Tunisia: Activists Debate Transitional Justice


By Houda Trabelsi

Despite the achievements of post-revolution Tunisia, much more work needs to be done to realise transitional justice, attendees at a recent Tunis forum concluded.

“The government is not responsible for delaying the path of transitional justice in Tunisia,” said Samir Dilou, minister of human rights and transitional justice.

The minister made the statements at a workshop last Wednesday (February 8th) on civil society’s approach to developing a legal framework for transitional justice. The Tunis event was organised by the Arab Institute for Human Rights and the International Centre for Transitional Justice, in conjunction with the National Co-ordination for Transitional Justice.

“Despite the success of the revolution and the end of dictatorship, embarking on the pathway of transitional justice requires greater efforts,” Dilou said, urging groups to join forces to work towards democracy.

The chairman of the Arab Institute for Human Rights, Abdul Basit Bin Hasan, addressed the issue of deficiencies in the course of transitional justice in Tunisia, saying, “After the revolution, Tunisia has witnessed great achievements in terms of freedoms, either at the political level, or those which need to implement in-depth structural and institutional reform so as to break all ties with the eras of tyranny and injustice.”

“It is necessary to fix those deficiencies by disclosing corruption files, as well as holding those involved accountable and engaging in acts of reconciliation, while searching for the truth, because Tunisia is in dire need of transitional justice in this juncture,” Bin Hasan added.

On the other hand, Omar Safraoui, coordinator with the National Co-ordination for Transitional Justice, stressed “the need to accelerate the establishment of an integrated system of transitional justice by strictly addressing cases of corruption in the fields of security and media, and especially the judicial system, so as to ensure independence”.

Despite developments since the revolution, Safraoui said the overall impression was that “most of those endeavours and procedures, aimed at the restitution of rights and reassurance of the community, were a failure”.

Safraoui attributed that failure “to the absence of clear and intent political will seeking to establish an integrated system of transitional justice that can send a message of reassurance for all”.

Chafik Sarsar, a lecturer on public law, told Magharebia “Shortcomings and gaps in the path of democratic transition appear through communication, consultation and dialogue with civil society, that can offer many ideas for laying down the path for transitional justice in Tunisia.”

Monia El Abed, lawyer and human rights activist, questioned the feasibility of a transitional justice ministry, saying it required a great deal of effort. “It is now crucial to differentiate between authorities,” she said.

In the same context, El Abed called for “a balanced relationship between the executive authority, as represented in the ministry, and the spectra of civil society. Therefore, we must be wary of slipping and allowing the executive power to have dominance over the civil society again. Before January 14th, we suffered from the dominance of the executive authority and do not want to re-experience that. We want to build clear structures for civil society.”

Anouiar Bassi, a spokesman for Group 25 and founder of the Shafafeya (Transparency) Association, told Magharebia that a ministry for transitional justice was unnecessary. “However, now that ministry was established, we must work with it, especially that the minister expressed his willingness to co-operate and consult with civil society institutions of all factions, and that is quite encouraging and good,” he said.

“The role of the ministry must be to facilitate the transitional process, not dominate it,” Bassi said.


The Magharebia web site is sponsored by the United States Africa Command, the military command responsible for supporting and enhancing US efforts to promote stability, co-operation and prosperity in the region.

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