Tunisia votes to ease laws against drug offenders

unisia’s parliament voted yesterday to ease the country’s law on drugs after it faced mounting calls from rights groups and civil society groups to reform the harsh law.

The move could see offenders like youths caught smoking marijuana escape prison terms and comes following an announcement made by the National Security Council last month to limit the number of drug users sentenced to prison.

Some 133 legislators out of the 144 parliamentarians present in the national assembly voted to amend the law, granting judges the power to use their own discretion and take into account mitigating circumstances.

Initiated during the rule of toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Law 52 imposes a mandatory one-year jail sentence for narcotics use without considering mitigating circumstances.

Justice Minister Ghazi Jeribi told lawmakers the vote was a “temporary” measure until greater reforms of Law 52 are passed.

Before Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, Law 52 was used to suppress criticism of the Ben Ali regime and has since been applied widely with thousands of young Tunisians locked up each year mostly for cannabis related offences.

According to official figures, the number of trials between 2011 and 2016 shot up from 732 to 5,744.

Middle East Monitor

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