Laundering the Corrupt Is a National Priority? Tunisian Civil Society Again Opposes the National Reconciliation Law

4/25/2017

TUNIS, April 26, 2017—This is the third time that the Tunisian government, supported by several Members of Parliament, has put debate of the National Reconciliation Law on the political agenda. Rearranged in form but with the same substantial faults, this law has mobilized the opposition — for the third time — of approximately 20 civil society organizations that met yesterday and plan to soon hold a press conference.

In July 2015 the government presented a bill for so-called “national economic reconciliation,” which in practice would have provided amnesty for civil servants and businessmen linked to corruption or embezzlement of public funds.

The law was widely criticized as a set back in efforts to achieve the rule of law in the country and as a blatant example of impunity by civil society and international actors, including Pablo de Greiff, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.

Although discussion of the bill by the Commission on General Legislation of the Assembly of the Representatives of the People was suspended in July 2016, the bill has returned with the proposition of amendments to the original draft that were not made public until now, a time of new social turbulence in the country.

Always under the guise of boosting the economy, the amendments address some technical issues but do not change the ultimate goal of the initiative: granting amnesty to public officials who benefited from corruption.

Regardless of the formal changes, Tunisian civil society organizations reiterate their firm position that any amnesty-for-corruption project is against the fundamental principle of transitional justice as guaranteed under point 9 of Article 148 of the Constitution, which include the right to truth and the fight against impunity.

Far from promoting the non-repetition of the practices that impacted the country for so many decades, this measure represents the antithesis of any attempt to improve state institutions. It compromises efforts to restore citizens’ trust in them.

In support of all civic initiatives against the adoption of this bill, the signatory civil society organizations demand the withdrawal of the draft law, which is incompatible with a process of democratic transition.

The signatory groups are:

  • Avocts Sans Frontières
  • Association of Tunisian Women for Research and Development
  • Aswat Nissa
  • Al Bawsala
  • Al Karama
  • ASF
  • Citizenship and Democracy Center
  • DAAM center for Democratic Transition and Human Rights
  • Euro-med rights
  • International Center for Transitional Justice
  • Labo Démocratique
  • National Independent Coordination of Transitional Justice
  • OTED
  • OTIM
  • RTJT : Réseau tunisien de la justice transitionnelle
  • Tumed
  • Tunisian Association for Defense of Personal Freedoms
  • The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights
  • Tunisian Institute for Democracy and Development
  • Tunisian Observatory for Economy
  • Tunisian Observatory for the Independence of Judiciary
  • The Tunisian League for Human Rights Defense
  • World Organization Against Torture

Photo: Tunisian activists protest the economic reconciliation bill last July. (Lina Ben Mhenni)