January 28, 2016

Tunisia emergency: regions as victims

TunisiaNewsTransitional justice

28 January 2016, Tunis – Confronted with the rapid deterioration of the situation in Kasserine and in other marginalised regions of Tunisia, Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) and the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights have called on the Truth and Dignity Commission (IVD) to step in: to address the causes of social injustice. For both partners, the IVD should address publicly and as promptly as possible the issue of “region as victim” status in Tunisia.

Since the 17th of January, the population in Kasserine, one of the poorest regions in Tunisia, has been reacting to the death of a 28-year old unemployed man who was protesting against his removal from a recruitment list for public service jobs. The people have been demanding solutions to the catastrophic economic situation and rising unemployment, particularly among young people.

These dramatic events in fact merely reflect the serious violations of rights in Tunisia which have not yet been addressed. Corruption, nepotism and regional disparities are not new scourges. These phenomena characterised the regime in place before 2011 and were at the origin of the Revolution. If the authorities do not provide an appropriate response quickly, the events in Kasserine are likely to increase tensions and rapidly feed similar movements in other equally marginalised regions.

For too long now, Tunisia has been sitting on a social powder keg“, explains Abderrahman Hedhili, President of the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES). “Since the fall of President Ben Ali, Tunisia has been on the road to democratic transition. It therefore needs to tackle the causes and consequences of the violence of the past and particularly, the organised marginalisation and exclusion of certain regions. Today, five years after the fall of Ben Ali, the general feeling amongst the most disadvantaged populations is that they have still not been heard by the authorities“.

In Kasserine, the government has unfortunately opted for an approach focused solely on security and protection against terrorism. This approach is likely to drive an even greater wedge between citizens and the State.

Tunisia however does have a mechanism, the Truth and Dignity Commission (IVD) which could heal the wounds of the past and tackle the future with a real socio-economic plan“, explains Antonio Manganella, ASF Head of Mission in Tunisia. “This mechanism needs to step into its role, providing the public with information about its actions“.

In June 2015, with the support of ASF, the FTDES filed a “region as victim” status application with the IVD. The purpose of this was to establish the “region as victim” status for the Kasserine governorate, victim of organised marginalisation or exclusion under the old regime. The IVD was also invited to recommend measures, especially to the State authorities, to address the causes and consequences of the marginalisation experienced by Kasserine and other regions in Tunisia.

When it filed its application, the IVD confirmed its competence to assess the “region as victim” status of regions having experienced organised marginalisation or exclusion in Tunisia. Apart from Kasserine, other regions have filed or will be filing an application with the IVD.

This is a huge step forward“, adds A. Manganella. “But if the IVD does not step into its role, establishing the mechanisms which allowed the emergence of such regional disparities at the origin of social and economic injustice, this will leave the door open to further conflict“.

Here is an interview of Antonio Manganella, Head of Mission in Tunisia, giving his view on the subject.

Click here to access the Kasserine “Region as Victim” press kit, or download the full application filed with the IVD (in French or in Arabic).

Cover picture: If the authorities do not provide an appropriate response quickly, the events in Kasserine are likely to increase tensions and rapidly feed similar movements in other equally marginalised regions © Thomas Cantaloube/Mediapart


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