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Title:  Tunisia Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State
Date:  March 1996


The Republic of Tunisia is dominated by President Zine el-Abidine Ben 
Ali and the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD).  The President 
appoints the Prime Minister, Cabinet, and 23 governors.  Four opposition 
parties hold 19 of the 163 seats in Parliament.  Municipal elections 
were held in May, and the RCD won 4,084 of 4,090 seats.  The judiciary 
is not independent of the executive branch.

The police share responsibility for internal security with a 
paramilitary national guard.  Both forces are under the control of the 
Minister of Interior and the President.  The security services continued 
to be responsible for human rights abuses, although the number of 
complaints of incidents of mistreatment of persons in custody declined 
from the preceding year.

The major sectors of the economy include agriculture, tourism, 
petroleum, textiles, and manufactured exports.  Remittances from workers 
abroad are an important source of revenue.  Because of a third year of 
drought and a reported decline in tourism from Europe, economic growth 
in 1995 is estimated at 3.4 percent, down from the previous 5 to 6 
percent yearly increases.  The Government continued its longstanding 
successful efforts to improve the social and economic conditions of the 
population, particularly the urban poor and those living in rural areas.

The Government's human rights performance improved somewhat during the 
first half of the year but showed signs of deterioration in the last 
half.  Serious problems remain.  The Government continued to stifle 
freedoms of speech, press, and association.  It continued to deny press 
credentials to a journalist who had published an interview with a 
political dissident.  Under threat of police harassment, the resident 
reporter for Agence France Presse departed the country.  Both 
journalists and academics continued to practice a high degree of self-
censorship.  The Government continued to use the threat of withholding 
government advertising as a means to dissuade newspapers from publishing 
undesirable material.  Under such pressure, a local human rights group 
has been unable to find a publisher willing to print its bulletins.

The Government considers the Baha'i faith a heretical sect and in July 
deported a Baha'i leader who was a long-time resident in Tunisia.  After 
the case attracted international attention, the Government permitted the 
individual to return to his home.  The arrests in October of two 
opposition politicians were regarded as a government move to curb 
political dissent.  The Government interfered with the correspondence of 
one human rights group and in November threatened another human rights 
group with prosecution for not following the law in publishing its 
annual report.  Also in November, the Government prohibited Moncef 
Marzouki, a human rights advocate and former presidential candidate, 
from traveling to the U.S. to attend a democracy conference.  
Authorities prevented some associations from holding meetings in hotels 
and other public halls.  Membership in the Islamist movement known as 
An-Nahda is prohibited, and during the year the Government sentenced 
several persons to prison for their association with An-Nahda.

Human rights monitors called for the investigation of two deaths in 
custody, but the Government indicated that neither death was due to 
official misconduct.  Overall, there was a decline in the number of 
complaints lodged by detainees who allege they were mistreated by the 
security services.  The President appointed a special commission to 
investigate claims of prisoner abuse.  Although the commission did not 
release its findings, the Government used the report as the basis for 
dismissing two prison administrators from their duties.  Although the 
Government has attempted to advance women's rights, social 
discrimination against women remains a problem.


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

   a.   Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Two reports of deaths in custody came to light.  Noureddine Alaimi died 
on September 10 while being held at a police station in Metlaoui, and 
Jaafar Ben Ali Kichaoui died on June 7 while serving a 4-month prison 
term.  The Government conducted investigations into both cases.  It 
found that Alaimi had committed suicide by hanging himself after his 
arrest for drunkenness and disorderly conduct, and that Kichaoui was 
killed by another inmate who was subsequently charged with murder.

The Government also confirmed the death in August 1994 of Ezzedine Ben 
Aicha, an Islamist who had been in prison since his conviction in 1991-
92.  An official investigation attributed his death to a heart attack, 
but Ben Aicha's family claimed that foul play was involved.  
Investigations continued in the cases of two prisoners who died in 
custody in 1991--Abderraouf Laaribi and Abdelwahed Abdelzi.

   b.   Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

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

There were allegations that the security services mistreated detainees 
and prisoners in their custody, although the number of such complaints 
declined from 1994.

Human rights activists state that charges of mistreatment are difficult 
to substantiate.  However, the Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH), 
an independent group, brought several cases of alleged mistreatment to 
the attention of President Ben Ali's office.  In response, the President 
appointed a commission to investigate the treatment of prisoners.  The 
commission reported to him in September but did not publish its 
findings.  The LTDH claimed that the commission had confirmed some 
instances of mistreatment.  As the result of the investigation, the 
Director General of Prisons and the Director of the Prison in Tunis were 
removed from their positions.

The Government continued to ensure that police officers are aware of 
human rights requirements.  All officers are required to sign statements 
that they are aware of Tunisian and international human rights standards 
and will abide by them.  All judges and prosecutors receive human rights 
training at the Magistrates Institute.

Sahnoun El Jourhi, a leader of the banned An-Nahda Islamist Movement, 
who was serving a 15-year sentence, died in prison in January.  
Officials reported the cause of death as liver cancer.  Jourhi's family 
did not dispute the reported cause of death but alleged that prison 
officials failed to arrange proper medical care for El Jourhi because he 
was an Islamist.

Prison conditions meet minimum international standards.  Although the 
Government agreed in principle to allow LTDH to visit prisons, it did 
not permit the group to make any visits during the year.

   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 
unoficially extend 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 
most are held incommunicado during this period.  In a minority of cases, 
the prosecutor may order the release of a detainee pending arraignment.  
The Government provides legal representation for indigents.

At the arraignment, the examining magistrate may decide to release the 
accused or to remand him to pretrial detention.  There has been a system 
of bail since 1993, but judges rarely make use of it.  Detainees are 
usually released without bail or with the personal guarantee of a third 

In cases involving crimes for which the sentence may exceed 5 years, or 
which involve national security, pretrial detention may last for an 
initial period of 6 months, and is renewable by court order for two 
additional 4-month periods.  During this period, the court conducts an 
investigation, hears arguments, and accepts evidence and motions from 
both parties.  The case then goes before the Criminal Court of Appeal 
which has an indefinite period within which to set a trial date.

The Government banned the Islamist movement An-Nahda in 1992 because An-
Nahda was judged to be in violation of the law prohibiting political 
parties organized by religion, race, or region.  Membership in An-Nahda 
is punishable by imprisonment.  In March the Government arrested Kamel 
Masmoudi, a Tunisian who was also a Canadian citizen, and convicted him 
for membership in An-Nahda.  Masmoudi was sentenced to 8 years, but was 
released in July after receiving a Presidential pardon.

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

   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judiciary is part of the Ministry of Justice.  It is not independent 
of the executive branch, which appoints, assigns, grants tenure to, and 
transfers judges.  This situation renders judges susceptible to pressure 
in politically sensitive cases.  The court system comprises the regular 
civil and criminal courts, including the Court of Appeals, and the 
Supreme Court, as well as military tribunals within the Defense 

Defendants in criminal cases generally receive due process.  They have 
the right to be present at their trials, represented by counsel, 
question witnesses, and appeal verdicts.  However, because the presiding 
judge dominates a trial, the defense attorney has little opportunity to 
participate directly.  Some defense lawyers complain that the courts do 
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 

The judiciary is sensitive to criticism.  A female lawyer was charged 
with defaming the judiciary after protesting a court ruling against a 
client who had charged her husband with assault.  The court had found 
that cigarette burns on the inside of the client's upper thigh had been 

In December Najib Hosni, a well-known human rights lawyer who has 
defended detainees accused of political offenses, was put on trial for 
charges related to a fraudulent real estate transaction in 1989.  In 
January 1996, the court found Hosni guilty of forging the name of a 
terminally ill co-owner of a piece of land, which Hosni had contracted 
to buy from the other co-owners.  Hosni reportedly alleged that he was 
mistreated during detention.  Some observers speculated that the 
Government's motive in prosecuting Hosni was that he had previously 
defended accused Islamists in court and had spoken freely with 
international human rights advocates.  While in detention, Hosni 
received an honorary degree from an American law school and a human 
rights award from the American Bar Association.

Military tribunals try cases involving military personnel and civilians 
accused of national security crimes.  The tribunal consists of a 
civilian judge from the Supreme Court and four military judges.  
Defendants may appeal the tribunal's verdicts to the Supreme Court.

There is no reliable information on the number of political prisoners.  
An undetermined number of persons were arrested during the year for 
suspected membership in illegal political organizations, principally 
Islamist and Communist groups.  Many of these detainees may be 
considered political prisoners.

   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 warrants to conduct searches, 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 closely monitor the 
activities of Islamists and leftists, search their homes without 
warrants, and harass their relatives and associates by repeatedly 
interrogating them.  The authorities have also interfered with the 
delivery of the mail.  Police presence is heavy throughout the country.  
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 Government limits the exercise of 
these freedoms.  The Press Code contains broad provisions prohibiting 
subversion and defamation, neither of which is clearly defined.  The 
authorities use the placement of government advertising in newspapers as 
a technique to control the press.  Such advertising is a significant 
part of revenue for newspapers and magazines.  In the past, the 
Government has withheld placing advertisements in publications which 
have published articles deemed offensive.  As a result of such pressure, 
the human rights group LTDH has been unable to find a publisher willing 
to print its communiques or annual report (also see Section 4).

In addition, the Government exerts control over the media by issuing or 
withholding credentials to journalists.  It continued to deny 
accreditation to a journalist dismissed from the government news agency, 
Tunis Afrique Presse (TAP), in 1994 for publishing an interview with an 
opposition politician in a foreign publication.  The Government also 
provides official texts on major domestic and international events and 
has reprimanded publishers and editors for failing to publish these 
statements.  All these factors induce a high degree of self-censorship 
in the media.

The Government also showed intolerance of criticism in the foreign 
media.  In January the resident French Press Agency (AFP) correspondent 
left Tunisia after police confronted him in a parking lot and questioned 
him about sexually assaulting the woman with whom he was talking.  The 
journalist maintained that the Government staged the incident because he 
had not adequately reported the Government's position in a dispute with 
the International Commission of Jurists.  In February the Government 
permitted the French publications Le Monde and Liberation to renter the 
market.  Both had been banned in 1994.

Before distributing publications onto the market, printers and 
publishers are required by law to deposit copies of the publication with 
the Chief Prosecutor (Procureur), the Ministry of Interior, the 
Secretary of State for Information, and the Ministry of Culture.  
Similarly, distributors must deposit publications printed abroad with 
the Chief Prosecutor and various ministries prior to distributing them 
onto the market.  While publishers need not wait for an authorization of 
the publication's contents, they must obtain a receipt of deposit before 
distribution.  On occasion such receipts are reportedly withheld, 
sometimes indefinitely.  Without such receipts, publications may not be 
legally distributed.  The Press Code stipulates fines and confiscations 
for failure to comply with these provisions.

In November the LTDH did not deposit copies of its annual report for 
1994 at all the required offices, maintaining the report is not for the 
general market.  The Government disagrees with the LTDH's interpretation 
and has formally notified it that it may be prosecuted for the 
infraction (also see Section 4.).

In July the National Assembly passed legislation regulating the purchase 
and installation of satellite receiving dishes.  However, the sale of 
dishes remained suspended pending the issuance of implementing 
regulations; these had not been promulgated by year's end.

In October Mohamed Moaada, president of the opposition party MDS, was 
arrested for allegedly accepting money from a Libyan citizen for a 
report containing national security information.  That exchange 
allegedly took place one year before Moaada's arrest, which itself took 
place a day after Moaada wrote a letter to President Ben Ali, 
complaining about the lack of political freedom.  Later in October, 
Khemais Chammari, an MDS colleague of Moaada and member of the Chamber 
of Deputies, was indicted for illegally disclosing information about the 
Moaada investigation.  The Chamber then voted to lift Chammari's 
immunity, which allows the State to prosecute him.  At year's end, his 
case was under investigation.  Although there is insufficient 
information to judge the validity of the charges against Moaada, some 
observers speculated that the two episodes were attempts by the 
Government to curb dissent.

The Government owns and operates the Tunisian Radio and Television 
Establishment (ERTT).  ERTT's coverage of government news is taken 
directly from the official news agency, TAP.  There are several regional 
radio stations and one local television channel.  Bilateral agreements 
with France and Italy permit Tunisians to receive the French channel, 
France 2, and the Italian station Rai Uno.

Like journalists, university professors practice a form of self-
censorship, avoiding classroom criticism of the Government 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 Interior.  The authorities routinely approve such permits, 
except in cases involving proscribed organizations.  However, some 
groups alleged that hotels and other facilities would often be pressured 
by the Government into canceling previously made arrangements for 
meeting rooms.

The human rights group LTDH continued to conduct activities, although it 
does not comply with the Law on Associations which requires that 
membership in associations must be open to all applicants.  The LTDH 
prefers to control the admission of new members as a means of ensuring 
its independence.  The local chapter of Amnesty International was unable 
to arrange facilities for public meetings and received threatening 
visits from people it believed to be police agents.  Despite this 
harassment, the chapter continued to conduct activities.

The law stipulates that political 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, receive funds from a foreign party, or financial aid from 
foreign governments or citizens.  All political party members must be 
citizens for at least 5 years.

The Government uses its authority to license political parties and 
nongovernmental organizations as a means to control the political 
environment.  Since 1994 the Ministry of Interior, which registers 
parties, has declined to accept an application from the Democratic Forum 
for Labor and Liberties.

There are seven legal political parties.  The Maoist Tunisian Communist 
Workers Party (POCT) remains underground.  In November President Ben Ali 
pardoned Hamma Hammami and Mohamed Kilani, two POCT leaders, who had 
been tried in absentia in 1992 for, inter alia, membership in an illegal 
party.  Hammami, the former editor of POCT's defunct newspaper, was 
arrested in 1995 and was serving a 5-year, 6-month sentence at the time 
of the pardon.  Kilani, also an editor for the party newspaper, was 
arrested in 1994 and was serving a 2-year sentence.

The Government maintains that the Islamist An-Nahda Party is illegal 
because it is based on religion.  The nominal head of An-Nahda, Rachid 
Ghannouchi, was granted political asylum in Britain in 1993.  The courts 
sentenced several individuals in 1995 to prison for association with An-
Nahda.  These included Mohamed Ali Abrouk, a junior doctor, and Mohamed 
Naceur Jouini, an engineer.  Both were sentenced in January to 2 years' 
imprisonment.  Jouini received an additional year in prison for 
collecting funds for An-Nahda.  Also in January, Younis Jouini, a 
soldier, was convicted by a military court in Le Kef for membership in 
An-Nahda.  He was sentenced to 1 year in prison.  In May a court 
sentenced Imed Ebdelli, a 29-year-old philosophy student at Tunis 
University, to 3 years in prison and 5 years of administrative 
surveillance for belonging to an "unauthorized association" (An-Nahda).

Ali Baazaoui, a high school physical education teacher, was arrested in 
May for belonging to an unauthorized association.  

He was later sentenced to 3 years in prison and an additional 3 years of 
administrative control.

   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 and permits its adherents to practice their faith in 
private only.  In July authorities deported Baha'i leader Rauchon 
Mustafa, a native Egyptian who had resided in Tunisia for more than 40 
years, to London from whence he traveled to the United States.  After 
pleas from his family and members of the Baha'i faith and others outside 
Tunisia, the Government reversed its decision and permitted Mustafa to 
return.  The authorities maintain that Baha'is, like members of other 
religions, are free to practice their faith without governmental 
interference or harassment.

With 2,500 adherents, the Jewish community is the country's largest 
indigenous religious minority.  The Government assures the Jewish 
community freedom of worship, safeguards its security, and pays the 
salary of the Grand Rabbi.  The small Christian community is composed 
mainly of foreigners.  It is free to hold church services and operates a 
small number of schools.

The Government views proselytizing as an act against "public order."  
Authorities ask foreigners suspected of proselytizing to depart the 
country and do not permit them to return.  There were no reported cases 
of official action against persons suspected of proselytizing.

The Government controls the mosques and pays the salaries of the prayer 
leaders.  The 1988 Law on Mosques provides that only personnel appointed 
by the Government may lead activities in the mosques.

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

The Constitution provides for these rights, and people are free to 
change their place of residence or work at will.

Human rights monitors complained that the Government arbitrarily 
withholds passports from citizens but in fewer instances than in 
previous years.  Several such complaints from earlier years were 
settled.  There is no arbitrary restriction on emigration or 

The Government restored the passport of Moncef Marzouki, an opposition 
politician who unsuccessfully sought to run for the presidency in 1994.  
Marzouki's passport was confiscated during his arrest in 1994 for 
allegedly spreading false information 

and defaming judicial authorities in an interview he gave to a Spanish 
newspaper.  After recovering his passport, Marzouki traveled abroad and 
returned to Tunisia.  However, in October the Government prohibited 
Marzouki from traveling abroad again, this time to the United States to 
attend a conference on democracy.  Marzouki was subject to such a travel 
ban because as a public-sector employee, he must obtain government 
authorization before traveling abroad.  Marzouki is a physician and 
professor of public health but claims that he is no longer permitted to 
work at the hospital where he is a staff member.

The Government does not accept refugees for permanent resettlement.

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

The Constitution provides that the citizenry shall elect the President 
and members of the legislature for 5-year terms.  However, the ability 
of citizens to change their government through democratic means has yet 
to be demonstrated.  The ruling Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD), 
and its direct predecessor parties, have controlled the political arena 
since Tunisia gained independence in 1956.  The RCD dominates the 
Cabinet, the Chamber of Deputies, regional and local governments.  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 

The 163-seat Chamber of Deputies does not function as an effective 
counterweight to the executive branch.  The Electoral Code provides for 
a winner-take-all formula for 144 of its seats.  The ruling RCD party 
won all those seats in the 1994 parliamentary elections.  Nineteen 
additional seats were reserved for unsuccessful candidates.  They were 
divided among four opposition parties after the 1994 election.  Voting 
is by secret ballot.  All legal parties are free to present candidates.

In May the RCD won 4,084 of 4,090 seats in countrywide municipal 
elections.  In large part the landslide was due to the RCD's 
effectiveness as a party and the opposition's lack of popular support.  
However, opposition party leaders claimed the Government manipulated 
voter registration lists and intimidated opposition candidates.

Women are permitted to participate in politics.  Eleven women are 
members of the Chamber of Deputies, and one is a Junior Minister 
(charged with Women's and Children's Affairs) in the Prime Minister's 
office.  Nevertheless, women's presence in public office is 
disproportionately low; they hold few senior government posts.

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), an independent group.  Although 
LTDH's refusal to permit open membership does not comply with the law 
governing associations, the group claims 4,400 members in 41 chapters 
nationwide.  It continues to hold meetings.  In November the League 
published its first annual report, covering events in 1994.  Although 
the report was printed and distributed privately, the Government has 
threatened LTDH with prosecution for violating the press Law (see 
Section 2.a.).  LTDH has been unable to find local newspapers willing to 
publish its communiques.  The group has unsuccessfully sought to engage 
various government ministries in a human rights dialog.  During the 
year, LTDH brought allegations of the mistreatment of prisoners to the 
attention of President Ben Ali.  The President appointed a commission to 
investigate the allegations but declined to include any LTDH 
representatives in it (see Section 1.c.).

The Arab Institute of Human Rights, headquartered in Tunis, was founded 
in 1989 by the LTDH, the Arab Organization for Human Rights, and the 
Union of Arab Lawyers.  It is an information, rather than advocacy, 
organization.  The Higher Committee for Human Rights and Basic Freedoms, 
a governmental body established by the President in 1991, presented its 
fourth annual report to him in September but did not make it public.

Amnesty International (AI) protested the Government's harassment of its 
Tunisia chapter, claiming that the Government instigated the last-minute 
cancellations of facilities for public meetings, intercepted the 
chapter's mail, and sent agents to AI's offices to intimidate its staff.

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

The Constitution provides that all citizens shall have equal rights and 
duties and be equal before the law.  The Government generally observes 
this practice.


Violence against women occurs, but there are no reliable statistics to 
measure its extent.  The Tunisian Association of Democratic Women 
operates the country's only counseling center for women who are victims 
of domestic violence.  The center, located in Tunis, assists 
approximately 20 women per month.  Instances of rape or assault 
committed by someone unknown to the victim are rare.  Battered women 
first seek help from family members.  Police intervention is often 
ineffective because police officers and the courts tend to regard 
domestic violence as a problem to be handled by family members.

Although women still face discrimination in certain legal and social 
matters, the Government has made serious efforts to advance women's 
rights.  The major focus in this regard in 1995 was the implementation 
of the 1993 changes in the Personal Status Code and in a 1994 law which 
enables divorced women to seek court orders to compel child support 
payments from their ex-husbands.

There has been continued growth in the number of women in the medical, 
legal, and other professions.  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 levels.


In November the Government promulgated a body of laws to constitute a 
code for the protection of children.  The code is based primarily on 
Canadian family and juvenile law and consolidates protections relating 
to children previously included in the Personal Status Code.  The new 
law proscribes child abuse, abandonment, and sexual or economic 
exploitation.  Penalties for convictions for abandonment and indecent 
assault on minors are severe.  The new code also creates a presidential 
appointee ("delegue") for the protection of children, outlines judicial 
protection for children, and defines the rights of delinquents under the 
juvenile law.  The Government is committed to upholding these laws.

   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 and 
private sector employees.

All public buildings constructed since 1991 must be accessible 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, 
preferential seating on public transportation, and some consumer 

   Indigenous People

The small Berber minority constitutes under 3 percent of the population.  
Some older Berbers have retained their native language but the younger 
generation has been assimilated into Tunisian culture through schooling 
and marriage.  Berbers are free to participate in politics and express 
themselves culturally.

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.  There 
are credible reports that the UGTT receives substantial government 
subsidies to supplement modest union dues and funding from the National 
Social Security Account.

Unions, including civil servants organizations, 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 have been illegal 
because the UGTT did not approve them in advance.  The Government does 
not prosecute workers involved in illegal strike activity.  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 in which labor 
and management are equally represented.  Tripartite regional arbitration 
commissions settle industrial disputes when conciliation fails.

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 
observed in practice.  Wages and working conditions are set by 
negotiations between the UGTT member unions and employers.

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, but may not 
modify, the agreements.

The UGTT also negotiates with the various ministries and state-run 
enterprises on behalf of public sector employees.  The law prohibits 
antiunion discrimination by employers.  The UGTT, however, is concerned 
about increasing antiunion activity among private sector employers, 
especially the firing of union activists and the use of temporary 
workers to avoid unionization.  In certain industries, such as textiles, 
temporary workers 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 committee hears cases of alleged 
unjustified firing of workers.

   c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law does not specifically prohibit compulsory labor, but there have 
been no reports of its practice in recent years.  In January the 
Government abolished the practice of sentencing convicts to 
"rehabilitation through work".  That practice, which dated to the Penal 
Code of 1912, had been of concern to the International Labor 
Organization's Committee of Experts as a possible violation of ILO 
convention 29 on Forced Labor.

   d.   Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum age for employment in manufacturing is 15 years, and 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 areas.

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 children's wages.

   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Labor Code provides for a range of administratively determined 
minimum wages, which are set by a commission of representatives from 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' Association.  The President approves the 
commission's recommendations.  When supplemented by transportation and 
family allowances, the minimum wage covers only essential costs for a 
worker and family.  Since May the minimum wage has been $164 (154.128 
dinars) per month for a 48-hour workweek and $144 (135.024 dinars) per 
month for a 40-hour workweek.

The Labor Code sets a standard 48-hour workweek for most sectors and 
requires one 24-hour rest period.  The workweek is 40 hours 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, more 
than 240,000 workers are employed in the informal sector, which falls 
outside 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 number of 
workdays lost due to accidents during the same period was 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 exercising their right.


[end of document]


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