General amnesty was recently granted to thousands of detainees in Tunisian prisons in honor of the first anniversary of the Tunisian Revolution – January 14th, 2012. 122 of those granted amnesty were prisoners sentenced to death, who had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.
Though the Tunisian human rights activists and associations perceive this decision as a positive step toward the abolition of the death penalty in Tunisia, many have asserted that this action is not enough.
Lutfi Azouz, director of Amnesty International in Tunisia, expressed his belief that this an important step, but that anything short of full abolition is inadequate.
“The death penalty in Tunisia should be abolished. The government maintains the law to use it when they need it. When we met with Moncef Marzouki, he promised that he will not sign any execution order while serving in office, and that he will work toward abolishing the act. We all know that he is a human rights activist,” stated Azouz.
Azouz also explained that since the revolution, Tunisia has been proactive in implementing policies that respect the human rights of its citizens. However, Azouz stressed that no genuine democracy has the death penalty. “We believe that the government’s role is to reform, not to kill in the name of law,” said Azouz.
Anouar Kousri, member of the Human Rights League (LTDH), stated that league has been calling for the elimination of the death penalty since Ben Ali’s regime. “Marzouki was a former president of our association, and what he did was a positive step. We expected this from him. The Constituent Assembly has the power to abolish the death penalty,” Kousri stated.
“We believe that the death penalty is about punishment not reform. Tunisia is a civil, democratic society that believes in the right of life and reform, not punishment,” he added.