Contributor(s)Prison Insider

Contact with the outside world

Detainees may receive one visit per week. Only family members are allowed.Visitors and detainees are separated by a glass partition and communicate by telephone.
Visits last from 15 to 20 minutes and may be under supervision.
Prisoners serving long sentences may be allowed unseparated family visits.

In theory criminal law allows for individualisation and commuting of sentences by the judge overseeing sentences (Juge d’Exécution des Peines, JEP), but only in the case of short sentences. Because of deadlines and the lack of open custody facilities, this provision is very little used. Leave of absence is allowed for serious family events such as a death.

Pardons are granted regularly and on a large scale. These are mainly presidential pardons, which may involve several thousand prisoners on lists drawn up by the prison authorities.

A detainee is permitted to communicate with his advisor at any time. He can be visited by his lawyer. Only those on remand may do so without the presence of a member of prison staff. 1

Disciplinary measures can be challenged with the prison administration within a day of their implementation. This does not suspend the disciplinary measure.

There are two distinct complaints or grievance processes against the prison authorities. Firstly there are those made by prisoners themselves. These are the rarest, particularly as they do not often reach their destination because of the number of intervening third parties. The others are those entrusted by prisoners to other people such as their family, their lawyer or a non-governmental organisation. During visits by families, lawyers or aid workers, detainees can inform them of their grievances against the administration and ask them to make a complaint on their behalf.

Tunisia ratified the Convention on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment in 1988 and the Additional Protocol (OPCAT) in 2011.

Tunisia set up the National Mechanism for Prevention of Torture (Instance Nationale de Prévention de la Torture: INPT) in 2013. The INPT started work officially in 2016, but in 2017 it had still not made any inspections for lack of resources.

The INPT is extremely concerned that the means at its disposal are far short of what it needs to carry out its mission: premises that are unsuitable for meeting victims, an inadequate budget and inappropriate transport.

The authorities can restrict the INPT’s right to visit sites of detention “for urgent and pressing reasons relating to national defence, public safety, natural disasters or serious unrest”.

In theory the JEP has the jurisdiction for inspecting conditions of detention; in reality the JEPs operate part-time in several institutions and combine this work with other judicial duties;they have little time to inspect institutions or to speak to inmates. 1