Civil society warns Tunisia still struggles on rights

North African country is seen as the only success story to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings.

TUNIS - Tunisians risk being prosecuted for exercising basic rights despite progress towards democracy following its 2011 uprising, rights groups said Wednesday.
The North African country is seen as the only success story to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings after its 2011 ouster of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali sparked upheaval across the region.
But four years since it adopted a landmark constitution, its rights record has come under the spotlight again for alleged police abuses following demonstrations last month over economic grievances.
In a review of the 2014 constitution that enshrined key freedoms, local and international civil society groups said outmoded laws remain a major issue.
"Intrusive police practices" persist and courts continue to deliver "decisions based on obsolete and repressive legal texts", the rights coalition said.
Last year at least 70 people were sentenced to prison for homosexuality, said Wahid Ferchichi, president of the Tunisian Association Defending Individual Liberties.
Homosexual practices can see people face three years in prison, with judges and investigators subjecting those accused of being gay to anal examinations.
In September Tunisia agreed to stop the invasive procedures but has not set a deadline for doing so.
The rights coalition warned that legislation on public morality remains "vague" and saw people detained last year for eating and smoking during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
It said numerous non-Muslims reported intimidation from the security services.
Despite the concerns there were some bright spots.
Last year a law was passed on violence against women and President Beji Caid Essebsi established a rights commission that is expected this month to propose major reforms.