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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Tunisia

Tunisia’s constitution contains provisions for the protection of the environment. The preamble states: “In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, we, the representatives of the Tunisian people, members of the National Constituent Assembly, are aware of the necessity of contributing to the preservation of a healthy environment that guarantees the sustainability of our natural resources and bequeathing a secure life to future generations, realizing the will of the people to be the makers of their own history, believing in science, work, and creativity as noble human values, seeking always to be pioneers, aspiring to contribute to the development of civilization, on the basis of the independence of national decision-making, world peace, and human solidarity.

Article 45, for example, reads: “The state guarantees the right to a healthy and balanced environment and the right to participate in the protection of the climate. The state shall provide the necessary means to eradicate pollution of the environment”.

Featured Legislation

1968: The National Water Distribution Utility was established by law N°68-22. It is under the supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture and is a non-administrative public enterprise; The entity’s mission is to supply all the country with potable water with the

objectives of:

  • Water production: production, treatment and transport
  • Water distribution: management and maintenance of drinking water network and equipment and management of customers
  • Development: studies, work and supply

1974: the National Office of Sanitation of Tunisia (ONAS) was formed. ONAS was established by Law No. 73/74, with the mission of ensuring the management of the sanitation sector. The Law Establishing the Office was amended by Law No. 93/41, dated April 19, 1993, under which ONAS moved from the role of manager of the sewerage system to that of main stakeholder in the field of the protection of the water environment and the fight against all sources of pollution. ONAS is a public institution of an industrial and commercial character, endowed with the civil personality and the financial autonomy. It is under the supervision of the Ministry of Local Affairs and Environment

1995: The Ministry of Environment, Coastal Protection and Planning Agency (APAL) was founded. The Ministry is mandated with the task of implementing the state policy in the field of coastal protection. Its main areas of concern are:

− The management of coastal areas

− The development of studies related to coastal protection and enhancement of natural areas

− The observation of the evolution of coastal ecosystems through the establishment and operation of specialized computer systems

− The regulation and the clearance of estate situations

2001: The National Environmental Protection Agency (ANPE) was created. The ANPE is called upon to perform technical, legal, administrative, training and research activities as well as assistance activities. The agency also oversees environmental impact studies of any industrial, agricultural or commercial unit whose activity poses risks of pollution or environmental degradation, simplifying the administrative procedures relating to authorizations issued by the Ministry of the Environment and Regional Planning.

2004: Law No. 2004-72 on energy management was signed. This law on energy management prepares the way for Tunisia to move to a higher level in this area with regard to the use of renewable energies and primarily solar and wind energy. The Tunisian strategy is based around three aspects: – the strengthening of energy saving measures, – the promotion of renewable energies and the replacement of hydrocarbons by natural gas. The national plan provides for 5 measures consisting of: developing national hydrocarbon resources; steer consumption towards the least expensive energy products such as natural gas; rational use of energy; promote renewable energies; enhance awareness and appeal to consumers’ civic sense. The mechanism that has been put in place grants a 20% subsidy for energy saving in industry, the connection of households to natural gas, the installation of engine diagnostic stations and solar water heaters.

2005: The Sustainable Forests Policy was drafted. The policy anchors  the principles of sustainable development and sets up a tool for evaluating and monitoring policies, strategies and programs in the forestry sector that Tunisia has set up the policy of sustainable forests in 2005. Based on a participatory approach, it aims at the conservation and development of sylvo-pastoral resources, the protection of watersheds, agricultural lands and the environment in general, the integration of forest production into the economy of the countries and improving the living conditions of forest populations by involving them in the sustainable management of forest resources.

2006: The Protection of Ecosystems and Adaptation to Climate Change plan was tabled. This document was set up by Tunisia within the framework of the protection of ecosystems and adaptation to climate change in Tunisia. It is a sectoral document with a national scope that aims to strengthen international solidarity to prevent the potential consequences of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

2007: Law No. 2007-34 on air quality was enacted. This law aims to prevent, limit and reduce air pollution and its negative impacts on human health and the environment as well as to set the air quality control procedures, in order to make effective the citizen’s right to a healthy environment and ensure sustainable development. Air quality conservation measures are planned, as well as air pollution prevention measures from mobile sources and stationary sources.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • A 2021 report reveals that Tunisia is struggling to handle its own waste due to a sophisticated network of corrupt officials and organized crime importing Europe’s waste under false pretenses and dumping it in landfills and informal dump sites. In December, 2021, the Minister of the Environment, Mustapha Laroui, and 23 other officials were arrested in connection with the transfer of shipping containers packed full of nearly 7,900 tonnes of illegal household waste from Naples in southern Italy to the port in Sousse. Italian and Tunisian companies have signed a contract worth €5 million ($5.76m) to dispose of 120,000 tonnes of Italian waste in Tunisian landfills. Referred to as ”the “Italian waste scandal”, the waste scandal has shone a light on the complicated nature of trafficking in waste and Europe’s quest to greenwash its dirtiest industries. Environmental treaties such as the  Basel Convention and the  Bamako Convention have been invoked to mitigate the transboundary movement of waste, but to no avail. Though Tunisia signed up to the Bamako convention, several of its neighbors in the Maghreb did not and as a result, other countries have been importing household waste from Italy and other EU countries to burn in incinerators at cement factories, sometimes as much as 450,000 tonnes per year before the  practice was banned in 2016. While the Basel Convention was ratified by both Tunisia and Italy, the loopholes and dysfunctions at the internal level reveal the the deficits of soft law and global norms, and the need for cooperation between agencies in Tunisia to make it easier to monitor the illegal trade of waste. According to Majdi Karbai, an MP in the now-suspended Parliament for the Democratic Current party who represents Tunisians in Italy, organized criminal groups operate in a mafia-like system on both sides of the sea, contributing to scandal and misappropriation of funds, particularly under the presidency of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali between 1987 and 2011. What is more, Tunisia’s environmental law is vague and unfinished, and chronically underfunded local municipalities, making it extremely vulnerable to criminal organizations who exploit the government’s short-term thinking and imperfect implementation of strategic policies.

References and Further Reading


Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Tunisia Cité administrative, H.E. Mrs. Leila Chikhaoui: ministre@minal.state.tn