Tunisia Revisits the Death Penalty Debate
The brutal killing of a young woman has reignited a debate in Tunisia over capital punishment, with the country’s president suggesting an end to a decades-old moratorium on the death penalty. President Kais Saied told a meeting of the country’s national Security Council on Monday that “murder deserves the death penalty” and urged the security forces to redouble their efforts in countering what he characterised as a nationwide increase in crime. Saied, a political independent, made public his support for lifting the ban on capital punishment during his campaign for office last year, but the rape and killing of 29-year-old Rahma Lahmar, whose badly beaten body was discovered in northern Tunis on Friday, has inflamed public opinion. Tunisian courts still can deliver the death penalty in response to several crimes, including for terror offences, but execution warrants are never enacted without a presidential signature. For human rights campaigners, a change in policy on the death penalty would mark a significant reversal in the patchy progress in civil liberties the country has made since its revolution in 2011.
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