Tunisia- Law Students Protest Peacefully; Policemen Suppress Brutally!

Tunis- Law students protest against the 345 Law amendment in Tunis and Sfax. Policemen intervene to put an end to the protest using violence. Some students are physically assaulted. Policemen claim to be attacked by the protesting students as the reason behind them using violence even though photos spreading on social media prove otherwise. Today, Jendouba is following the lead by marching from the Faculty of Laws and Economics to the headquarters of the governorate of Jendouba.

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Her body is bruised and so was his. They are not soldiers in a battle; they are still holders of pen and papers. They are just students, and the word ‘just’ is not meant to underestimate their social and academic levels. Nowadays, the wide eye of the media and the talk of the radio revolve around this paradox: Law students are breaking the law. Adding to this recursive statement, the question to be asked here is what common sense would allow these students to leave their serene houses and universities, to gather in the large avenue of Habib Bourguiba, and to put themselves in the danger zone of police brutality?

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[Link to live streaming of the protest taking place in Avenue Habib Bourguiba- Tunis, by Telvza TV]

For law students, this gathering is a milestone in a whole line of educational struggle. For the media, it is a crucial act of civil and academic disobedience that deserves large headlines. For others, it is an itinerant breaking news that would be soon erased from the memory of the majority of our people.  However, despite the clash between these objective and subjective perspectives, students are leading peaceful protests only for their voices to be muted by the police brutality. Law students are protesting against a sudden declaration that threatens their careers as lawyers.  About a week ago, the government has passed a new amendment of Law 345 requiring the students to obtain a master’s degree in order to be eligible to sit for the CAPA national exam (Certificat d’Aptitude à la Profession d’Avocat ).

Law students used to sit for the CAPA automatically after obtaining a fundamental or applied license in Law. The difference between these two licenses goes back to the newly adopted system of higher education in Tunisia that consists of three major types of degrees: License, Master and Doctorate (LMD). After finishing high school, Tunisian students- except those enrolling in Medicine or Preparatory Studies- are supposed to go through the LMD academic journey should their interest revolve around academia. Going beyond a master’s degree depends on the type of license that students decided to study for. While a fundamental license gives you the key to get the M and the D, an applied one gives the student access to a brief and narrow academic experience that does not culminate to the Doctorate level. It is usually meant to train and prepare students for employment in a specific profession. Before this amendment, law students obtaining a license degree- be it applied or fundamental- are allowed to pass this national exam.

The amendment is what called for the law students protests because not all of them are eligible to get through and study for a master’s degree. It has been more than a month now since these students started reaching out to the social media to voice their concerns and to speak-up their minds under a state of media blackout. Meanwhile, negotiations are taking place between the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in an attempt to set things right. However, in an interview broadcast on Tunisian national TV, the Minister of Justice insisted on maintaining the law amendment as it is while supporting his statement by an argument saying that the lack of knowledge and experience is damaging the level of the graduating law students due to the insufficient of license degree.

Today, law students in Jendouba are leading a protest against the amendment of the law and the brutality that was exercised on their fellow law students in Tunis and Sfax. They are marching now from the Faculty of Laws and Economics to the headquarters of the governorate of Jendouba.

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Law Students Protest in Jendouba (Photo Courtesy of Linda Bouneb)

To get more updates on this issue, search for ‫#‏ضد_345‬ on Facebook.

Article written by Awatef Hamdi and edited by Nada Mrabet

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