Tunisia ‘truth commission’ calls for govt to back courts judging torturers

Demonstrators clash with Tunisian security force personnel on Rome Avenue in Tunis on Jan. 18, 2011. The resignation of three ministers rocked Tunisia’s fledgling unity government as protesters vented their anger at the new leadership just days after the ouster of the Arab state’s strongman. (AFP/file)
Updated 15 December 2018
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Tunisia ‘truth commission’ calls for govt to back courts judging torturers

  • The commission, whose mandate was extended in the spring until the end of 2018
  • At the end of November, the commission drew up criteria for compensation that exclude those with post-2011 government

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 El Abidine Ben 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 ben Sedrine.
She called on authorities to support 13 specialized courts set up to judge the abuses, and to “clean up the security and the justice” sectors.
Compensating victims was “not a favor,” but a moral consideration, she said.
Ben 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.
“Tunisia’s authorities must now show they are serious about breaking the pattern of impunity that has perpetually haunted the country by committing to fully implement” the recommendations, said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.
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 Ben 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 specialized courts, and recommend measures to prevent any recurrence.
Operating in the only Arab Spring country which has kept to a democratic path since the 2011 revolt, 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, 3.0 million euros).


Battle for change far from over for women in new Sudan

Updated 2 min 14 sec ago
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Battle for change far from over for women in new Sudan

  • Women have been at the forefront of the revolt which led to Bashir’s overthrow by the military on April 11
  • A female lawyer was detained on the evening of Jan. 12 and escorted to “the fridge,” a grim room where interrogations are paired with extreme cold

KHARTOUM: She may have spent 40 days in jail for demonstrating against president Omar Al-Bashir who has since been toppled but activist Amani Osmane says the battle for women’s rights in Sudan is far from over.
Women have been at the forefront of the revolt which led to Bashir’s overthrow by the military on April 11 after three decades of iron-fisted rule.
Osmane, who is also a lawyer, was detained on the evening of January 12 and escorted to “the fridge,” a grim room where interrogations are paired with extreme cold.
“There are no windows, nothing, just air conditioning at full blast and the lights on 24/7,” she told AFP.
The fridge is part of a detention center run by the all-powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) in a building on the Blue Nile that runs through Khartoum.
Dozens of activists and political opponents of Bashir’s regime have passed through what NISS agents cynically refer to as “the hotel.”
Osmane, who spent 40 days behind bars after a frigid seven hours of questioning, said she was arrested “contrary to all laws... because I stand up for women in a country where they have no rights.”
Another activist, Salwa Mohamed, 21, took part each day in protests at a camp outside the army headquarters in central Khartoum that became the epicenter of the anti-Bashir revolt.
Her aim was “to have the voice of women heard” in a Muslim country where she “cannot go out alone, study abroad or dress the way I want.”
Student Alaa Salah emerged as a singing symbol of the protest movement after a picture of her in a white robe leading chanting crowds from atop a car went viral on social media.
Portraits of Salah — dubbed “Kandaka,” or Nubian queen, online — have sprouted on murals across Khartoum, paying tribute to the prominent role played by women in the revolt.
Unrest which has gripped Sudan since bread riots in December that led to the anti-Bashir uprising left scores dead.
Doctors linked to the protest movement say that 246 people have been killed since the nationwide uprising erupted, including 127 people on June 3 when armed men raided the protest camp in Khartoum.
On Wednesday, protesters and the generals who took over from Bashir finally inked a deal that aims to install a civilian administration, a key demand of demonstrators since his fall three months ago.
The accord stipulates that a new transitional ruling body be established, comprised of six civilians and five military representatives.
A general will head the ruling body during the first 21 months of a transition, followed by a civilian for the remaining 18 months, according to the framework agreement.
“We will no longer wait for our rights, we will fight to obtain them,” said Osmane, stressing that women wanted 40 percent of seats in parliament.
Amira Altijani, a professor of English at the all-female Ahfad University in Omdurman, Khartoum’s twin city, said: “This movement is an opportunity for women to have their voice heard.”
For Osmane, Bashir “hijacked” sharia laws for three decades to oppress women.
“But a new Sudan is rising, with a civilian government that will allow equality,” she said.