January 14, 2014

Tunisian transitional justice on the retreat

TunisiaNewsTransitional justice

Brussels/Tunis, 14 January 2014 – Three years after the revolution, Tunisia is still struggling to demonstrate genuine will to implement real transitional justice mechanisms. In spite of recent progress, the creation of these mechanisms, necessary to effectively deal with cases of serious human rights abuses committed during the uprising, has still not become a reality. Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) is concerned about this situation that risks creating an atmosphere of impunity for perpetrators, and non-recognition for victims.

Tunis, janvier 2013 @ Forum Tunisien des Droits économiques et sociaux
Tunis, janvier 2013 @ Forum Tunisien des Droits économiques et sociaux

The number of victims of human rights violations committed during the revolution is estimated at more than one thousand people, mostly those people injured or killed during demonstrations. Although initiatives were rapidly launched to find out the truth about these violations, to prosecute those responsible, and to ensure recognition and compensation for the victims, the current state of affairs is disappointing.

One telling example are the measures taken by the authorities to compensate the victims, which have remained patchwork and limited. “That means that victims are still waiting for the promised rehabilitation or compensation”, notes Federica Riccardi, Head of the ASF Mission in Tunis.

Efforts have been made to prosecute the key people responsible for serious human rights violations. To date though, only around a hundred files concerning serious human rights violations have been taken to national courts, and a large number of people who are suspected of having participated in committing serious violations during the uprising have still not been prosecuted nor sent to trial; others were recently even acquitted. “The risk of a situation of impunity arising is very real”, says Federica Riccardi.

The Transitional Justice Bill adopted by the National Constituent Assembly on 15 December could enable progress. In particular, this law provides for the creation of a “Truth and Dignity Commission”, tasked with shedding light on the violations committed since the country became independent in 1956, and setting up a damages compensation fund. Nonetheless, for the Head of the ASF Mission, “fundamental doubts persist, for example concerning the definition of the status of victim and the ability of this commission to fulfil its role”.

Under these conditions, ASF calls upon the Tunisian authorities to ensure the rapid implementation of transitional justice mechanisms, with a focus on the victims and the respect of their rights. It is essential that the transitional justice bill is not exploited for partisan and political ends, to the detriment of justice.

Since 2011, ASF has been offering support for civil society initiatives aimed at restoring trust between the justice system and the Tunisian population. “We support six human rights and victims’ associations[1], with a view to ensuring that cases of human rights violations are well documented and integrated into an advocacy strategy in support of transitional justice. It is a long process, but one that is indispensable if Tunisia wishes to peacefully continue its democratic evolution”, concludes Federica Riccardi.

Cover picture: The families of the victims of the revolution in 2010-2011 are expecting justice and redress, Tunis, January 2013 @ Forum Tunisien des Droits économiques et sociaux

[1] The Tunisian Human Rights League, the Tunisian Women’s Association, the National Council for Liberties in Tunisia, Freedom and Justice, the Association of Families of the Martyrs and Wounded of the Tunisian Revolution – Awfia, Insaf, Justice for Former Soldiers of Barraket Essahel, Om Chahid (in Rdayef-Gafsa) and Militants who Defied Barriers (in Sfax).


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