See also:
» 24.03.2011 - How cyber-activism lent savvy to North African protests
» 27.02.2011 - 84-year-old is new PM in Tunisia
» 27.02.2011 - Tunisia PM Ghannouchi resigns
» 26.02.2011 - Tunisia police attacks large protest march
» 23.02.2011 - Exodus from Libya; foreigners targeted
» 01.02.2011 - Tunisia freedoms still not secured
» 31.01.2011 - EU freezes Tunisia dictator's assets
» 28.01.2011 - New Tunisia govt mostly applauded

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Politics | Human rights

Tunisia govt improves rights situation

Tunisian soldier saluting the photographer

© Wassim Ben Rhouma/afrol News
afrol News, 5 February
- The interim government in post-revolutionary Tunisia finally is taking action to address the much criticised police brutality and lack of respect for basic rights. The Interior Ministry is to be totally reformed.

During the last week, there had been increased criticism of the lack of reform and action to reform the repressive forces in post-revolutionary Tunisia. Human rights groups documented continued police brutality and police officers expressing the same repressive values as in pre-revolutionary days.

The last protesters in Tunis do accept that Mohamed Ghannouchi - who had served as Prime Minister under ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali since 1999 - still heads the Tunisian government. Last week, they were still treated with police brutality, as groups such as the US-based group Human Rights Watch had documented.

Now, following visits to Tunis by UN and EU rights officials, the interim government is making major concessions and launching reforms that address the continuous human rights problems in the country.

The Interior Ministry, heading the police, intelligence and prisons, is getting a major overhaul, with an aim of increasing transparency and ousting the culture of repression.

As a start, 30 major police chiefs were retired on Wednesday last week. By now, a total of 42 security forces leaders have been replaced, including the chiefs of general security and presidential security. Government wants new faces to lead the cultural revolution at the police.

Tunisia's new Interior Minister Farhat Rajhi has already announced that his predecessor, Rafik Belhaj Kacem, was to be arrested and held responsible for the violence used against protesters during the Jasmine Revolution.

Police unrest over the last week is also being addressed by Minister Rajhi, who is a former judge and was not affiliated to ex-President Ben Ali's ruling party. He announced an increase in police salaries and improved working conditions.

Yesterday, Tourism Minister Mehdi Houass added to the news about the normalisation of the situation in Tunisia. Government was to lift the state of emergency, imposed by President Ben Ali during the protests, during next week, he told the press. Previously, curfew hours had been str

Tunisia's Interior Minister Farhat Rajhi

© Tunisia state TV/afrol News
ongly reduced during the last weeks.

In Tunis, the reforms and measures to improve the human rights situation are not yet being strongly felt. Demonstrations against government have more or less ceased, but police officers in the country yet have to learn new values in their treatment of dissidents and other civilians.

To achieve more thorough human rights gains, the Tunisian government hopes for international cooperation and aid programmes, which in principle already has been promised by its major partner, the European Union (EU). To ease the process, the Tunis cabinet last week ratified several "important international conventions that will upgrade Tunisia to the rank of an advanced democracy," according to a government statement.

The newly ratified international conventions include treaties prohibiting arbitrary detentions, torture and other degrading treatment, protocols securing citizens political rights and adherence to the International Criminal Court.

Meanwhile, the Tunisian government is looking into broad economic and social reforms in an attempt to address the social problems that contributed to sparking the revolution. Importantly, solutions are sought for Tunisia's very high youth unemployment rate.

As first steps, government has agreed to pay businesses and households for the damages to their properties caused by the unrest during the revolution. Further, efforts are made to help businesses that suffered from the unrest to get back on their feet again. Authorities are also sending strong signals abroad, saying it again is safe to invest in Tunisia and to travel to the country.

Regarding tourism, an important sector employing many Tunisians, authorities are optimistic. Tourism Minister Houass said that numbers for January ended at a 40 percent decrease, but added that the revolution, all in all, had served as "a good campaign" to make Tunisia known in the entire world. In the long run, he may be right, with Tunisia now being the most democratic and non-repressive Arab country.

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