Tunisia: Struggle for justice and reparation continues for victims 10 years after the revolution

Ten years after Tunisia’s Revolution, which sparked a wave of uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa, victims are still struggling to obtain justice and reparations for grave human rights violations committed during the revolution, between 17 December 2010 and 14 January 2011, said Amnesty International today in a detailed statement.

Successive Tunisian governments have failed to prioritize accountability for human rights violations committed by security forces. Impunity for acts of torture and other ill-treatment or excessive use of force of the past has contributed to a never-ending cycle of violations.

Since May 2018, at least 10 trials relating to the violent repression of the revolution were initiated before the Specialized Criminal Chambers created by the Transitional Justice law to address crimes of the past – but no verdict has been handed down. Former and current Ministry of Interior officials have refused to respond to court summons to appear.

“These trials may be the last chance to achieve accountability for the crimes committed and to deliver justice to the victims and their families. But they have been significantly undermined by the persistent obstruction from the security sector. Security officers have ignored court summons and orders, egged on by their unions who have called for a boycott of the proceedings,” said Amna Guellali, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“Former or current Ministry of Interior officials accused of arbitrary killing of protesters and other human rights violations committed during the revolution defy the judicial system by failing to appear before court hearings time and again, illustrating the sense of impunity they continue to enjoy in Tunisia today.” 

The creation of the mechanisms of transitional justice will remain one of the notable legacies of Tunisia’s revolution. Amnesty International calls on the Tunisian authorities to support the process by bringing suspected perpetrators to justice and provide guarantees for the diligent prosecution of those accused of the killings and other grave violations against peaceful protesters.

During Tunisia’s revolution, security forces killed 132 protesters and injured 4000, according to the National Commission to investigate abuses and violations during the revolution. In its aftermath a law on transitional justice was adopted, creating a truth commission called the Truth and Dignity Commission (IVD). The IVD commenced its work in 2016, taking the testimony of thousands of victims and witnesses, and two years later referred 12 indictments to the specialized courts which resulted in 10 trials.

For the past two years, there have been at least 23 hearings relating to the trials which have taken place before the Specialized Criminal Chambers in different tribunals, including in Tunis, Le Kef and Sidi Bouzid. Dozens of victims and witnesses have testified in court, often in the absence of the accused. However, no case has reached the pleading phase to date and not a single judgment or verdict has been handed down.

One of the protesters, killed in Thala on 8 January 2011, was 19-year-old Marwen Jamli. His father, Kamel Jamli, told Amnesty International he and his family had spent years shuttling back and forth to the military court in Kef, then in Tunis and now in Kasserine, in the hope of getting justice:

“Our children did not die for nothing; it is our duty to fight for justice now so that nobody else has to suffer what we are suffering. They sacrificed their lives, we will make the sacrifices needed too … We will now keep going to Kasserine no matter how tired and old we get. We know who killed our sons in Thala, we know that they are still in active duty and that is something we have to live with every day until justice is achieved. At least they have to confess, tell the truth about what they did and express remorse.”

Mimoun Khadhraoui, whose brother, Abdel Basset Khadhraoui, was shot dead by police on the streets of Tunis on 13 January 2011, said he and his family would never stop their quest for the truth.

“…the people that believe the most in the transitional justice process are the families of the martyrs of the revolution. The proof is that we are still here 10 years later. We are tired and frustrated but we will not give up. This is beyond our right to justice or my brother’s case, it is the right of the Tunisian people to truth and justice.” 

Tunisia has an obligation, under international law, to guarantee the right to effective remedy for victims of human rights violations. This includes the right to truth, by revealing the facts; justice, by investigating past violations and prosecuting the suspected perpetrators; and reparation by providing full and effective reparation to the victims and their families, in its five forms: restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition.

“With the risk of judicial rotations further obstructing ongoing trials, the High Judicial Council must ensure that the judges of the specialized criminal chambers are enabled to carry out their duties and that the annual judges’ rotation does not adversely impact the trials underway or result in undue delays,” said Amna Guellali.