TUNIS, May 12, 2017—The International Center for Transitional Justice today repeated the call for the withdrawal of the revamped “Economic Reconciliation” Draft Law. As one of the key expert organizations that has supported the transitional process in Tunisia since its inception, ICTJ has opposed the flawed “Economic Reconciliation” Draft Law since it was first presented in 2015, because its provisions undermine key goals of transitional justice: accountability, truth and reform.
“One of the key reasons we oppose the proposed draft is that it does not provide for accountability for those who profited from corruption,” said Salwa El Gantri, ICTJ’s Head of Office in Tunisia. “On the contrary, its language is reflective of impunity. It does not offer a mechanism to establish the facts about unlawful conduct, how it has impacted society or any remedy for such conduct.”
Notably, the draft law does not provide for the recovery of assets acquired unlawfully, despite the early progress the country made in this regard. “In the two years since the end of the dictatorship, Tunisia has already frozen and recovered such assets, including $48 million from Lebanon. This was progress that occurred faster than in many other contexts, where similar efforts took much longer,” said El Gantri. As examples such as Peru and the Philippines show, asset recovery is greatly important to achieve accountability, dismantle the corruption system and provide a source of revenue for a future reparations program.
ICTJ also sees the draft law as flawed because it represents a unilateral initiative, in contradiction to the participatory process that led to the promulgation of the Transitional Justice Law in 2013. “Instead of promoting participation and consultation as key elements of transitional justice, it has generated division,” said El Gantri of the draft law.
“Yet another flaw is that there is no possibility for the state to force any of the potential individuals who might fall under its mandate to participate,” added El Gantri. “The mechanism depends on the voluntary participation of the individuals who have been involved in corrupt practices.”
According to ICTJ, the draft law is in contradiction of article 14 of the Transitional Justice law defining institutional reform as aimed at “dismantling and rectifying the system of corruption, oppression and tyranny to guarantee the non-repetition of the violations, the respect of human rights as well as the establishment of a State of Law.” The law, if passed, would also undermine the work of the Truth and Dignity Commission, which has a mandate to investigate and report on cases of corruption.
Lastly, based on its years of experience working in countries in transition around the world, ICTJ maintains that reconciliation cannot be imposed by the state. It should be the result of a social process that pursues acknowledgment, accountability and institutional reforms for past violations. “If reconciliation is to have a chance, it cannot be based on impunity,” said El Gantri.
ICTJ has supported the transitional justice process in Tunisia since 2011. In April of that year, it organized the very first conference in the country on transitional justice, in partnership with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Arab Institute for Human Rights. Since then, it has actively supported the process at every stage, in close collaboration with many different actors in the country.
Salwa El Gantri, ICTJ Head of Office in Tunisia E-mail: SELGantri@ictj.org
PHOTO: ICTJ Head of Office in Tunisia Salwa El Gantri explains ICTJ's opposition to the economic reconciliation law. (ICTJ/Mériem Chaouachi)