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Tunisia: UN demands authorities to respond to request to establish cemetery for Baha’i minority   

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News briefing  

Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice

Geneva: February 28, 2022

United Nations human rights experts affirmed that the Tunisian authorities’ rejection of requests to establish a cemetery for the Baha’i minority in the country is in violation of the international covenants signed by Tunisia.

Two requests, yet no response:

In a memorandum sent to the Tunisian authorities on December 27, 2021, which has not yet been responded to, the experts stated that on May 19, 2017, a request was submitted to the Tunisian Ministry of Local Affairs and Environment to build a cemetery for the Baha’i minority, as the conditions for burial of Islamic graves do not allow them to observe the Baha’i rituals.

The experts added that the request was based on Tunisian Law No. 97-12 dated July 25, 1997, whose Article 7 stipulates that private cemeteries can be established by a decision of the Minister, and a new request was sent on May 4, 2018, similar to the first to the Ministry of Local Affairs and Environment for a reminder, but the two requests have not received any response so far.

Concern about the exercise of religious freedom:

The experts expressed their concern about the failure of the Tunisian authorities to respond to the request of the Baha’i minority to establish a cemetery that would allow these worshippers to fully exercise their religion freely, and their right to practice cultural and religious rites related to accompanying the deceased.

The experts stressed that the lack of response and action on the part of the Tunisian authorities calls into question the principle of non-discrimination, the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, peaceful assembly and association, as well as the rights of persons belonging to minorities, and the right of everyone to participate in cultural life, including the right to access the cultural heritage and the memory of their families.

UN demands from the Tunisian authorities:

The experts asked Tunisian authorities to provide information explaining why they have not yet responded to the request of the Baha’i minority to establish a cemetery, as well as the measures they plan to take in response to this request and in favor of the cultural and religious rights of this minority.

The experts also called on Tunisia to provide information on the current, or envisaged, consultation process to ensure the full participation of persons belonging to non-Muslim components of society, including minorities, in decisions that have an impact on their ability to exercise their cultural rights and freedom of religion and belief, including their right to access and impart heritage, rituals and practices.

The experts also called on the Tunisian authorities to provide details of the measures they have taken to ensure equal protection and promotion of the rights of all persons, including members of the Baha’i minority and other religious or belief minorities, officially recognized or not recognized by the Tunisian state, and their freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief, and participation in cultural life, and their freedom of peaceful assembly and association without discrimination.

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