Tunisia Legal System

Tunisian security forces

Law, order and security

The legal system

The Tunisian legal system is based on the French and secular except for Islamic inheritance law. Corruption in the judiciary and bans on the profession of oppositional judges under the Ben Ali government have created strong distrust of the judiciary among the population. A serious reform of the judiciary did not take place after 2011 either.

Harmonizing the legal system in all its aspects with the new constitution will be an important task for the next few years. The constitutional court to be established will play an important role in this. However, its foundation, which is planned for 2015 in the constitution, has been delayed due to political squabbles over the independence of both bodies.

Order and state security

According to constructmaterials, the Tunisian security forces are divided into three parts:

  • police
  • National Guard
  • military

The police are deployed in cities, the National Guard in the countryside. Both are subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior.

The army, which is around 30,000 to 40,000 strong, is seen in Tunisia as a guarantor of stability. Your opposition to the party has history and did not first emerge with the revolution. While the military, which throughout history has mostly turned against the police, is held in high regard, Tunisians have little confidence in the police. Reform of the Tunisian security apparatus is seen as one of the most urgent and difficult undertakings after the revolution. There are still violent attacks the police, which are presented, for example, in a study by the International Human Rights League (FIDH). Various unions for the security forces have been formed since 2011, including one specifically for female police officers.

The opaque secret service apparatus from the time of the dictatorship, also located in the Interior Ministry, was partially disbanded after the revolution. The so-called Political Police, part of the domestic secret service, disappeared from the organization chart of the Ministry of the Interior (with its employees remaining on duty). However, its dissolution also seems to be partly responsible for the problems of the fight against terrorism, since competencies and clear structures are lacking. There is also the suspicion that parts of the security apparatus have been infiltrated by sympathizers of radical Islamists. As a result, more than 100 employees were laid off in autumn 2015.

In spring 2012, the Ministry of Justice took first steps to reform the prison system. Several prison directors have been given early retirement. The Ennadhour prison, around 60km north of Tunis, will be closed at the end of June 2012 and is to be converted into a museum. However, torture in detention and in police custody continues, according to reports from various human rights organizations. However, a law was published in early 2016 that guarantees the presence of a lawyer in custody.

In 2015, Germany sent several officials to Tunisia to help the authorities fight terrorism. There are German-Tunisian cooperations in the area of border security in the areas of training and equipment both on the border with Algeria and Libya. This cooperation is not undisputed in Germany either.

Tunisian security forces

Civil society

The events of January 14th breathed new life into civil society and led to a veritable boom in civil society engagement among the population. After the revolt, the transitional government approved several thousand new organizations, most of which deal with the democratization process. According to official figures, there are now around 20,000 NGOs in Tunisia.

Many organizations play an important role in the democratization process: for example, there are organizations for monitoring elections, for political work with young people, for monitoring the parliament of the transitional justice system and for processing the archives of the political police, but also cultural organizations that aim to do so have set to revitalize the cultural scene. The international organization Reporters Without Borders has also opened an office in Tunis, and Human Rights Watch also publishes detailed reports on human rights issues.

While many civil society organizations were founded under the French protectorate, Habib Bourguiba quickly incorporated them into the Neo-Destour after independence, making them dependent on the government. At the beginning of his term of office, Bourguiba’s successor, Ben Ali, allowed some organizations again, but these were closely monitored and their work was hindered. This resulted in the fact that there are few structures. The most important of the established organizations are the Tunisian Human Rights League LTDH, the women’s organization ATFD and the Anti-Torture League.