Ligue Tunisienne Pour La Défense Des Droits De L'Homme (LTDH)

views updated


Tunisian human rights organization.

The Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LTDH) was officially recognized in May 1977, thus being the oldest politically independent human rights organization in North Africa. All major political groups were represented on its executive committee, with most being dissidents of the Parti Socialiste Destourien (Destourian Socialist Party; PSD). During its first decade of existence the league proved to be an active and independent organization that increasingly gained popular support. By 1982 the LTDH had 1,000 members in 24 local chapters. By 1985 it had 3,000 members in 33 chapters, and four years later it had 4,000 members in 40 chapters.

In 1985 the LTDH elaborated a charter to define precisely what it stood for. Members decided that the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) would be adopted as the model but modified to fit Tunisian conditions. Internal debates focused on adaptations of the articles on the rights to change one's religion and to marry a non-Muslim, and the rights of illegitimate children.

After President Zayn al-Abidine Ben Ali came to power in 1987, part of its leadership joined ranks with the government. Controversial statements made by the league's president, Moncef Marzouki, during the Gulf War, against adopting an unconditional pro-Iraqi stance, further eroded popular support and deepened dissent within the organization. In June 1991 the league issued a critical statement on arrest and detention procedures that eventually attracted international attention. This incident aggravated the league's relations with the government.

In March 1992 the National Assembly passed a law that sought to tame the LTDH and bring it under Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD) control or effect its dissolution by 15 June. Refusing to comply, the LTDH dissolved itself. The ensuing international outcry led the regime to reconsider the law. On 26 March 1993, under pressure from President Ben Ali, the court authorized temporary resumption of the league's operations.

In 2000, at the league's fifth national congress, Mokhtar Trifi was elected its new president. Since then, the new outspoken leadership of the organization has faced strained relations with the regime, even enduring the suspension of its new executive and the disruption of its activities.


Amnesty International. Tunisia: Annual Report. 2003.

Dwyer, Kevin. Arab Voices: The Human Rights Debate in the Middle East. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

Waltz, Susan. Human Rights and Reform: Changing the Face of North African Politics. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.

larry a. barrie
updated by ana torres-garcia