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Tunisia: Proposed bill could give security forces carte blanche to use unnecessary lethal force

A bill on the agenda for discussion in Tunisia s parliament today could bolster impunity for security forces by granting them immunity from prosecution for unnecessary use of lethal force as well as potentially criminalizing criticism of police conduct, said Amnesty International today. The proposed law, known as the Repression of attacks against armed forces bill, would authorize security forces to use lethal force to protect property even when it is not strictly necessary to protect life, contrary to international standards . It would exempt security forces from criminal liability in such cases if the force used is deemed necessary and proportionate . The bill was first proposed by the government to parliament in April 2015 and was reintroduced at the demand of police unions. This bill is a dangerous step towards institutionalizing impunity in Tunisia s security sector

Heba Morayef, Amnesty International s North Africa Research Director

This bill is a dangerous step towards institutionalizing impunity in Tunisia s security sector .

The fact that parliament is even considering this bill is a sign of the lack of political will on the part of the government to ensure accountability for abuses by the security services . The bill also flouts the country s own constitution which guarantees the right to life, freedom of expression and access to information, said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International s North Africa Research Director.

Tunisian security forces have been targeted in the past but giving them freer rein to use lethal force and immunity from prosecution is not the way to address this challenge . The Tunisian parliamentshould reject this bill and focus on measures to end the impunity enjoyed by the security forces. Tunisian security forces have been targeted by armed groups in a series of attacks since 2015 . Tunisia s parliamentary committee on General Legislation is due to hold a hearing today with the Minister of Interior whose ministry drafted the bill . Later in the day, the committee will also meet with the security forces unions which have been advocating1 for the adoption of the bill.

The bill allows security forces to respond with lethal force to an attack on property that does not threaten lives or risk causing serious injury . Article 18 of the bill would exempt members of the security forces from criminal liability for injuring or killing anyone , including as a result of using lethal force to protect against attacks on homes, objects or vehicles, if the force used is deemed necessary and proportionate to the danger . This is contrary to the state s obligation to respect and protect the right to life. Using lethal force solely to protect property would not be necessary and proportionate . The UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms restrict the use of lethal force by law enforcement to situations where it is strictly necessary to protect life . These standards require that an independent authority assess whether the use of lethal force leading to a death or serious injury was necessary and proportionate.

In February 2017, Amnesty International published a report2 highlighting how violations committed by security forces in the context of the state of emergency, including torture and arbitrary arrests, are threatening the country s path to reform . No security officers have been convicted for these violations so far. In Tunisia, abuses committed in the name of security almost always go unpunished

Heba Morayef, Amnesty International s North Africa Research Director

In Tunisia, abuses committed in the name of security almost always go unpunished . This has created an atmosphere of pervasive impunity, where security forces feel that they are above the law and need not fear prosecution, said Heba Morayef.

Granting security forces legal immunity from prosecution through this bill will only embolden perpetrators of human rights violations.

In June, members of Tunisia s infamous El Gorjeni anti-terrorism brigade complained3 to the parliamentary security and defence committee about the number of allegations of torture and other ill-treatment directed towards them, describing such allegations as a form of harassment . The bill also includes vague provisions that could criminalize legitimate criticism of the security forces including for human rights abuses . Article 12 of the bill criminalizes the denigration of police and other security forces with the aim of harming public order , making it punishable with a penalty of up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 10,000 dinars. Articles 5 and 6 of the bill provide for up to 10 years in prison and a 50,000 dinar fine for those who disclose or publish national security secrets .

This is defined as any information, data and documents related to national security , an overly broad definition which could be used to imprison those revealing information about human rights violations . No protection from prosecution is provided for whistleblowers or journalists. These provisions are inconsistent with Tunisia s obligation to uphold freedom of expression and the public s right to access information under international law and according to the country s constitution.

During a review of its human rights record at the UN Human Rights Council in May, Tunisia received at least 10 recommendations4 relating to strengthening accountability for human rights violations by security forces .

By accepting these recommendations Tunisia has committed to take concrete steps to fight impunity.

It is deeply disappointing to see that this bill, which fundamentally threatens the human rights gains Tunisia has made since 2011, back on the table, said Heba Morayef.

Tunisia must abide by its commitments to uphold its human rights obligations by ensuring greater oversight of the security sector and taking concrete steps to address impunity once and for all.


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Half of firms hit by cyber security attack last year

Just under half of all British businesses were victim to at least one cyber security breach last year, according to a government report. The 2017 report, commissioned by the Department for Culture Media and Sport, found that 46 per cent of all businesses discovered at least one cyber security breach in 2016, with the average cost to firms ranging between 1,570 and 19,600. It pointed out that larger firms tend to incur much more substantial costs from cyber security attacks, which it said could reflect the increased complexity of the breaches, or because they have more sophisticated systems that are harder to repair. The report, which is part of the government s National Cyber Security Programme, warned that costs could come from the loss of customers, data or assets, handling customer complaints, and dishing out compensation, fines or legal fees. This comes after cyber experts warned1 that improvements to banks cyber systems could displace some of the threats onto other sectors, such as financial advice businesses. The cost can rise into the millions, with the loss often ultimately borne by the financial sector.

Marcus Scott

According to the government survey, only a third of the 1,523 businesses questioned have a formal policy on cyber security in place. However, it found that small businesses were more likely to have installed cyber security systems than they were last year, with almost a quarter now having formal processes in place, up from 15 per cent in 2016. The study, which was conducted in January and February this year, said this aligns with the increasing importance these smaller businesses now attach to cyber security. A positive picture was also painted in terms of the speed with which businesses identify breaches, with 90 per cent of firms recognising an attack within 24 hours.

The report found that 60 per cent of the 350 financial firms questioned outsource their cyber security to specialist providers. Marcus Scott, chief operating officer at think tank the City UK, said cyber security is increasingly becoming one of the biggest challenges facing businesses. While the average cost of a breach is 20,000, this can rise into the millions, with the loss often ultimately borne by the financial sector. Earlier this year, the City UK set up a task force to help boost understanding of cyber risk and encourage firms to take action to tackle the problem, such as working on system recovery issues and sharing best practices across other businesses. It also recommended that cyber security be managed effectively by boards, echoing advice in the report about the need for oversight of security issues at a board level. Other recommendations from the City UK included making sure cyber risk is a part of the entire business strategy. The government report found there were more breaches reported by those firms taking action to protect themselves, which it suggested could indicate that they are better at identifying when their systems have been compromised.


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Top 4 Homeland Security Issues for the Trump Administration

President-elect Donald Trump and his soon-to-be-selected secretary of homeland security will have a full plate when they take over in January . Indeed, there are so many areas for reform and improvement that any efforts to fix the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could easily get bogged down. Luckily, Heritage has identified four1 main priorities that the next administration should focus on.

1 . DHS Management

DHS management needs to be fixed . Its organizational cohesiveness and central leadership continue to present significant challenges that require more work than the Obama administration s Unity of Effort initiative2.

Additionally, the DHS s office policy should be strengthened to create intra-agency policy, resolve agency disputes, and, above all, drive structural change so that DHS components can work more efficiently as a cohesive unit . Luckily, the newly released National Defense Authorization A3ct conference report takes a step in this direction by upgrading the head of the DHS office of policy from Assistant Secretary to Under Secretary.

2 . Immigration Laws

Current immigration laws must be enforced4 . In Fiscal Year 2015, DHS data shows that only 462,463 removals and returns occurred the lowest number since 1971 . Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported merely 63,000 criminal aliens from the U.S . compared to 150,000 in 2015. President Barack Obama s executive actions on immigration enforcement must be rescinded, and the 287(g) program, which trains and deputizes state and local police to help enforce immigration laws, needs to be strengthened .

Rapid-removal authority under Section 235 of the Immigration and Nationality Act should be expanded to discourage surges of illegal immigration . Additional prosecutors, judges, and agents should be requested so that more cases can be heard and illegal immigrants deported. The U.S . also needs to make sure these criminal aliens appear at their designated court hearings by expanding effective Alternatives to Detention, such as GPS tracking anklets.

3 . Cybersecurity

DHS has a much larger role in domestic cybersecurity due to the passage of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA5) The primary purpose of that bill was to make information sharing between private and public sectors more efficient . This sharing will need to be monitored and improved, together with DHS s intrusion detection and prevention system known as Einstein.

DHS will also need to play a role in helping the Trump administration respond to state-sponsored and directed cyber-attacks . The U.S . should deploy all the tools at its disposal, including diplomatic, legal, visa, financial and others, to retaliate.

4 . Proper, Thorough Vetting

There is growing concern over how individuals, whether they are refugees, permanent immigrants, or visitors, are vetted before entering the U.S. The refugee process takes on average 12-18 months to complete, with background checks being requested through various department databases, including the State Department, DHS, FBI, and National Counterrorism Center databases . Interviews are conducted that ask security and country-specific questions .

In the case of Syrian refugees, the Syrian Enhanced Review has already started applying additional scrutiny to cases.

Congress needs detailed information6 from the administration on the nature of the risks incurred in the vetting process, and how it plans to mitigate those risks . Congress and the administration must also work together to begin the much-needed repair of America s intelligence capabilities. For regular immigrants and visitors, there is the traditional visa process, which involves a less lengthy but similar vetting process . San Bernardino attacker Tashfeen Malik managed to slip through this system, proving that there is always room for improvement. Visitors from many countries are able to use the Visa Waiver Program7 (VMP), which does not require an in-person interview in order for the applicant to travel to the U.S .

Instead, VWP countries provide the U.S . with important intelligence on a variety of things, including known and suspected terrorists, serious criminals, and lost and stolen passports, as well as improving their airport security . VWP is a unique tool that is extremely valuable for U.S . security and should be strengthened and expanded. In order to keep our homeland secure, the next homeland security secretary should prioritize these four issues .

These reforms are essential to a cohesive, effective, and efficient Department of Homeland Security that can keep the U.S .



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  6. ^ Congress needs detailed information (
  7. ^ Visa Waiver Program (