Tunisia. The first referendum in Tunisian history was held at the end of May. A total of 99.6% of voters approved proposed amendments to the constitution. According to Countryaah website, national day of Tunisia is every March 20. Most important was to abolish the limit on how many times a president can be elected. Similarly, the age barrier was raised from 70 to 75 years. The amendments, which Parliament approved already in April, meant that 65-year-old President Zayn al-Abidin Ben Ali can run for the fourth time in the 2004 elections.
Another change was that former presidents were guaranteed lifelong immunity. A new upper house would also be set up.
21 people were killed, including 14 German tourists, in an April attack against a synagogue in Ghriba on the holiday island of Jarba. The terror network al-Qaeda took on the blame, according to an audio cassette broadcast in late June by the Qatar-based TV channel al-Jazira. After the attack, the number of tourists decreased by 40%.
Tunisia on two occasions refused representatives of the International Law Commission (ICJ) entry. One notable human rights case was lawyer Radya Nasrawi, married to opposition politician Hamma Hammami. She stopped her hunger strike after 37 days in early August. A month later, Hammami was released for medical reasons. He was sentenced at the beginning of the year for membership in the banned Communist Party.
Demonstrations against the government, the poor economic situation and unemployment were frequently met with violence from the security forces, which, in turn, often just watched as salafists attacked the left-wing democracies. The Salafists demonstrated the introduction of Sharia in Tunisia. However, during 2012 and 13, many of them went to Syria to fight against the al-Assad regime. In 2014, Tunisia was the single country that had delivered the most volunteers for the civil war in Syria.
The security forces were basically the same as under Ben Ali. No in-depth reforms were carried out or cleaned up, so the methods were often the same as during the dictatorship.
The Secretary General of the Marxist Democratic Patriots Movement, Chokri Belaid, was killed in February 2013 with 4 shots in the chest. In October 2012, he and several other left-wing parties and groups had formed the secular and anti-Islamist People’s Front, holding two seats in the Constitutional Assembly. Following the attack, thousands of people protested in front of the Interior Ministry and several other Tunisian cities, with protesters accusing Ennahda of being behind the attack. The Prime Minister subsequently announced that he was dissolving the government to form a national unity government.
In July 2013, the second prominent left-wing politician that year was shot and killed: Mohamed Brahmi. He was the founder and former chairman of the Secular People’s Movement (Mouvement du peuple). After the attack, the interior minister declared at a press conference that it was the same 9mm gun that had also been used in the February attack. The suspected perpetrator was the suspected Tunisian salafist Boubacar Hakim, who was also suspected of smuggling weapons from Libya. Brahmi was given a state funeral and tens of thousands followed him on the last journey. During the funeral, thousands demanded the departure of the government. Police responded again with tear gas. After the funeral, hundreds of Brahmi’s supporters and family members demonstrated in front of the Interior Ministry, blaming the attack on Ennahda and its supporters. In parliament, the opposition demanded that the government resign. It denied the prime minister and declared he would remain in office until the December parliamentary elections. However, this was postponed for 10 months due to the political crisis. The Interior Minister revealed in September that the government had actually been warned that Brahmi was risking an attack, but the intelligence and police had not responded to this information.
To resolve the political crisis in the country, the government and opposition in December 2013 agreed to appoint independent Mehdi Jomaa to lead a technocrat government until the end of 2014 elections.
Also in December, a law was passed establishing a National Truth and Dignity Commission to cover human rights violations in the country from its independence in 1955 until 2013. In May 2014, 15 members were elected to the Commission and in December 2015 it received 22,600 reports of violations it was processing.
With almost a year’s delay, in January 2014, the Constitutional Assembly presented the country’s new democratic constitution. Amnesty International welcomed the new constitution, which was a major step forward in safeguarding human rights. However, Amnesty also urged politicians to work to get the Constitution’s clauses incorporated into existing legislation.