Tunisia Passes New Anti-Terror Law

Tunisia Passes New Anti-Terror LawTunisia Passes New Anti-Terror Law

Tunisia’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to pass the country’s new anti-terror law despite fears by rights groups that it could be abused and threaten the fledgling democracy.

In a late-night session on Friday, 174 deputies voted for the legislation, 10 abstained and no one voted against it, a sign of the perceived urgency for the law after Tunisia was battered by devastating attacks on tourists in March and then again June, AP reported.

Mohamed Ennaceur, president of the assembly, called it a “historic” moment and said the new law would “reassure” Tunisians. The law will also make it easier for investigators to tap suspects’ phones.

The law replaces legislation from 2003 and is designed to facilitate efforts to combat terrorism, but rights groups fear it will give impunity to security forces and sacrifice the achievements of the 2011 revolution for the sake of stability.

“The Tunisian authorities are rightly concerned about the growing influence of individuals and extremist groups and the threat they pose to their citizens and foreigners,” said Eric Goldstein of Human Rights Watch. “However, laws to fight against terrorism should respect and not violate the international standards of human rights.”

Ten Tunisian human rights groups expressed reservations about the law, especially its vague definition of terror, use of capital punishment and the doubling of the amount of time police can hold prisoners incommunicado to 15 days.

In the past few months, militants have switched their focus from attacking security forces to foreign tourists, killing 21 in a March attack in Tunis and then last month 38 died at a beach resort.