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Title
Tunisia's Drug Laws Send Pot-Smokers to Prison
International
Dateline
02/02/2016
Published
01/02/2016
Location
Tunis
Source
Human Right Watch
Format
HD Broadcast Quality
A draft law to reduce penalties for drug use would stop short of fixing major human rights concerns in the current law, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Tunisian authorities should revise the law to eliminate all prison sentences for recreational drug use or possession.

The 33-page report, “‘All This for a Joint’: Tunisia’s Repressive Drug Law and a Roadmap for Its Reform,” documents the human rights abuses and social toll that stem from enforcement of the country’s draconian drug law, which sends thousands of Tunisians to prison each year merely for consuming or possessing small quantities of cannabis for personal use. The government approved and sent to parliament on December 30, 2015, a draft revision to the drug law. Parliament has yet to announce the schedule for its debate and vote on the draft.
Tunisia: Drug Laws
SHOTLIST
(All video can be distributed without restrictions – no on screen courtesy required.)
1. MediumshotofSamiaMarsni,studentarrestedforpossessionof cannabis, sentenced to one year in prison, smoking a cigarette outside in Tunis, Tunisia on December 10, 2015.
2. Close-upofSamiaMarsni’shandholdingacigaretteinTunis,Tunisiaon December 10, 2015.
3. PanningwideshotofSamiaMarsni,studentarrestedforpossessionof cannabis, sentenced to one year in prison, smoking a cigarette outside in Tunis, Tunisia on December 10, 2015.
4. SOUNDBITESAMIAMARSNI,astudentarrestedforpossessionof cannabis, sentenced to one year in prison, interviewed in Tunis, Tunisia on December 10, 2015 (ARABIC): We were on our way home from a bar at around 2 a.m. // Two policemen on a motorcycle stopped us. // They asked for our IDs and what we were doing there. // They found some [cannabis] on me and on the person who was with me. We were both arrested.
5. CutawayofthehandsofSamiaMarsni,studentarrestedforpossessionof cannabis, sentenced to one year in prison in Tunis, Tunisia on December 10, 2015.
6. MediumshotofSamiaMarsni,studentarrestedforpossessionof cannabis, sentenced to one year in prison, waiting for a tram in Tunis, Tunisia on December 11, 2015.
7. Mediumclose-upofSamiaMarsni,studentarrestedforpossessionof cannabis, sentenced to one year in prison, traveling by tram in Tunis, Tunisia on December 11, 2015.
8. ViewofthestreetthroughatramwindowinTunis,TunisiaonDecember 11, 2015.
9. SOUNDBITEAYOUBBOUZIDI,astudentarrestedforpossessionof cannabis, sentenced to one year in prison, interviewed in Tunis, Tunisia on December 10, 2015 (ARABIC): After the test results came in, they [the police] knew that I had smoked, and their language changed. They beat me and said, “Who did you get it from? You must give names, name people.” It was scary. // I was sentenced to one year. I went to Mornaguia prison, where I spent 8 months.
10.Wide shot of Chiheb Jlassi, a student arrested and beaten by police, and his two friends walking on a side street of Tunis, Tunisia on February 19, 2015.
11.SOUNDBITE NEJIB ABIDI, a filmmaker whose home was raided by police for suspected cannabis use and possession, interviewed in Tunis, Tunisia on March 9, 2015 (ARABIC): I was arrested on September 21, 2013. I was in my house in Lafayette with a group of friends–musicians and filmmakers. // They [the police] entered with steel rods and batons, beating. You can’t talk to them. If you do, they can beat you up.
12.Close-up of the bruises under the eyes of Chiheb Jlassi, a student arrested and beaten by police, filmed in Tunis, Tunisia on February 19, 2015.
13.Close-up of the bruises under the eyes of Chiheb Jlassi, a student arrested and beaten by police, filmed in Tunis, Tunisia on February 19, 2015.
14.SOUNDBITE CHIHEB JLASSI, Chiheb Jlassi, a student arrested and beaten by police, interviewed in Tunis, Tunisia on February 19, 2015 (ARABIC): One [policeman] was talking with his colleague saying, “Such a cannabis smoker,” etc. So I told him I don’t smoke hashish and I’m ready to take a test to prove it. However, his colleague turned, slapped me and punched me in my face. I was really beaten up, I never imagined being beaten like that. My head was injured by their walkie talkie, my face was totally battered.
15.SOUNDBITE NEJIB ABIDI, a filmmaker whose home was raided by police for suspected cannabis use and possession, interviewed in Tunis, Tunisia on March 9, 2015 (ARABIC): They made us urinate in the parking lot. Not in a toilet, not even indoors. The police brought the cups, held us by the neck, and you open your pants and urinate.
16.Close-up shot of Samia Marsni, student arrested for possession of cannabis, sentenced to one year in prison, waiting to cross the street in Tunis, Tunisia on December 11, 2015.
17.Medium shot of Samia Marsni, student arrested for possession of cannabis, sentenced to one year in prison, walking on a street in Tunis, Tunisia on December 11, 2015.
18.Medium shot of Samia Marsni, student arrested for possession of cannabis, sentenced to one year in prison, sitting down in an outdoor café in Tunis, Tunisia on December 11, 2015.
19.Close-up of Samia Marsni’s hand turning the pages of her notebook at a café in Tunis, Tunisia on December 11, 2015.
20.Medium shot of Samia Marsni, student arrested for possession of cannabis, sentenced to one year in prison, greeting a friend at an outdoor café in Tunis, Tunisia on December 11, 2015.
21.Close-up of Samia Marsni’s hand holding a cigarette in an outdoor café in Tunis, Tunisia on December 11, 2015.
22.SOUNDBITE SAMIA MARSNI, a student arrested for possession of cannabis, sentenced to one year in prison, interviewed in Tunis, Tunisia on December 10, 2015 (ARABIC): It makes you afraid of the police. // For a joint, it shouldn’t be one year in prison and a fine of 1000 or 1500 dinars [$500 or $750], or deprivation of liberty, just because I smoked a joint.
23.SOUNDBITES Amna Guellali, Tunisia Researcher, Human Rights Watch. Interviewed in Tunis, Tunisia on January 20, 2016 (ARABIC): Tunisia has an oppressive and extremely severe drug law, called Law 52. The law mandates prison sentences of one to five years for the possession or use of any kind of drug, including hashish, known in Tunisia as “zatla.” //
Law 52 gives the police a right to arrest anyone suspected of drug use and make them take a drug test. //
We spoke with young people throughout Tunisia who were arrested on the streets, in cafés or even in their homes. //
Sometimes police search homes without judicial warrants, invoking law 52. //
Most of the people we interviewed said they were beaten, mistreated or humiliated during arrests or during routine urine tests performed by police. //
Tunisian must amend Law 52 and remove prison sentences for drug possession or use for both first time and repeat offenders. //
It’s unacceptable for young Tunisians to be arrested, beaten, humiliated and sent to prison for a year, just for smoking a joint. //
There are other ways to deal with this issue without resorting to prison sentences. //

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