ICTJ Dispatch: Refik Hodzic on Tunisia

11/5/2015

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In this podcast, ICTJ Communications Associate Dan Verderosa speaks with Refik Hodzic, ICTJ’s Director of Communications, who has just returned from a mission to Tunisia, about the latest developments in the transitional justice process in the country and the efforts of the Truth and Dignity Commission (TDC) to develop an effective communications strategy.

In the conversation, Hodzic explains that although the majority of Tunisians want to see the TDC deliver on its mandate to investigate abuses committed during decades of dictatorship, the current government’s effort to pass a “reconciliation law” offering amnesty to those who profited from the corruption and abuses of the previous regime threatens to undermine the process.

“If this law is passed, there is a danger that the mandate of the TDC would get so limited that the substance of its mission would effectively be sucked out,” said Hodzic.

In that context, the TDC is being challenged by efforts to politicize and hamper its work. The effects on the public discourse are apparent: much of the media coverage of the TDC has turned away from the real story – truth and accountability for past abuses - towards politically driven discussions of commissioners’ personalities, the commission’s budget, and speculation about internal conflicts.

Listen to the Full Interview

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Hodzic met with commissioners and communications staff, as well as activists and members of the media – who he calls the TDC’s “natural allies” – to help them to strategize ways to bring public discourse on the commission back to the substance of its work.

“The fact that the commission has collected already 17 and a half thousand statements from victims and what these stories are is not at all being discussed in the public,” said Hodzic. “The mission of the commission is far above daily politics in its potential for affecting Tunisian society.”

The TDC must clearly communicate its mandate to the public, and others invested in its success – victims, activists, youth – must actively engage in the process. If they do not, Hodzic explains, the commission’s impact will be very limited and the process susceptible to subversion by political forces interested in its failure.

Background:

Following Tunisia’s 2011 revolution in the midst of the “Arab Spring”, the country began a transition from authoritarian rule to democracy. The country also embarked on a dynamic transitional justice process to reckon with past government abuses, including oppressive security policies, the arbitrary detention of over 10,000 people, and allegations of torture by state security forces.

Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly passed a Transitional Justice Law in 2013, which established a Truth and Dignity Commission to investigate the widespread human rights violations dating back to at least 1955. However, a proposed ‘economic reconciliation’ law threatens to undermine the process by offering amnesty to those who profited from corruption and abuses under the regime of former President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.

Read more on our Tunisia webpage.


PHOTO: ICTJ Communications Director Refik Hodzic meets with commissioners and staff of the Truth and Dignity Commission in Tunisia. (Instance Vérité & Dignité/Facebook)