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Tunisia urged to amend controversial drug law

Tunisia urged to amend controversial drug law

Tunisia

Human Rights Watch has urged Tunisia to reform a controversial draft bill which stipulates jail term for consumption or possession of small quantities of cannabis.

The rights group wants persons who use drugs for recreational purposes to be spared prison sentences as is currently the case.

“If you smoke a joint in Tunisia, you risk getting arrested, beaten up by the police, sent for a urine test, and then sentenced to a year in an overcrowded prison with hardened criminals.”

If you smoke a joint in Tunisia, you risk getting arrested, beaten up by the police...

Human rights watch interviewed 47 former convicts jailed for consuming cannabis who said they suffered “serious human rights violations.”

The ex-convicts condemned being exposed to mistreatment during urine tests and unlawful search of their homes.

“When I got out, people would look at me as a criminal,” an ex-convict told HRW.

The report from Human Rights Watch cites Tunisia’s justice ministry as saying 28 percent of prisoners in Tunisia were jailed for consuming or using cannabis.

The law on narcotics (Law 52) was adopted in 1992 when Zine el Abidine Ben Ali was in power and stops magistrates from taking into account mitigating circumstances.

Human Rights Watch says more than seven thousand people are in Tunisia’s prisons for drug offences.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees recently reported that Tunisia’s prisons are overcrowded up to 150 percent capacity.

Tunisia’s parliament is yet to debate and vote on a proposed amendment of the law.

Human Rights Watch says the draft law adds a new offence of “public incitement to commit drug related offences,” which could be used to prosecute members of civil society groups, rappers and singers who advocate the decriminalisation of drugs.

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