Tunisia: legislative elections should not slow down transitional justice

TunisiaNewsTransitional justice

Tunis, 25 October 2014 – On the eve of legislative elections in Tunisia, Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF), the Association Nissaa Tounssyat (Tunisian Women), the Organisation against Torture in Tunisia and the Association of Tunisian Women for Research and Development are expressing concerns over how long it is taking to implement the law on transitional justice. The four organisations have called on the Tunisian authorities and the electoral candidates to ensure the continuity of the process, whatever the results of the election.

Nearly ten months after the adoption of the organic law of 24 December 2013 on transitional justice, the Truth and Dignity Commission is finally preparing to start work on the first cases of victims. A decree has ratified the creation of eight specialised Chambers for passing sentence on serious Human Rights violations committed in the past.

The application of the law remains open, however, in particular regarding the nomination of magistrates for the specialised Chambers. Selecting these magistrates is key for the success of the transition justice process, and to establish the legitimacy of these special jurisdictions. These chambers must be impartial and fair in order to establish the truth, and in order that this truth is accepted by all parties. However, the law only provides one selection criterion for the judges: that they have not sat in judgement on political trials in the past. Lisa Palfart, deputy Head of ASF Mission in Tunisia believes that “this law does not appear to guarantee against the risks of conflict of interest and lack of impartiality.”

The Tunisian Constitution provides that magistrates shall be named by presidential decree, following recommendation by the Judicial Council. “This selection procedure should apply to the nomination of magistrates for chambers that specialise in transitional justice, and neutrality and non-involvement in the former regime are issues that should be taken into account,” Lisa Palfart specifies.< Against the backdrop of democratic transition and nearing elections, a process of transitional justice that does not meet the expectations of Tunisian citizens only endangers what the Revolution has achieved. “The victims of abuse committed in the past are gradually losing faith that justice will be done. The questions that remain over the application of the law on transitional justice must be resolved in order to reverse this trend”, concluded the deputy Head of Mission.

This is why ASF, Tunisian Women, the Organisation against Torture in Tunisia and the Association of Tunisian Women for Research and Development are calling attention to the importance of information, referral and awareness-raising campaigns for victims, supporting all initiatives of this type (in particular the implementation of the Tunisian Observatory for Transitional Justice) and calling for the transitional justice process to be pursued immediately after the elections planned for the end of 2014.

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Picture © ASF/H. Chebbi