Tunisia Leads the Way in Transitional Justice


The National Conference to Launch a Dialogue on Transitional Justice in Tunisia was held on Saturday, April 14 in Tunis, initiating a process which should result in the adoption of a comprehensive law on transitional justice by the country’s National Constituent Assembly.

The conference, organized by Tunisia’s Ministry of Human Rights and Transitional Justice, gathered the highest state officials, representatives of civil society and victims’ groups, and members of the UN and other international organizations and marks a new step in Tunisia’s efforts to achieve accountability for the abuses of the previous regime. It follows a set of meetings held by the Ministry with representatives of political parties, human rights organizations, and victims associations.

Other important initiatives have been taken in Tunisia including the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Violations during the Revolution—its report is due shortly—and the National Fact-Finding Commission on Embezzlement and Corruption, which completed its report last November and has now been replaced by a permanent body mandated to fight corruption.

Tunisia’s civil society has also been particularly active on issues of transitional justice. Several civil society and victims’ organizations have been created to work on strategies to deal with past abuses. Many of them have already developed proposals they have submitted to the Minister of Human Rights and Transitional Justice as well as the National Constituent Assembly.

"Tunisians are expecting tangible results; they cannot wait indefinitely. The wounds of the past must be cured and healed. We have faith in transitional justice and not in a vengeful justice," said President Moncef Marzouki at the opening of the conference.

Mustapha Ben Jaafar, president of the National Constituent Assembly, stated that the legal framework exists for a law defining “the areas of intervention of transitional justice in Tunisia.”

Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali emphasized that the aim of transitional justice measures should be to break with all the forms of violations of human rights committed in recent decades.

“This is not a sole responsibility of the government but rather a collective responsibility, a national issue of concern to all Tunisians,” he said.

"Tunisians are expecting tangible results; they cannot wait indefinitely."
    In his keynote speech, ICTJ president David Tolbert highlighted the progress in Tunisia in addressing the troubled past since the revolution and welcomed the invitation to ICTJ to contribute to the process. He particularly emphasized the need for a fully inclusive and participatory process, involving government as well as civil society groups, specifically those who have been victimized or historically marginalized.

Tolbert drew attention to numerous challenges awaiting Tunisia as it intensifies the work on a law on transitional justice, emphasizing lessons learned from other countries in criminal justice, truth-seeking, reparations and gender justice.

“Tunisia will develop its own transitional justice model taking into account its unique situation. ICTJ stands ready to continue to provide its assistance as required. As Tunisia sparked off what has become known as the Arab Spring, it now has the potential to show the way and become a transitional justice model for the rest of the region and the world,” concluded Tolbert.

ICTJ has been actively engaged in Tunisia since February 2011, working with both government and civil society. In its most recent visit the ICTJ delegation met with President Marzouki as well as the president of the National Constituent Assembly, the ministers of Human Rights and Transitional Justice and of Justice, and civil society groups. ICTJ will continue to support all relevant actors in Tunisia in their efforts to develop legislation and strategies on transitional justice.

Read the full text of David Tolbert’s speech.