Dr Fatma Raach (Faculté de droit et des sciences politiques de Tunis)

Preparing this study about the evolution of the prevention of torture in Tunisia during thirty years, could not be possible if Tunisian people had not decided to break the silence and to start a new era. Torture still exists in Tunisia, but the response to it has changed. During the long period of dictatorship, authorities used to adopt legal reform, to satisfy the international community, in all sectors including detention and prosecution law. Monitoring and complaint mechanisms were established and international agreements were ratified. But torture still occurred. The legal aspect was not a determinant factor of prevention from torture. The practice was a determinant one. The legal provisions in matter of detention law and prosecution contained important gaps like the absence of prompt presentation before a judge and the prompt access to lawyer, but the crucial point was the failure to comply even with those protections that existed.

In Tunisia, the evolution of the legal framework and the preventive mechanisms was done gradually. The lack of independence and power of the monitoring mechanisms have an important effect on the occurrence of torture. In addition, the weakness and lack of independence of the judiciary placed prisoners in a vulnerable position. It reinforced impunity and encouraged torturers to continue. After the uprising for democracy, authorities changed their attitude, many reform projects were set up and a national authority for prevention of torture was established. Tunisians are waiting for real change, with optimism but also scepticism. The struggle for the end of impunity and for the eradication of torture continues.