Country report and updates: Tunisia

Last revision: 07 Aug 1998
07 Aug 1998

1 Conscription

conscription exists

Ever since achieving independence in 1956 Tunisia has had conscription. [3] [11] [1]

According to art. 15 of the 1987 constitution, "the defence of the fatherland and its territorial integrity is a sacred duty of every citizen". [10]

The present legal basis is not quite clear.

Compulsory military service is prescribed by the 31 May 1967 Military Service Law (Act no. 67-19), and the 19 February 1975 National Service Law (Act no. 75-8). [4] [9]

The latter was replaced by the 14 March 1989 National Service Law (Act no. 89-51). [8] [5]

Furthermore the 8 March 1978 Civilian Service Law (Act no. 78-22) prescribed compulsory civilian service, but according to the government in 1993 this law "has as good as fallen into disuse." Another source states that this law is temporarily suspended. [9] [4]

military service

All men aged 20 are liable for military service. [10] [9]

Military service lasts for 12 months. [10] [9] [12]

Recruits initially receive a three-month basic training followed by a three-month specialised training. Thereafter they serve for another six months. [5]

It seems possible to perform a part of the military service in unarmed service. According to the government in 1994, "young Tunisians may perform national service in the form of individual assignments in cases of necessity and according to clearly defined rules." [8]

Another government report states that "the men called up for military service (...) are assigned to either military service or national service; the latter receive the three months' basic military training, after which they are individually or collectively assigned to development units organised along military lines, for participation in projects forming part of the national development plan, particularly in rural areas or priority development areas." [9]

postponement and exemption

Postponement until the age of 28 is possible for students, family breadwinners and those residing abroad. The latter, when returning to Tunisia, must still perform military service. [6] [8]

Exemption is possible only on the grounds of "medically confirmed cases of physical disability". [9]

For some it has been possible to get exempted by paying. The 1975 National Service Law allowed conscripts with a job to discharge their military obligations while keeping their employment by paying the difference between their salary and a serving conscript's pay. Conscripts doing so came under military jurisdiction for civil infractions and were no longer allowed to be member of the national trade union or of a political organisation. [4]

This way of performing military service has often been referred to as "alternative service", but it is not known whether it still exists under the 1989 National Service Law.


In practice most conscripts are drawn from depressed areas, because it is difficult for young men without a viable means of living, or ways to perform so-called alternative service, to avoid military conscription. [4]

The composition of the armed forces therefore mirror the national inequality: the officer corps mainly stem from the coastal regions and the capital city, while the conscripted troops mainly come from the underdeveloped areas in the south. [4]

For volunteers, the minimum recruitment age is 18. [11]

forced recruitment

In February 1991, following demonstrations, 460 students, including some who had already completed their military service and some who were classed as unfit, were forcibly recruited. They were released in April and June of the same year. [7]

There were also reports of forced recruitment in 1980. [2]

2 Conscientious objection

legal right

There is no legal provision for conscientious objection and there is no substitute service. [6] [8] [10] [11]

3 Draft evasion and desertion


Refusing to perform military service (insoumission) is punishable by three months' to two years' imprisonment. Desertion is punishable by six months' to three years' imprisonment in peace time; up to ten years' in wartime. Refusing to carry out a military order is punishable by one month to two years' imprisonment. [10]


There is no recent information available.

In the past desertion was apparently widespread, as in 1980 it was reported that conscripts who were sent to the Sahara regions in the south, were not informed of their destination, in order to reduce the number of deserters. Nevertheless many deserted. [2]

5 History

Shortly after achieving independence in 1956, Tunisia introduced conscription for all 20-year-old men (10 January 1957 Organisation of the Army Act). [1]

Until the general strike of 1978, conscription was not rigorously enforced. The 8 March 1978 Civilian Service Law (Act no. 78-22) introduced compulsory civilian service in order to counter unemployment and to promote rural development, but the measure has been considered as highly political. All Tunisians aged 18 to 30 who could not prove they were employed or enrolled in education were liable for a year's civilian service in the armed forces working on public projects. Although the government stated that more than 90 percent of these conscripts were working voluntarily, it has been reported that the law has occasionally been used to clear the streets of dissidents and troublemakers. [4] [9]

6 Annual statistics

The armed forces of Tunisia comprise 35,000 troops, including 23,400 conscripts. They form 0.37 percent of the population. [12]

Every year approximately 94,000 men reach conscription age (20). [12]


[1] Prasad, D., T. Smythe 1968. Conscription: a world survey, compulsory military service and resistance to it. War Resisters' International, London. [2] 'Tunisie', in: Jeune Afrique no. 1043, Paris, 31 December 1980. [3] Eide, A., C. Mubanga-Chipoya 1985. Conscientious objection to military service, report prepared in pursuance of resolutions 14 (XXXIV) and 1982/30 of the Sub-Commission of Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. United Nations, New York. [4] Ware, Lewis B. 1986. Tunisia in the Post-Bourguiba Era. US Government Printing Office, Washington DC. [5] Société I3C 1986. Military Powers, the league of Arab states, vol 1. Société I3C, Paris, France. [6] IRBDC 1990. Information from the Embassy of Tunisia in Ottawa, Canada, 26 March 1990. [7] Amnesty International 1992. Amnesty International Report 1991. AI, London, UK. [8] UN Commission on Human Rights 1992. Report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Commission resolution 1991/65 (and 3 Addendums). United Nations, Geneva. [9] UN Human Rights Committee 1993. CCPR, Consideration of reports submitted by states parties in accordance with article 40 of the covenant, Tunisia, 23 March 1993 (CCPR/C/84/Add.1). United Nations, Geneva. [10] War Resisters' International 1994. Issues of conscience and military service. War Resisters International, London. [11] UN Commission on Human Rights 1997. The question of conscientious objection to military service, report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Commission resolution 1995/83. United Nations, Geneva. [12] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London, UK.