The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief will assess whether security measures to combat terrorism in Tunisia are limiting freedom of religion.
Ahmed Shaheed is scheduled for a 10-day visit the capital, Tunis, and the island of Djerba, where he will discuss human rights issues, including those of religious minorities, with representatives of governmental and non-governmental organisations, including faith-based organisations.
Tunisia is home to an estimated 23,800 Christians, out of a population of 11.5 million. Most are expatriates, but there is a small group of native-born Christians of European and Arab descent.
A statement from the Office of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, released before Mr Shaheed’s visit, voiced concerns that security measures could be limiting rights such as freedom of expression or religion.
Tunisia has enacted major institutional reforms since its 2011 revolution, but it also has suffered a number of terrorist attacks. The Special Rapporteur will review the Government’s handling of security threats.
“Policies that enhance the capacity of security forces to combat terrorism by limiting fundamental rights, such as the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, often have dire consequences for the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief,” Mr Shaheed said.
Shaheed acknowledged the progress the country has made on certain issues. In September 2017the government announced women in Tunisia can marry whomever they wish, even if their spouse is a non-Muslim.
The country, however, has seen in increase in Islamic extremism in recent years. Late last month the army clashed with one of the extremist armed groups that operate from the mountainous border region with Algeria.
The country ranks 30th on the Open Doors 2018 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian.