Tunisia: A Year of Trials Under Pressure


On May 29, Tunisia’s criminal courts specializing in transitional justice marked their first year in operation. About 20 percent of the expected cases have started. But this comes in the context of strong hostility from the government, and at a time when some big, sensitive cases are also coming up.

To date, the 13 specialized chambers have examined 38 cases out of 173 cases (about 20 percent) transferred to them by the Truth and Dignity Commission, which worked for four years, until December 2018. In these 38 cases, there have been a total 108 hearings — an average of four to five hearings per case over a judicial year.

According to Lawyers without Borders (ASF), a Tunisian NGO, in only 9 of the 38 cases opened was one of the accused present at least once. In 16 cases, some of the alleged perpetrators were represented by their lawyers. In 13 other cases, ASF said, there was "a total boycott by the accused and even their lawyers." This makes these trials a bit similar to the public hearings of the truth commission, which were dominated by the voices and tears of the victims and some witnesses.

The government is currently considering a "reconciliation" bill which would scrap these chambers, against the pleas of transitional justice advocates.

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