Tunis: A Tunisian commission tasked with securing justice for victims of decades of dictatorship called Friday at its final congress for authorities to back the work of special courts set up to judge torturers.
The body — which has faced internal disputes and political resistance arising from the return of former regime figures to government — also called for security sector reform.
Established in 2014 after the revolution that brought the downfall of dictator Zine Al Abidine Bin Ali, the Truth and Dignity Institute has a mission to “reveal the truth about the human rights violations” in Tunisia between 1955 and 2013.
It is to submit its main findings — based on interviews with nearly 50,000 witnesses — to Tunisia’s leadership by the end of the year, when its mandate ends.
The commission “will recommend the preservation of memory and the protection of the judicial process,” said its head Sihem Bin Sedrine.
She called on authorities to support 13 specialised courts set up to judge the abuses, and to “clean up the security and the justice” sectors.
Compensating victims was “not a favour”, but a moral consideration, she said.
Bin Sedrine also highlighted the importance of prosecuting “white-collar” thieves, many of whom are still in Tunisia, and forcing them to “give money back to the people”.
Amnesty International urged the authorities to adopt the commission’s proposals.
Ten former regime figures who have signed reconciliation agreements with the commission have begun repaying large sums.
The commission says it has identified about 25,000 “serious violations” against 19,252 victims committed during Bin Ali’s rule and that of his predecessor Habib Bourguiba.
There were no government representatives present at the commission’s final congress.
There were, however, two protests.
One demonstration rallied against the commission, accusing it of carrying out “vindictive justice” and falsifying facts.
In the second demonstration, dozens waved portraits of victims and chanted slogans vowing to “continue the fight” for justice.
The commission’s task was to collect and disseminate testimonies, send some of those suspected of rape, murder, torture or corruption to specialised courts, and recommend measures to prevent any recurrence.
The commission’s mandate has also included seeking national reconciliation through a revival of the North African state’s collective memory.
The commission’s mandate was extended in the spring until the end of 2018.
It has been studying more than 60,000 complaints and has this year sent dozens of cases to courts.
Around 25,000 people are eligible for compensation from the Al Karama (Dignity) Fund established in 2014, according to the commission.
It is being financed by donations, a percentage of the funds recovered through settlements and a one-time government grant of 10 million dinars ($3.4 million).