Revision of Decree No. 88 of 2011 A threat on civil society freedoms

The feminist dynamic, established in the aftermath of July 25, 2021, is functioning based on deeply rooted feminist values and a human rights approach in order to preserve the principles of the rule of law and democracy. The feminist dynamic has closely been following the recent political developments in Tunisia that are leading to legal transgressions that legitimize the monopolization of authority.
Among these developments is the leaked draft version of revised Decree No. 88 of 2011 on the organization of associations initiated by the Presidency of the Government, which is currently being submitted to various ministries for consideration.

After reviewing the leaked draft version of revised Decree No. 88 of 2011, the feminist dynamic cannot but express its deep concern at the political, legal and institutional situation in Tunisia. This draft Decree represents a setback for the freedom of association, for which generations of activists have fought; hiding in subtext an attempt to enforce a system of unilateral governance that does not recognize the existence of political opposition and civil society mediating bodies. As civil society organizations, we have fought on several occasions similar attempts, but have never renounced the Decree that we consider to be one of the most important gains of the revolution.
The feminist dynamic expresses its categorical rejection of the draft revision of Decree No. 88 of 2011, as it carries with it restrictions on freedom of association and freedom of associative work in Tunisia, as mandated by international conventions ratified by the Tunisian state.
This Draft Decree gives the administration discretionary authority to refuse the foundation of associations (chapters 10 and 27) or to dissolve civil society organizations  » automatically by decision of the department responsible for the associations heading the government  » (chapter 33) ; or when they commit  » serious violations estimated by the administration  » (chapter 45).

Another serious aspect of this Draft Decree is the attempt to weaken associations by forcing the obtention of a prior license from the Tunisian Financial Analysis Commission to accept foreign aid and donations (Chapter 35) for it to approve the requirement of legitimacy for the revenues generated by the Association’s programs (chapter 34) without indicating the meaning of the term « legitimacy » and leave it to the hands of the discretionary power; that in its turn has completely abandoned its responsibility towards citizens and depended on civil society organizations to carry out the tasks entrusted to it; such as combating violence against women and setting up listening, guidance and shelter centers for women victims of violence or even economic empowerment of women and vulnerable groups.
On the other hand, the requirements of the Draft Decree clearly violate constitutional principles by giving the administration a broad discretion. Among these requirements is the prohibition of association managers from running for presidential, legislative, or local council elections in grave breach of the constitutional principle to freely run for elections, as guaranteed by chapter 34 of the 2014 constitution.

The violation of the rights enshrined in the constitution continues in Chapter 5 of the draft Decree, which disregards the right of access to information by conveying it on the condition of “the interest that does not conflict with the legal arrangements in force for the purpose” and the right to demonstrate by subjecting it to the condition of “adhering to the legal arrangements in force.”, and academic freedoms by adding the condition “integrity, professionalism, and required legal and scientific controls.”

The draft Decree also includes broad phrases that can open doors to interpretation, similar to the phrase in Chapter 4: “It is also forbidden to threaten the unity of the state or its republican and democratic system,” . Several complications in the procedures and a number of documents required for the establishment of associations without any use or need to invoke a range of new documents such as « the residence card for foreigners…a copy proving the legitimate exploitation of the premises, etc. » (Chapter 10+16+32) or including the requirement of « similar objectives » (Chapter 26) for the establishment of associations, in an attempt by the executive authority to weaken Associations as a pressure force whose impact is increasing with their union.

This draft Decree also contains other restrictions such as the possibility of hindering the activities of associations by « violating the legal regulations” (Chapter 6) or restricting organizations that are engaged in « activities aimed at achieving the public interest provided that they do not conflict with the laws of the Tunisian country » (Chapter 20). This limits the freedom of association and the absence of its role as a force of suggestion, pressure, citizen awareness and democratic vigilance, especially when it comes to issues in which the Tunisian state, with its laws and practices, deviates from international standards and human rights principles committed to it through various treaties and conventions.
Finally, this project carries the creation of « new moral entities », called National Public Service institutions, that » occur under legal action through which funds, rights or benefits are irreversibly allocated in order to carry out work for public benefit” (Chapter 20). The reason behind constituting such entities is still unclear, though it can be an attempt from the executive authority to channel through it the President’s political agenda even though it would have been more appropriate by decree to give public benefit to associations that actually work to serve the public interest .
Accordingly, the Feminist dynamic cannot but express its absolute rejection of this freedom-negating project that neglects the relativist of past struggle.

The Feminist dynamic emphasizes its adherence to the Decree No. 88 of 2011, stressing the need to continue its application to ensure a purposeful associative environment in accordance with international standards and away from any negative interference with freedoms, especially in light of the unprecedented situation in Tunisia; which cannot in any way constitute a pretext for derogation from the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and international treaties.

Finally, all the components of civil society in Tunisia and its activists call for circumventing the revision of the decree and forming a front against any attempt by the executive power to suppress or crack down on community action.

Long live the combat of Tunisian women.

Aswat Nissa Association
Tunisian Association of the Democratic women (ATFD)
Beity Association
Tunisian Women for Research and Development (AFTURD)
Women and Citizenship Association for the Kef
Calam Association
Tawhida Ben Cheikh Group Association for Women’s Health
Amal Association for Family and Children
Association jssour Kef
The Sawt of Hawa association at Sidi Bouzid
Rihana association of Jendouba
Association for the Support of Initiatives in the Agricultural Sector (AISA)
Ms.Hafida Chekir
Ms. Dora Mahfoudh
Ms. Bochra Belhaj Hamida
Ms. Mounia Ben Jemii
Ms. Salwa Kanou
Ms.Monia Kari