Tunisia: UN rights expert to assess freedom of religion or belief
GENEVA, Switzerland, April 6, 2018–The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief will undertake an official visit to Tunisia from 9 to 19 April to examine the country’s policies and practices promoting and protecting freedom of religion or belief.
“I look forward to getting a first hand understanding of the human rights situation in Tunisia, including the good practices and challenges facing the country in relation to freedom of religion or belief,” said the Special Rapporteur, Ahmed Shaheed.
Tunisia has had many achievements since the 2011 revolution. It has produced major institutional reforms in a relatively short time and is often labelled as the most progressive country in the region.
“While Tunisia has certainly made significant progress on women’s rights, there is still more to be done to achieve gender equality in the country,” said the Special Rapporteur. His comment follows a joint statement with the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women on 26 September 2017, welcoming the abolition of a ban on Muslim women marrying men who are not of the same faith.
Since 2014, Tunisia has experienced a number of terrorist attacks, and the Government’s handling of security threats will also be reviewed by the Special Rapporteur. “It is a challenge for any country to strike a balance in its approach to security issues while respecting fundamental freedoms,” said Mr. Shaheed.
“Policies that enhance the capacity of security forces to combat terrorism by limiting fundamental rights, such as the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, often have dire consequences for the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief,” he stressed.
The Special Rapporteur will visit Tunis and Djerba where he will meet Government officials, representatives of faith-based organisations, NGOs, civil society and UN agencies. A number of issues will be considered including religious diversity as well as tolerance and women’s rights. The expert will also examine the human rights situation for those most disadvantaged, such as religious minorities and migrants.
Mr. Shaheed will share his preliminary findings at a news conference on Thursday 19 April at 11:00 local time, at the Hotel Belvedere Fourati (10 Avenue Des Etats Unis), in conference room Kairouan, in Tunis. Access to the press conference is strictly limited to journalists.
The Special Rapporteur’s findings and recommendations will be presented at a forthcoming session of the Human Rights Council.