Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned Tunisia’s drug laws in a report published this week. The rights group claims that the country’s controversial “Law 52” requires courts to impose “cruel, disproportionate, and counterproductive” sentences on drug offenders.
The report alleges that offenders leave prison “with a criminal record that often prevents them from gaining employment and subjects them to social stigma and police harassment.”
Law n.92-52 on Narcotics (known as “Law 52”) was adopted in 1992 under former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and requires courts to impose a minimum one year sentence on anyone found guilty of possession of illegal drugs, including cannabis. Judges are not able to give lighter punishments, even if the accused was caught in possession of just one small joint.
According to the Justice Ministry’s General Administration of Prisons and Rehabilitation, “as of December 2015, 7,451 people were prosecuted for drug related offences in Tunisia’s prisons, and 7,306 men and 145 women,” the report states. Of these, 70 percent were convicted of using or possessing cannabis.
The report outlines some of the key challenges that convicted drug offenders face once sentenced, including being put in an overcrowded prison cell alongside more dangerous criminals.
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