It's the first great human rights dividend of the turmoil in Arab countries: Tunisia will abolish the death penalty and it will ratify several human rights treaties, including the Second Additional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Aiming at Abolition of the Death Penalty.
The Council of Ministers of the transition government announced on the evening of 1 February 2011 that Tunisia was going to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, as well as the two optional protocols to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The second protocol concerns the abolition of the death penalty. In addition, the Council of Ministers has announced deliberations on the lifting of reservations against the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) by the Tunisian government.
“This is unprecedented in the entire region, and this should well be emphasized”, says Khadija Cherif, General Secretary of the Fédération internationale des droits de l'homme. “However, we are still impatiently awaiting the lifting of reservations against CEDAW, as we would hope that these ratifications will enable the country to move forward and embrace the true safeguard of human rights of each and every individual”, she concluded.
Tunisia's last execution dates to 1981, and the country has been deemed de facto abolitionist for some time.
Abolition of the death penalty is a very important symbolic gesture when there are dramatic changes of political orientation in a country. Let us hope that Tunisia's example is followed by other countries. The new government in Egypt, when it replaces Mubarak, should demonstrate the importance of the change by abolishing the death penalty.
Thanks to Mark Warren.