TUNIS, Tunisia, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Even though the leaders have changed in Tunisia, the country has some of the most repressive laws in the region remain on the books, Human Rights Watch said.
This week, Tunisians marked the first anniversary of the start of the Jasmine Revolution, which began with the protest suicide that sparked the so-called Arab Spring.
The revolution led to the ouster of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali after roughly two decades in office. The country earned praise from the international community for its embrace of democracy. Last week, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki vowed to uphold the spirit of the revolution during his swearing-in ceremony.
But Human Rights Watch said many of the same laws that restrict freedom of speech and limit the country's judicial branch are still on the books.
"The dictator may have departed but experience shows that as long as his repressive laws remain on the books, the temptation is there for those who succeed him to apply them when politically expedient," Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
The rights organization said the new Tunisia government is tasked with drafting a new constitution but it should also work to reform "egregious" laws to protect the rights of its citizens.