The optimistic predictions of former Truth and Dignity Commission (IVD) president Sihem Bensedrine, speaking to Justice Info just after the legislative elections last autumn, seem now to be proving right. Up until recently, relations between the Tunisian truth commission, which ended its work in December 2019, and the government seemed marked by hostility, but things seem to be changing significantly since constitutionalist lawyer Kaïes Saïed was elected head of State on October 13 and the new parliament installed in November.
This political about-turn was recently signalled strongly to Tunisian civil society: for the first time, a representative of the Prime Minister did not refuse an invitation to speak at a meeting organized by the « La Roujou3 » (Never Again) campaign led by three civil society associations — Avocats Sans Frontières, the NGO Bawsala (Boussole) and the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights. Transitional justice, the subject of such meetings, clearly indisposed the team of the previous government led by Youssef Chahed.
“Mr. Transitional Justice”
On January 28, the participants at that meeting on the theme of “perspectives and future of post-IVD transitional justice” also discovered that the Prime Minister has an advisor on transitional justice, Belhassen Ben Amor. This jurist has been named to the post since July 2017. Although he arrived late to the panel and left early, Ben Amor made some important declarations for the future of the country’s transitional justice process. “A committee is finishing up its work with the aim of publishing the IVD’s final report and making it really official,” he asserted.
This final report of 2,344 pages, with seven chapters covering the period from July 1955 to December 2013, synthesizes five years of work by the truth commission. It deals with the mechanisms of despotism and corruption, violations against women and children, human rights abuses in the main historic periods, and reparations and rehabilitation for the 50,000 victims.
“We are awaiting the outcome of appeals to the Administrative Tribunal by injured people who did not find their names on the list of injured and martyrs of the revolution before also publishing this document in the Official Journal,” newly appointed prime ministerial envoy Elyes Fakhfakh said at the same gathering. “We also plan to activate the Dignity Fund for Victims’ Reparation. We are in the process of responding to all the IVD’s demands.”
Ben Amor also informed the meeting that a commission of jurists has been set up by the Prime Minister to examine all the issues left pending after the truth commission ended its work and find suitable responses for all the files linked to the process. “2,700 reparations decided have not been granted to their beneficiaries,” he noted. “We are committed to transmitting them to the victims concerned, in coordination with the IVD and its regional offices.”
Creation of a parliamentary commission
Tunisia’s Transitional Justice Law provides that “within one year of publication of the commission’s overall report, the government prepare a plan and work programmes to implement the recommendations and proposals of the Commission”, adding that “a parliamentary commission will be set up to this effect which will collaborate with the associations concerned to make the recommendations and proposals concrete”. Thus it is parliament that will monitor the application of this new programme announced by the government representative, on the basis of the IVD report.
A few days after their 28 January congress, which will mark history, the organizers of the Roujou3 campaign were contacted by representatives of parliament. On February 6, they had an appointment with parliamentary chairman Rached Ghannouchi to discuss the creation of the parliamentary commission provided for in the transitional justice law. And so the future of transitional justice in Tunisia remains dependant on the changing balances of political power.