Thursday, November 11, 2021

Amnesty International statement on Tunisia's misuse of military courts

Amnesty International has issued this detailed statement on Tunisia's continuing misuse of military courts to prosecute civilians. Excerpt:

Between 2011 and 2018, human rights groups documented at least six cases of civilians brought before the military justice system; this number has been exceeded in the past three months alone.

The civilians currently facing military courts include six members of parliament from the Al Karama party, including Abdellatif Aloui, along with lawyer Mehdi ZagroubaAnouar Ouled Ali, who heads the men’s legal defence team, told Amnesty International that they are being investigated in connection with an altercation with police at Tunis international airport on 15 March 2021. They are facing charges relating to public disorder, threatening state security, and impeding or insulting public officials in the course of their work. While some of these charges relate to recognizable offenses under international law, civilians facing such charges should do so in a civilian, not military, court.

Tunisia’s Code of Military Justice allow the military justice system to try civilians in specific circumstances. Article 91 of the Military Code of Justice mandates prison terms for military personnel or civilians who carry out public acts that denigrate the flag or the army or criticise the actions of military leadership or undermine its dignity.

Tunisian law grants the president final control over the appointment of judges and prosecutors in the military court system, based on nominations by the defence and justice ministers. As a result, military courts lack independence. Under international human rights law civilians should never be brought before military courts, no matter what the charges against them.

Guidelines from the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which is mandated to interpret the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, of which Tunisia is a state party, state that military courts should not “in any circumstances whatsoever have jurisdiction over civilians.”

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