Living conditions in Tunisian prisons are harsh: out of date institutions, poor hygiene, difficulty in accessing medical care, poor food, inadequate activities and visiting facilities, violence, torture etc. Inmates are held in large, regularly overcrowded dormitories. Not all prisoners have their own bed, some sleep on the floor.
This overcrowding is due to extended delays in the legal process, long sentences and a large proportion of remand prisoners. Preventive detention is the norm. Tunisian prisons hold as many prisoners on remand as those convicted.
The Tunisian legal system uses custody for minor offences like drug-taking (in line with ‘Law 52’) or even for dishonoured cheques.
The 2011 revolutionary movement and the political transition which followed brought several changes in legislation. Tunisia ratified the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) in 2011, and set up a national prevention body, the National Authority for the Prevention of Torture (INPT) in 2013. In 2014 it adopted a new constitution which officially bans the use of torture. A reform of the Code of Criminal Procedure in 2016 granted additional protection to prisoners remanded in custody: reduction in the length of time they may be held, guarantee to be informed of their right to appoint a lawyer. Some non-governmental organisations now have the right to enter prisons.
These changes remain hypothetical. The INPT faces many obstacles before it can operate in practice. It remains to be seen if access to a lawyer for those on remand is really put into practice throughout the country. Torture and other punishments as well as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment are still used by the police. Terrorist incidents since 2013 and law-and-order policy introduced in 2014 have brought about new abuses. Torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading mistreatment are regularly used in the fight against terrorism. The death penalty still exists for acts of terrorism, though no executions have taken place since 1991.
Type of government
Mixed parliamentary system
Human Development Index