ICTJ Forum: Launch of Tunisia's Truth and Dignity Commission



In this edition of the ICTJ Forum, ICTJ experts discuss developments in Tunisia, where a truth commission—the Truth and Dignity Commission—has recently been created. In the discussion, ICTJ’s Communications Associate Hannah Dunphy interviews ICTJ Truth and Memory Program Director Eduardo González, Gender Justice Program Director Kelli Muddell, and Reparative Justice Program Director Ruben Carranza.


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González begins by speaking about the establishment of the truth commission earlier this year; he explains its first steps, points to the measures it will take to holistically represent Tunisian society, and predicts challenges it might face as it proceeds with its work.

ICTJ’s Truth and Memory Program, other ICTJ programs, and ICTJ country office in Tunisia will be working closely with the commission, providing guidance and expertise based on past experience. “ICTJ is cooperating with international agencies that are present in Tunisia and that are also supporting the truth commission, particularly the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and UNDP, which are very active,” González notes.

With a female president and other female commissioners, the commission is already sending signals that it is determined to take seriously the experiences of women. In fact, the Transitional Justice Law that established the TDC acknowledges the fact that women were particularly vulnerable to abuses under the regime of former President Ben Ali.

Muddell explains that commissioners have been supportive of acknowledging the difference in nature of the experiences of women and emphasizes the importance of special measures within the truth commission to “gain the trust of women victims and to make sure that their identities are protected so that they do not experience further shame and stigma by coming forward.” Muddell says that commissions that have been successful in reaching victims in the past have been flexible in their programming.

“They’ve realized that as they go along, they may need to create special measures beyond the usual statement taking or public hearings that take place to reach out to women,” said Muddell.

Finally, Carranza expands upon how the commission will be addressing issues of reparations for victims.

“The transitional justice law requires the truth commission to not only design a reparations framework that the government, that the state will then implement, but that it also requires the commission even now to begin establishing a database of victims and violations, to address potentially urgent cases, and to also address a category of victims that is unique as transitional justice experiences go,” Carranza explains.

In the near future, Carranza mentions that ICTJ “will be working with the ministry of human rights and transitional justice to now expand the evaluation [of ongoing reparations programs in Tunisia] that we conducted.” He says that the intention will be “to not only improve the implementation of ongoing reparations programs by the government, but to then have data available for the TDC for when it designs its own recommendations on reparations.”

Photo: Dennis Jarvis via Flickr