Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website], Rupert Colville, applauded [statement] Tunisia's newly formed torture prevention body on Friday. The law establishing the organization was passed unanimously on Wednesday, and the Committee should be up and running once the law is published. Tunisia adopted the measure as part of its new obligations since signing the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [text]. The National Body to Prevent Torture will be given broad, independent authority to carry out inquiries in detention centers to ensure all obligations are met. Colville said of the new body, "The adoption of this law is an important milestone during the ongoing transition in Tunisia, and in particular in the effort to bring the country in line with international rule of law and human rights norms and standards." Tunisia is the first Middle Eastern or North African country to adopt such a measure.
Tunisia has faced political turmoil since president Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] left office amid nationwide protests in 2011. In July UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Thursday condemned [JURIST report] the assassination of Tunisian opposition leader. In May Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged Tunisia to modify its draft constitution [JURIST report] to ensure protection of human rights. Two months earlier HRW urged Tunisia to repeal its criminal defamation law [JURIST report], which is typically considered a civil offense throughout the world. That same month Tunisian lawmakers voted to approve [JURIST report] a timetable for its draft constitution and national elections. Last October, HRW called on Tunisian authorities to investigate a series of attacks [JURIST report] by religious extremists and to bring those responsible to justice.