National congress on transitional justice opens in Tunisia

TunisiaNewsTransitional justice

ASF, the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES) and the Independent National Coordination on Transitional Justice will host a national congress to relaunch the transitional justice process in Tunisia, on 2 and 3 November 2016 in Tunis, with the participation of the Truth and Dignity Commission (IVD). The congress will bring together the IVD, civil society, public bodies and authorities, MPs, policy-makers and victims associations to debate the state of the transition process and to draw up recommendations* for taking it forward. ASF Country Director, Antonio Manganella, and his transitional justice team, Brahim Ben Taleb and Magda El Haitem (picture), explain the motivations for organising the congress. What is the transitional justice process in Tunisia? In the aftermath of the Revolution (2011), the transitional authorities and civil society considered it essential to put in place a process to help uncover the truth about serious human rights violations (committed in particular under the Ben Ali regime), but also to deliver justice, to guarantee reparations for victims and, above all, to guarantee that such atrocities will not be repeated. Tunisia’s new Constitution imposes an obligation on the State to apply the transitional justice system in all areas. In 2013, the Constituent Assembly adopted a law establishing specialised chambers to judge the perpetrators of serious human rights violations, as well as a Truth and Dignity Commission (IVD). The IVD began its work in May 2014. The specialised chambers are not yet operational. What are the specific features of the Tunisian context? Tunisia’s history is not limited to an authoritarian regime and serious violations of civil and political rights. The Tunisian context has been strongly marked by violations of economic and social rights and the marginalisation of certain regions, especially the Kasserine region, for which ASF and FTDES submitted a file to the IVD on 16 June 2015. Recent protest movements in Tunisia are a resurgence of these past traumas, which are not being addressed in a timely manner. The fight against corruption and nepotism, the promotion of economic and social rights and access to development are essential questions that must be addressed to rebuild the population’s trust in institutions and ultimately to help restore the rule of law. Why this congress and why now? Since 2013, the transitional justice process has run into a number of obstacles. Civil society, which nonetheless spearheaded its establishment, has gradually shown a lack of interest, or even in some cases opposition to the process, particularly against the IVD, which must conclude its work by spring 2017. Over time, there has been a pronounced split between civil society and the transitional justice mechanisms, including the IVD. This phenomenon has been amplified by delays in setting up the specialised chambers. In addition, for over a year, the tunisian political sphere seems increasingly to be withdrawing from the transitional justice process, even presenting proposals that could seriously obstruct establishing the truth. Discussions of the law on economic and financial reconciliation have been particularly troubling in this regard. The congress is being held at a pivotal moment in the transitional justice process in Tunisia, with the aim of rekindling it and ensuring that it leads to satisfactory results. Who is participating in the congress and how will it be organised? The organisers intend to allow a free and constructive dialogue among participants. The congress will be organised primarily around nine workshops on key issues related to transitional justice, notably on establishing the truth, combating impunity, reparations and the need to address the situation of women. Each workshop will bring together members of the IVD, representatives of civil society, experts, members of public bodies and authorities, judges, lawyers, MPs, policy-makers and journalists. What does this congress hope to achieve ? The congress aims first and foremost to renew dialogue, even if it is critical of the process, in order to put the transitional justice process as a whole back on track. The idea is to bring the players back to the table, to create constructive discussions between the IVD and civil society, but also with official authorities including different ministries, judges, lawyers and the media, which play a role at various levels in the transitional justice process in Tunisia. It is hoped that the congress will conclude with the adoption of practical recommendations* for putting the process back on track in a more inclusive and effective manner. The full programme for the congress is available here in French and in Arabic. Only the opening session is open to the public, subject to prior registration. For additional information, please contact Haifa Gebs: * The recommandations are now also available, in French and in Arabic. You can also read this article in Arabic.
Picture (from left to right): Brahim Ben Taleb, Antonio Manganella and Magda El Haitem, explain ASF’s motivations for organising the congress © ASF/H. Gebs