Tunisians Support the Truth Commission

Tunisians Support the Truth Commission©All rights reservedTunisia demonstration for independent justice 8 Aug 2011
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“Have you heard of transitional justice?”, “Do you know what kinds of abuses transitional justice deals with?”, “What do you expect of transitional justice?”, “Have you heard of the Truth and Dignity Commission?”, “Do you have confidence in the Truth and Dignity Commission?”, “Do you think it is necessary that the truth be revealed about serious abuses committed in the past?”, “Do you think the special chambers will be able to deal with past human rights violations?”

These are some of the questions in a quantitative survey on “Tunisians’ perception of transitional justice”, whose results were recently released by the Truth and Dignity Commission. The survey was commissioned in March by the Tunis office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which has been supporting the transitional justice process in Tunisia since 2011. It was carried out by the Independent Survey and Statistics Institute (ISTIS). One of the objectives of the survey was to ask Tunisians directly what this new concept of restorative justice means for them, and gather information about their expectations on judicial procedures and institutional reforms. It questioned 3,547 men and women throughout Tunisia. According to the Truth and Dignity Commission, information from the survey will allow the Commission to strengthen or adjust its future strategy, better support victims and further boost involvement of civil society organizations in its ongoing activities.

According to Anouar Moalla, head of the Commission’s information and communication unit, the ISITIS survey reflects the paradox of the Tunisian context. “We see a real split between some of the elite who only speak ill of us, and a silent majority who are satisfied overall with the work of the truth commission and the way transitional justice is developing,” he says.

Revealing past abuses

The survey found that 65.6% of respondents had heard of transitional justice, especially through television. 78, 5% of those who had heard of transitional justice said they thought it was a “necessity for Tunisia”, especially to “guarantee transition to rule of law”. While 63.8% thought the process was slow, respondents said they expect it to reveal the truth (76.8%), to install the principle of accountability (44%), provide moral and material reparations to victims (36.3%), and reconcile Tunisians (34%). 86.3% also want criminal procedures against persons who committed human rights violations during the dictatorship, 9.7% even want them deprived of their civil rights and only 8.8 % would prefer them to be granted amnesty. While 62% had heard of the Truth and Dignity Commission and 67.2 % said they have confidence in it, 48.6% said its main mission should be to “seek the truth about past violations and corruption”.  This is another statistic showing that Tunisians questioned in this survey want an end to the totalitarian system based on nepotism. 97.3% of respondents said they think fighting corruption should be one of the main objectives of institutional reforms.

The publication of the ISITIS survey report comes at a crucial time when the Truth and Dignity Commission is under the most serious political pressure since its creation in June 2014. A bill on “national reconciliation” recently proposed to parliament by President Beji Caied Essebsi would divest the Commission of its power to arbitrate in financial cases and end procedures and prosecutions against businessmen and civil servants suspected of corruption.