Tunisia

Tunisia’s January 2011 uprising—resulting in the fall of President Ben Ali’s regime—has opened the door to initiatives and debates on how to address widespread political repression and human rights violations. ICTJ provides Tunisian policymakers and civil society groups with advice and resources on transitional justice.

A resident of central Tunisia during a demonstration in front of the Government Palace, Jan 2011 (FETHI BELAID/Getty Images)

Background:

From 1987, Tunisia was under the control of President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali. His government kept power through oppressive security policies designed to quell opposition. According to information to date, over 10,000 people were arbitrarily detained.

Tunisia’s 2003 Anti-terrorism Law allowed security forces to arrest and try civilians who had allegedly committed acts of terrorism. Many cases were heard in a military court, closed to outside observation, with convictions often based on confessions the defendants claimed were obtained through torture.

Several weeks of protests starting in December 2010 ended with Ben Ali’s overthrow in January 2011, and eventually the dissolution of his party, the Democratic Constitutional Rally.

An interim government has established three commissions, one on constitutional reforms, one to look into corruption, and a third to investigate violations that occurred during the uprising.

The interim government has also announced that it would seek the extradition of Ben Ali—who fled the country to Saudi Arabia—along with members of his family, many accused of corruption. Several high-ranking officials allegedly responsible for human rights abuse during and before the protests are already in custody awaiting trial.

In February 2011, a law providing amnesty to former political prisoners of the Ben Ali regime was adopted.

ICTJ's Role:

ICTJ’s involvement in Tunisia aims to provide information and advice to local actors on transitional justice options and strengthen their capacity to respond to the special challenges of the current context, in areas such as criminal justice, truth-seeking, vetting and reparations.

  • ICTJ has visited Tunisia several times to meet with local actors—including officials, judges, human rights activists, and journalists—to identify local needs and transitional justice issues.
  • We offer targeted technical advice to official bodies and civil society organizations.
  • In April 2011, with international and local partners, ICTJ organized an international conference aimed at presenting Tunisians with various transitional justice options and lessons learned from experiences in Eastern Europe, Latin America and Africa.