Tunisia launches truth and dignity commission

09 Jun 2014

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A landmark in the country’s pursuit of transitional Justice

Tunis, Tunisia- Tunisian President, Moncef AlMarzouki, President of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), Mustapha Ben Jaafar, and Prime Minister, Mehdi Jomaa, launched today the newly established Truth and Dignity Commission (TDC) of Tunisia.

Created through the transitional justice law adopted on 15 December, 2013 by the NCA, the Commission will employ a number of judicial and non-judicial mechanisms to investigate gross human rights violations that were committed by the Tunisian State since its independence, and provide compensation and rehabilitation to victims.

The launch came at the opening of an International Conference organized by the Tunisian Ministry of Justice, Human Rights and Transitional Justice, organized in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the International Centre for Transitional justice (ICJT).

President, AlMarzouki underlined that "There can be no sustainable democracy without acknowledging and addressing mistakes of the past." He urged the government to make all necessary means available to the commission so that it can best fulfil its mission. “For its part, the Presidency of the Republic is committed to providing the Commission with available documentation of the former regime," he emphasized

The Truth and Dignity Commission is the fruition of a long, participatory process of national dialogue that was supported jointly by UNDP and OHCHR, since 2012. The dialogue contributed instrumentally to the drafting of the transitional justice law, ensuring that victims’ voices were heard and civil society’s expectations concerns were incorporated.

In his message to the launch, UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon praised the establishment of the Truth and Dignity Commission as “a bright spot of hope for the UN” adding that “its impartiality, efficiency and success will lay the foundation for Tunisia’s democracy”

UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark, in her congratulatory message stressed the “importance of the Commission’s work in meeting the expectations of the Tunisian people to see justice carried through as part of the country’s successful transition to democracy.”

Both messages were conveyed by UN Resident Coordinator in Tunisia, Mounir Tabet who stressed that “The tasks that await the Commission are huge.” He added that “the UN, and UNDP included, is committed to providing maximum support to the Commission in its endeavour to conduct its mission with independence and efficiency, within available means.”

Representatives of similar Commissions from Poland, Morocco, Peru, Guatemala and Kenya, as well as the UN Special Rapporteur for the promotion of truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-repetition, Pablo De Greiff, shared during the conference the challenges they faced in light of their respective experience.

Former President of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, underscored in a recorded message that “reconciliation is a process and not an event.” He described how “the creation of a truth commission was a critical moment for victims who, for so many years, suffered without a voice and an opportunity for those who perpetrated violence and injustice to share some of the burdens of their past.” He shared a hope that Tunisia’s achievements in drafting a new constitution and embarking on credible processes of transitional and restorative justice will serve not only Tunisians, but will as well set an example for its neighbours, in Africa and the Arab region.

Discussions in the conference also addressed the challenges of defining the place and role of the TDC in relation to other national transitional justice institutions, the role of truth commissions in catalysing social change and the contribution of civil society to processes of transitional justice.