Contributor(s)Avocats sans frontières / independent experts

Security, order, and discipline

Security functions are fulfilled by

the prison service

Some prison facilities, units or cells implement high-security measures

yes

Mornaguia prison is the only one which has a pavilion with increased security and surveillance. People accused or convicted of terrorism are usually placed in this building. The other facilities place prisoners considered dangerous in isolation.

  • Cameras are installed in the cells of certain political prisoners in the El Mornaguia prison. They are constantly filming. In principle, installing such equipment is only justified in certain spaces for the protection and safety of officers and prisoners. The National Authority for Protection of Personal Data (INPDP) says that the facility should remove the cameras and present the necessary evidence to receive authorisation.

    i
    22/03/2023
    / Observatoire sécurité

Prisoners are classified according to their supposed level of dangerousness

in some cases

The classification of prisoners is revised

never

Prison officers may search a prisoner at any time. Searches must be carried out by trained staff. They must be of the same sex as the person being searched. Rub-down searches are the most frequent.

All searches are logged in a register

yes

Body cavity searches are conducted by a physician

yes

The examination of body cavities is prohibited (Administrative Note of 26 August 2019). An exemption is possible if there is evidence to suggest that the person conceals illicit objects or substances in their body. The request must be validated by the judicial authority and the examination must be carried out by a doctor external to the prison.1


  1. Ministry of Justice, INPT, CoE, “Manuel du droit pénitentiaire tunisien”, November 2019, pp. 235-236. 

Relatives who enter the prison are searched using the following methods

  • electronic devices
  • pat-downs

Professionals who enter the prison are searched using the following methods

no searches are conducted

Chains and handcuffs are used for judicial and medical transfers. Prison officers may also use them when a prisoner is seriously agitated or is a danger to themselves or others.

The use of instruments of restraint must be authorised by the prison governor.

Security staff carry

firearms, in the event of a serious incident

Security staff are not equipped with firearms. They may use them only to prevent an escape. The watchtowers in some facilities are equipped with a firearm.

A special intervention unit is in charge of restoring order

no

The police or the army may intervene to ensure the security of the prison perimeter in the event of an attack and to restore internal order.

Prisoners must have permission in order to move around within the facility. They are escorted by a guard if necessary.

The prison service keeps record of incidents

yes

Incidents are not systematically recorded in a registry.

Breaches of discipline are clearly defined in writing

yes

The disciplinary sanctions incurred are:

  • Deprivation of purchases (maximum seven days)
  • Prohibition to exchange mail or receive food parcels (maximum 15 days)
  • Deprivation of visits (maximum 15 days)
  • Solitary confinement (maximum ten days)

A maximum of two punishments may be imposed in the event of concurrent disciplinary offences.

Disciplinary offences are investigated

yes

Prison officers are required to submit an infringement report to the Disciplinary Commission in the event of an incident. The prison director is a member of the Disciplinary Commission and plays an important role in the decision-making process. The Commission decides, depending on the seriousness of the events, whether to conduct the investigation internally or to refer it to the Inspection of Prison Services.

The decision to apply a disciplinary sanction must be subject to an adversarial debate

no

The conduct of a disciplinary hearing has been regulated since the Administrative Note No. 61 of 26 August 2019. This note guarantees the prisoner the right to defend themselves. The Commission may summon witnesses and take advice from a psychologist or any other person. The prison director may request the assistance of an interpreter.1 These provisions have not yet been implemented.


  1. Ministry of Justice, INPT, CoE, “Manuel du droit pénitentiaire tunisien”, November 2019, p. 258. 

Prisoners are allowed to be assisted by a lawyer

no

The prison director, in their capacity as Chair of the Disciplinary Committee, must guarantee the prisoner the opportunity to defend themselves alone or to receive legal assistance if necessary (Administrative Note No. 61 of 26 August 2019). This provision has not yet been implemented.1


  1. ibid, p. 260. 

The Disciplinary Committee decides the disciplinary sanctions. This is chaired by the prison director. It is composed of a social welfare officer and a fellow prisoner who shares the dormitory, training or employment of the prisoner in question. The opinion of a psychologist or a doctor from the institution may be sought. Meetings are held in the presence of all members and decisions are taken by majority vote. The fellow prisoner does not take part in the vote. His role is advisory.1


  1. Ministry of Justice, INPT, CoE, “Guide du prisonnier en Tunisie”, November 2019, p. 82. 

Prisoners may appeal against disciplinary sanctions

yes

Disciplinary measures may be appealed to the prison director on a non-suspensive basis, with effect from the day following notification. The prison director must inform the DGPR of the appeal. The DGPR may only mitigate or confirm the decision.1


  1. Ministry of Justice, INPT, CoE, “Guide du prisonnier en Tunisie”, November 2019, p. 86. 

Disciplinary sanctions can be imposed as a collective punishment

yes

A breach of discipline cannot be sanctioned by increasing the length of a sentence. Such offences may, where appropriate, be the subject of separate criminal proceedings.

Solitary confinement can be used as

  • punishment
  • protection
  • security measure

Solitary confinement is decided

by the Disciplinary Committee

The prison director’s opinion is final when deciding on placing a prisoner in solitary confinement.

The duration for placement in solitary confinement is limited

yes, maximum of ten days

The Prisons Act allows solitary confinement only as a last resort, for a maximum of ten days and following a doctor’s advice.

Solitary confinement can be extended

yes, with no limit on the number of times

The solitary confinement measure is subject to regular review

yes, every ten days

The prisoner may request a review of the measure for health reasons.

Prisoners in solitary confinement receive regular medical care

yes

In practice, medical visits are not systematic.

The isolation cells (named siloun) have an average surface area of 2m2. They have no furniture. A simple hole serves as a toilet. The prisoner is kept in the dark. They only have one blanket.
Two or three people usually share the same siloun. The prison administration justifies this by claiming that it prevents suicides.

Prisoners in solitary confinement are allowed from one to two hours of walking per day.

Prisoners who are isolated for non-disciplinary reasons continue to have access to activities, work or training.

While in solitary confinement, prisoners are not ensured the right to contact family.