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Human Rights Watch Condemns Controversial Defamation Bill : Tunisia Live - News, Econom... - 0 views

  • a new bill that would ban blasphemy in Tunisia. The draft bill, proposed to the Constituent Assembly on Wednesday by Tunisia’s ruling moderate Islamist party Ennahdha, would criminalize “insults, profanity, derision, and representation of Allah and Mohammed.”
  • ” If passed, the draft law would punish such violations of “sacred values” with prison terms of up to two years and fines of up to 2,000 dinars (U.S. $1,236) through an additional article to the Tunisian Penal Code.
  • Mrad justified the bill’s proposal by explaining that the protection of religious symbols does not inherently represent an attack on freedom of expression. “In all societies, you will always find limits and things that you cannot say,” he said, adding, “We [Ennahdha] are committed to granting freedom of expression, but this law is just to set limits for this freedom.”
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  • General Comment 34, a statement issued by the UN Human Rights Committee in July of 2011 stating that defamation of religion is not an acceptable reason for limiting freedoms of speech. According to paragraph 48 of the declaration, “Prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with the Covenant, except in specific circumstances…” Such “specific circumstances” include cases in which national or individual security is deemed to be threatened.
  • Although the country lacks laws criminalizing blasphemy, Article 121.3 of Tunisia’s penal code – which criminalizes disruptions that “harm public order or morality” – has been used to convict individuals found guilty of acts that could be perceived as attacks against Islam.
  • A prosecutor in Tunisia can prosecute on the basis of these two laws together and can add to the sentence. We have seen this in other countries, in other contexts.
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