TUNISIAN CONSTITUTION ENSHRINES RIGHT TO LIFE BUT UPHOLDS DEATH PENALTY
January 26, 2014: After weeks of debates, Tunisia has adopted a new Constitution. As expected by local abolitionists, the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) passed today a text allowing capital punishment.
Despite efforts by abolitionists to lobby the members of the NCA and a petition by 70 parliamentarians to add an article abolishing capital punishment, Tunisia‚Äôs new Constitution allows the use of the death penalty.
Mohamed Habib Marsit, who chairs the Tunisian Coalition Against the Death Penalty, is not surprised: ‚ÄúWe had no illusions regarding the balance of forces,‚ÄĚ he told Worldcoalition.org.
The three parties forming the NCA‚Äôs ruling majority ‚Äď Ennahda, CPR and Ettakatol ‚Äď have consistently advocated that Tunisian society is not ready to abolish the death penalty. They relied on what Marsit described as ‚Äúa literal and restrictive reading of the Koran‚ÄĚ.
Yet the Constitution states in article 21: ‚ÄúThe right to life is sacred.‚ÄĚ
The Constitution allows exceptions to the right to life in the second part of article 21: ‚ÄúNo one can violate it, except in extreme cases set by law.‚ÄĚ The introduction of such exceptions means the death penalty can still be used in Tunisia. (Sources: worldcoalition.org, 28/01/2014)