfirmed at 
year's end.  Sources reported that Ezzedine Ben Aiche allegedly 
died in August near Sousse while in police custody.

In 1994 the Government concluded its investigations into five 
cases of persons who died in police custody dating to 
1991--Faisal Barakat, Abdelaziz Mehouachi, Ameur Degachi, Fethi 
Khiari, and Rachid Chammahk.  In each case, the official 
investigation concluded there was no evidence of police 
malfeasance.  Investigations continue in two other deaths in 
custody from 1991.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances.

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

While the law prohibits the mistreatment of detainees, there 
continued to be credible reports that security forces mistreat 
suspected Islamists, leftists and other persons suspected of 
antigovernment activities.  Many accused Islamists have claimed 
in court that the police extracted their confessions by torture.

The Government denies that torture is practiced as a matter of 
policy but ackowledges that security officials have abused 
detainees in some cases.  According to the Government, the 
courts convicted 24 police officers in 1992 for human 
rights-related violations.  In 1993 the Government accused 17 
police officers of human rights violations.  The Government has 
not identified them by name or indicated the nature of their 
offense or their punishment.

The Government has taken a number of steps in response to 
concerns about human rights abuses, including 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.  Manuals containing human rights documents 
and directives are provided to police officers.  Government 
officials claim the educational level of police recruits has 
increased, and veteran officers continue to undergo training.  
All judges and prosecutors receive a two-semester course on the 
scope and applicability of international human rights treaties 
and conventions as part of their training at the Magistrates' 
Institute.  In October the Government authorized the Tunisian 
Human Rights League (LTDH) to conduct prison visits.

Prison conditions meet internationally recognized minimum 

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The law authorizes the police to make arrests without warrants 
for suspected felonies and crimes in progress and to hold 
suspects in prearraignment detention for a maximum of 10 days.  
Attorneys, human rights monitors, and former detainees maintain 
that the authorities circumvent the 10-day limit by delaying 
the registration of the date of arrest.

Detainees have the right to be informed of the grounds for 
arrest before questioning and to be represented by counsel 
during their arraignment hearings.  Detainees do not have the 
right to a lawyer during prearraignment detention but may 
request an examination by a medical doctor.  Otherwise they are 
held incommunicado during this period.  The Government provides 
legal representation to indigents.

The examining magistrate at the arraignment may decide to 
release the accused or remand him to pretrial detention.  In 
cases involving serious felonies or national security, the 
accused may be held for 6 months in pretrial detention, 
renewable by court order for two additional 4-month periods.  
There were credible reports that some detainees have been held 
in pretrial detention longer than the maximum 14 months.  There 
is a system of bail, but it is rarely used.

Exile is prohibited by law and not practiced by the Government.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The court system comprises the regular civil and criminal 
courts, including a Court of Appeals, a Supreme Court, and a 
Military Tribunal.  The judiciary is not independent of the 
executive branch.  The latter appoints, assigns, grants tenure 
to, and transfers judges, a situation that makes judges 
susceptible to pressure in politically sensitive cases.

In general, defendants in criminal cases receive due process.  
They have the rights to be present at their trials, represented 
by counsel, question witnesses, and appeal verdicts.  However, 
because the presiding judge dominates the trial, the role of 
the defense attorney in questioning witnesses is minimal.  In 
1994 some defense lawyers complained that the courts did not 
grant them sufficient time to prepare their cases.

Although trials in the regular courts are open to the public, 
judges have restricted access in cases involving accused 
Islamists or leftists.  Family members and other interested 
parties must obtain police approval to attend such trials.  In 
1994 the Government denied an entry visa to an Amnesty 
International (AI) researcher who sought to observe the trial 
of a prominent leftist dissident, Hamma Hamami, the leader of 
the banned Tunisian Communist Workers Party.  The AI researcher 
had previously written reports critical of the Government.

Hamami's trial was not fair by international standards:  his 
lawyers did not have sufficient access to their client or time 
to prepare their defense; the police had physically mistreated 
Hamami while in pretrial detention; the court did not conduct a 
complete investigation prior to going to trial; and the court 
handed down a sentence that was not comensurate with his 
alleged crime.

The Military Tribunal tries cases involving military personnel 
and civilians accused of national security crimes.  The 
Tribunal consists of a civilian judge from the Court of 
Cassation and four military judges.  Defendants may appeal the 
Tribunal's verdicts to the Court of Cassation, but the review 
is limited to matters of law and procedure, not the facts of 
the case.

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

The Constitution provides for the inviolability of the person 
and the home and for the privacy of 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.

The authorities continued to monitor the activities of 
Islamists and leftists and searched their homes without 
warrants.  They frequently harassed the relatives and 
associates of such persons by repeatedly interrogating them.  
During the year, several human rights monitors and 
oppositionists accused the Government of harassment and 
intimidation.  Police presence in urban areas is heavy.  
Traffic officers routinely stop motorists to examine their 
identity and vehicular documents.

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, the exercise of these 
freedoms is limited, as several government actions during 1994 
demonstrated.  The Press Code includes broad provisions 
addressing subversion and defamation, neither of which is 
clearly defined or subject to judicial review.  The Government 
has used these provisions for arresting political opponents and 
bringing suits against the media.

In March police arrested two self-proclaimed presidential 
candidates who had criticized the Government:  Moncef Marzouki 
and Abderrahmane El-Hani.  The Government charged Marzouki, a 
former president of the Tunisian Human Rights League, with 
spreading false information and defaming judicial authorities 
in an interview with a Spanish newspaper.  They detained 
Marzouki for 4 months before releasing him, but his case is 
still under official investigation.  The authorities charged 
El-Hani, a lawyer, with membership in an unauthorized 
organization and spreading false information and held him in 
detention for 2 months; his trial date is pending.

Also in March, the authorities detained for 5 days Boujemaa 
Remili, a defeated opposition party candidate in the 
parliamentary election.  Remili had complained that the 
national elections were neither free nor fair.  He was later 
convicted of spreading false information and given an 8-month 
suspended sentence.

In May, 117 women signed a petition asking the Government to 
accelerate the pace of human rights reform.  The authorities 
later harassed and intimidated several of them at work and at 

Restrictive laws and practices limit freedom of the press.  
Journalists and writers generally censor themselves because 
they fear government retribution if they publish overly 
critical articles.

The Government amended the Press Code in 1993 to expand the 
definition of defamation to include the expression of opinions 
based on racism, regionalism, or religious extremism.  
Journalists express concern about the vague language, fearing 
that it gives the Government additional grounds for legal suits.

The Government exerts considerable control over editorials by 
providing official texts on major domestic and international 
events.  The daily newspapers routinely carry policy 
announcements verbatim.  Editorials do not criticise the 
President or other senior government officials.  Publishers and 
editors have been reprimanded when government guidelines were 
not followed, encouraging further self-censorship.

The Government requires domestic printers to deposit copies of 
all publications destined for public sale in Tunisia with the 
secretary of state for information and with the Ministries of 
Interior and Justice prior to public release.  The authorities 
may seize a publication without compensation.

The Government also showed intolerance of criticism in the 
foreign media.  In February the Government refused to renew the 
residence visa of a Tunis-based British Broadcasting 
Corporation correspondent who had interviewed a Tunisian 
dissident about his presidential aspirations and broadcast an 
interview with London-based An-Nahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi 
approving of the dissident's candidacy.  Also in February, the 
Government temporarily interrupted telephone service to the 
office of the Kuwaiti News Agency and told its correspondent to 
leave Tunisia after he reported an interview with Ghannouchi.

In March the Government denied an entry visa to cover the 
national elections to a reporter for the French newspaper Le 
Monde.  The reporter had previously written articles deemed 
offensive by the Government.  Also in March, the authorities 
dismissed a Tunisian journalist from his job with the 
government-controlled Tunisian News Agency (TAP).  The 
journalist worked as a stringer for a French newspaper and had 
submitted an interview with a Tunisian dissident to that 
publication.  Later the Government prohibited indefinitely the 
importation of two French publications, Le Monde and 
Liberation, after they published articles critical of the 
Government and the President.

The Ministry of Interior censors all imported publication prior 
to public release.  In 1994 the Ministry prevented editions of 
the French magazines Le Point and Jeune Afrique from 
distribution onto the market and prohibited the entry of some 
Amnesty International publications.

The Government owns and operates the Tunisian Radio and 
Television Establishment (ERTT).  Broadcast media coverage of 
the Government is taken directly from TAP.  There are two 
television channels and several regional radio stations.  Under 
bilateral agreements with France and Italy, citizens are able 
to receive the French channel France 2 and the Italian station 
Rai Uno.  However, in accordance with its agreement with 
France, the Government replaces the prime-time news program on 
France 2 with a news broadcast produced by the ERTT.

More than 30,000 homes and multifamily dwellings have satellite 
receiving dishes.  In December the Government imposed a 
temporary halt on the granting of new licenses for the dishes.

Like journalists, university professors practice a form of 
self-censorship, avoiding classroom criticisms of the Goverment 
or statements supportive of the Islamist An-Nahda party.  The 
presence of police on campuses also discourages dissent.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly.  Groups 
wishing to hold a public meeting, rally, or march must obtain a 
permit from the Ministry of the Interior.  The Government 
normally approves such permits, except in cases involving 
proscribed political parties or associations.

In March 1992, the Government amended the Law on Associations 
to prohibit an officer of a political party from serving as an 
officer of an association and to prohibit associations from 
rejecting prospective new members.  The amendment had a direct 
impact on the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH), as some of 
its officers were also officers in political parties, and the 
League maintained a policy of closed membership to the general 
public.  Not wishing to violate the new law, LTDH did not hold 
a meeting for more than a year.

In 1993 the League negotiated a partial arrangement with the 
Government, agreeing to prohibit League officers from also 
holding office in a political party--but maintaining its policy 
of closed membership.  That settlement permitted the League to 
hold an election for its governing board in February.  
Afterwards, the League conducted its normal activities, 
although it and the Government continue to discuss the 
membership issue.  There is no available information indicating 
that the Government has applied the amendment to the Law of 
Associations to other groups.  Local human rights monitors fear 
that the law increases government influence over all 

The law on political parties stipulates that parties must 
reject all forms of violence, including fanaticism, racism, and 
other types of discrimination.  No political party may be based 
on religion, race, sex, or region, or receive funds from a 
foreign party or aid from foreign governments and citizens.  
All party members must be citizens for at least 5 years.

There are seven legal political parties.  In addition, there 
are a few unrecognized parties, including the Islamist An-Nadha 
Party, which aspire to recognition, and the Maoist Tunisian 
Communist Workers' Party, which remains underground.  The 
Government states that An-Nahda is ineligible for recognition 
because it is based on religion.

The Government uses its authority to license political parties 
as a means to control the political environment.  It does not 
grant legal recognition to parties deemed to be a threat to the 
existing political order.  Aspiring political parties file for 
registration with the Ministry of Interior.  In 1994 a new 
group--the Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberties--attempted 
to register itself as a political party.  The Government has so 
far refused to accept the application.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Islam is the state religion, but the Government permits the 
practice of other religions.  The Government regards the Baha'i 
faith as a heretical sect of Islam.  Adherents may practice 
their faith in private only.  However, the Government appears 
to have eased some other restrictions, which in the past 
included the denial of passports to Bahai's.

With a population of 2,500, Jews are the country's largest 
indigenous religious minority.  The Government assures the 
Jewish community the freedom of worship, safeguards its 
security, and pays the salary of the Grand Rabbi.  The small 
Christian community is mainly composed of foreigners.  They are 
free to attend church services.

The Government views proselytizing as a provocative act against 
"public order."  Authorities ask foreigners suspected of 
proselytizing to depart the country and do not permit them to 
return.  In 1994 no persons were known to have been arrested 
for proselytizing.  However, the authorities did not renew the 
residency permits of some foreigners suspected of proselytizing.

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 

     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 1994 there were credible complaints that the Government 
withheld or limited passports in certain cases.  Islamists 
continued to report difficulties in obtaining passports.  The 
Government stated it denies passports only to persons with 
legal problems at home or abroad and to those 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 that they and their 
family members were unable to obtain or renew passports.

There is no arbitrary restriction on emigration or 
repatriation.  The Government does not accept refugees for 
permanent resettlement.  There were no reported cases in 1994 
of forced repatriation.

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

The ability of citizens to change their government through 
democratic means has yet to be demonstrated.  The ruling 
Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) Party, and its direct 
predecessor parties, have controlled the political arena since 
independence.  The RCD controls the Cabinet, the Chamber of 
Deputies, regional and local governments, and the security 
apparatus.  The President appoints the Prime Minister, the 
Cabinet, and the 23 Governors.  The President and the RCD 
dominate politics at the national, regional, and local levels.  
The Government and the RCD are closely integrated:  The 
President of the Republic is also the president of the RCD, and 
the RCD's Secretary-General holds the rank of Minister of State.

The largest opposition party, the proscribed Islamist An-Nahda 
Party, received 12 percent of the vote in the 1989 legislative 
elections, when the Government permitted its candidates to run 
as independents.  However, the party is in disarray following 
the conviction in 1992 of nearly all of its leaders for 
plotting to overthrow the Government.  In 1992 a court 
sentenced in absentia Rachid Ghannouchi, the nominal head of 
the party, to life in prison.  Ghannouchi was granted political 
asylum in Britain in 1993.

The Chamber of Deputies has 163 seats.  It has yet to establish 
itself as an effective counterweight to executive authority.  
The electoral code provides for a winner-take-all formula in 
legislative elections, but the Government amended the law in 
1993 to add 19 additional seats in the Chamber of Deputies for 
parties that do not win seats.  Four opposition parties that 
participated in the March legislative election were apportioned 
those seats.  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.

Presidential candidates must obtain the signatures of at least 
30 members of the Chamber of Deputies or presidents of 
municipalities--all but one of whom were members of the ruling 
RCD party in 1994.  Two persons who were not affiliated with 
any political party tried to announce their candidacies for the 
presidency even though they were unable to obtain the requisite 
signatures.  The authorities detained both of them for several 
months (see Section 2.a.).  None of the six legal opposition 
parties offered a candidate for president, and all endorsed 
President Ben Ali for reelection.

Women may participate in politics.  Eleven women won seats in 
the March legislative election.  Nevertheless, women remain 
underrepresented in government and hold few senior government 
posts.  One woman holds ministerial rank, and a woman is the 
second vice president of the Chamber of Deputies.  In municipal 
councils, 19 percent of the member are women.  Twenty-five 
percent of Tunisian magistrates are women.

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

The Government recognizes several local human rights 
organizations but subjects them to a variety of restrictions.  
The most active is the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH).  It 
resumed activities in 1993 after the Government passed 
restrictive amendments to the Associations Law in 1992 (see 
Section 2.b.).  In 1994 LTDH held its first congress since 
1989, released a credible report on the conduct of the national 
election, published communiques on specific cases, and provided 
legal counsel for defendants in some cases.

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 Higher Committee for Human Rights and Basic 
Freedoms, established by the President in 1991, continued to 
advise the President on human rights issues but did not make 
public any of its findings or recommendations.

The Government in 1992 created offices in the Ministries of 
Foreign Affairs, Justice, Interior, and Social Affairs to 
coordinate human rights concerns.  These offices advise 
policymakers, coordinate human rights training, and investigate 
citizens complaints.

In 1994 relations between the Government and Amnesty 
International (AI) remained poor (see Sections 1.e. and 2.a.).

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


Although women still face discrimination in certain legal and 
social matters, the Government has made serious efforts to 
advance women's rights.  In 1993 the Chamber of Deputies 
expanded women's rights by amending the 1956 Personal Status 
Code.  The Government has also ensured equal employment rights 
for women by instituting changes in the Labor Code and signing 
various international treaties and conventions.  In 1994 the 
Government enacted a law to subsidize the child-care costs for 
mothers employed outside the home.

There is a significant trend toward greater educational and 
professional opportunities for women.  In 1994 the National 
Union of Tunisian Women (UNFT) was awarded UNESCO's top prize 
worldwide for its work in the fight against female illiteracy 
in Tunisia.  The number of women in the medical, legal, and 
other professions continued to grow steadily.  Women comprise 
an estimated 25 percent of the work force, a figure which 
probably underestimates their presence as many women are 
employed in the informal sector as well as seasonally in 
agriculture.  According to government figures, women comprise 
26 percent of the civil service, employed mainly in the fields 
of education, health, and social affairs at the middle or lower 

Violence against women is known to occur, but there are no 
statistics on its extent.  In recent years, the media have 
reported on this subject, stressing that violence against women 
is a serious social problem.  The Tunisian Association of 
Democratic Women operates a walk-in counseling service in Tunis 
for battered women, assisting about 20 women a month.  Battered 
women generally first seek assistance from family members.  
Human rights monitors have said that police intervention is 
often ineffective because officers tend to regard incidents as 
family problems to be handed by family members.  Few cases of 
spousal violence are brought to trial.  In 1993 the Chamber of 
Deputies strengthened criminal penalties for wife beating, 
requiring judges to issue more severe sentences.


Laws protecting the rights of children are included in statutes 
governing education, health, inheritance, adoption, and child 
custody.  The Government is committed to upholding these laws.  
The personal status code provides protection for children in 
adoption or custody cases, or in cases of the death or 
incapacitation of the children.  There is no pattern of 
societal abuse against children.  Criminal penalties for 
persons convicted of child abuse or neglect are severe.  
Education is mandatory until age 16, though approximately 10 
percent of students leave school before that time.

     Indigenous People

The small Berber minority constitutes under 3 percent of the 
population.  Some older Berbers have retained their native 
language.  Younger Berbers have been assimilated into Tunisian 
culture through schooling and marriage.  Berbers are free to 
participate in Tunisia's political process and express 
themselves culturally.

     People With Disabilities

A law enacted in 1981 prohibits discrimination based on 
disabilities and mandates that disabled persons comprise at 
least 1 percent of public agency and private sector employees.

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.  There is a general trend toward making 
public transportation more accessible to disabled persons.  The 
Government issues special cards to the disabled for benefits 
such as unrestricted parking, priority medical service, 
preferentail seating on public transportation, and some 
consumer discounts.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution and the Labor Code stipulate the right of 
workers to form unions.  The Tunisian General Federation of 
Labor (UGTT) is the country's only labor federation and claims 
about 15 percent of the work force as members, including civil 
servants and employees of state-owned enterprises.  There is no 
legal prohibition against the establishment of other labor 
federations.  A union may be dissolved only by court order.

The UGTT and its member unions are legally independent of the 
Government and the ruling party but operate under regulations 
which restrict their freedom of action.  The UGTT's membership 
includes persons associated with all political tendencies, 
although Islamists have been removed from union offices.  The 
current UGTT leadership follows a policy of cooperation with 
the Government and its economic reform program.  However, there 
are credible reports that the UGTT receives substantial 
government subsidies to supplement the modest union dues and 
funding from the National Social Security Account.

Unions, including civil servants, have the right to strike, 
provided they give 10 days' advance notice and the UGTT 
approves of the strike.  These restrictions, however, are 
rarely observed in practice.  In recent years, the majority of 
strikes were illegal because the UGTT did not approve them in 
advance.  The Government does not prosecute workers involved in 
illegal strike activity.  In 1994 there were 202 illegal and 42 
legal strikes.  The 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.  The 1994 Labor 
Code reform set up tripartite regional arbitration commissions, 
which settle industrial disputes when conciliation fails, to 
replace the former single arbiter system.

Unions are free to associate with international bodies.

     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 negotiation by the UGTT 
member federations and employer representatives.  Approximately 
47 collective bargaining agreements set standards for 
industries in the private sector and cover 80 percent of the 
total private sector work force.  The Government's role in 
these negotiations is minimal, consisting mainly of lending its 
good offices if talks appear to be stalled.  However, the 
Government must approve of, but not modify, the agreements 
which must be published in the official journal before they 
become legally binding.

The UGTT also negotiates with the various ministries and 208 
state-run enterprises on behalf of public sector employees.  By 
1994, the UGTT had concluded 3-year public and private sector 
collective bargaining agreements calling for an average 
5-percent annual wage increase.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers.  The 
UGTT claims, however, that there is increasing antiunion 
activity among private sector employers, especially the alleged 
firing of union activists and the use of temporary workers to 
avoid a unionized work site.  In certain industries, such as 
textiles, temporary workiers account for 80 percent of the work 
force.  The Labor Code protects temporary workers, but 
enforcement is more difficult than in the case of permanent 
workers.  A 1994 labor code revision established a committee to 
hear cases involving alleged unjustified firing of workers.

There are two export processing zones, but they have not yet 
begun operations.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law does not specifically prohibit compulsory labor, but 
there have been no reports of its practive in recent years.  In 
1994 the International Labor Organization's (ILO) Committee of 
Experts stated that the Government may violate ILO Convention 
29 on forced labor but noted the President's intention to 
abolish the criminal penalty of "rehabilitation through work" 
on state worksites.  At year's end, the Chamber of Deputies was 
considering a draft bill on the issue.  The practice of 
sentencing convicts to "rehabilitation through work" dates to 
the Penal Code of 1912.

     d.  Minimum Age For Employment of Children

The minimum age for employment in manufacturing is 15 years, in 
agriculture 13 years.  The Government requires children to 
attend school until age 16.  Workers between the ages of 14 and 
18 are prohibited from working from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.  Children 
over the age of 14 may work a maximum of 4.5 hours a day.  The 
combination of school and work may not exceed 7 hours.  
Inspectors of the Ministry of Social Affairs examine the 
records of employees to verify that employers comply with the 
minimum age law.  Nonetheless, young children often perform 
agricultural work in rural areas and work as vendors in urban 

The UGTT has expressed concern that child labor--frequently 
disguised as apprenticeship--still exists, principally in the 
handicraft industry.  In other instances, young rural girls are 
sometimes placed as domestics in urban homes by their fathers 
who collect the child's wages.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Labor Code provides for a range of administratively 
determined minimum wages.  The minimum wage levels are 
determined by a commission of representatives from the the 
Ministries of Social Affairs, Planning, Finance, and National 
Economy.  During the course of its deliberations, the 
commission consults with the UGTT and the Employers Union.  The 
President approves the commissions' recommendations.  When 
supplemented by transportation and family allowances, the 
minimum wage covres only essential costs for a worker and his 
family.  In August the commission raised the minimum monthly 
industrial wage to about $130 for a 40-hour workweek and the 
daily minimum agricultural wage at nearly $4.50.

The 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 in the energy, transportation, 
petrochemical, and metallurgy industries.

Regional labor inspectors are responsible for enforcing 
standards, they inspect most firms 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, according to a 1992 study, 
some 240,000 workers are employed in the informal sector, which 
falls outside of the purview of labor legislation.

The Ministry of Social Affairs has responsibility for improving 
health and safety standards in the workplace.  There are 
special government regulations covering such hazardous 
occupations as mining, petroleum engineering, and 
construction.  Working conditions and standards tend to be 
better in firms that are export-oriented than in those 
producing for the domestic market.  Reported workplace 
accidents during the first 6 months of 1994 (latest data 
available) indicate a 0.9 percent decline in mishaps over the 
same period in 1993.  However, the total workdays lost due to 
accidents during the same period were up 6.5 percent over 
1993.  Work-related deaths increased to 82 in the first 6 
months of 1994, compared to 76 for the same period in 1993.  
Workers are free to remove themselves from dangerous situations 
without jeopardizing their employment, and they may take legal 
action against employers who retaliate for exercizing their 


[end of document]


Department Seal

Return to 1994 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.