Tunisia: parliament is failing victims of serious human rights violations
The ICJ today called on the Tunisian Parliament to reverse its decision of 26 March 2018 and allow the Truth and Dignity Commission (IVD) to carry out its mandate for at least another year.
The IVD should be in the position to finalize its investigations of past serious human rights violations in the country and, when appropriate, refer cases to the Specialized Criminal Chambers (SCC), the ICJ added.
Since its decision, the Parliament has not considered or adopted any measures to address the legal and practical consequences, including how incomplete investigations by the IVD will be handled, how other investigations will be transferred to the SCC and by whom, how evidence will be preserved and protected, how the documents and the material gathered by the IVD will properly be archived, and what would happen if the IVD were unable to complete the drafting of the final report.
The initial four-year term of the IVD ends on 31 May 2018.
“It’s absolutely irresponsible for the Tunisian Parliament to thwart the whole transitional justice process and curtail the work of the IVD without providing any path forward,” said Said Benarbia, ICJ MENA Director.
“As one of the three branches of government, the Parliament must abide by Tunisia’s obligations under international law to establish the truth about past human rights violations, bring the perpetrators to account, and provide victims with effective remedies and reparation,” he added.
The March decision runs counter to all these obligations.
It denies the rights of victims, and broader society, to know the truth, including about the circumstances and reasons that led to decades of serious human rights violations in the country.
The IVD has not been able to finalize its investigations or produce its final report.
It also shields those responsible from criminal accountability. Only eight cases have so far been referred by the IVD to the SCC.
The fate of cases that have been investigated but are not referred before 31 May 2018 remains unclear. The IVD reportedly received some 62’712 complaints.
“The Parliament is abdicating its responsibility to respect and protect victims’ rights,” Benarbia said.
“Instead of playing cynical political games that can only foster impunity, the Parliament should reverse its decision and remove all the obstacles that might impede the IVD’s work in ensuring accountability for past abuses, ” he added.
Said Benarbia, Director of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +41798783546, e: said.benarbia(a)icj.org
Under the 2013 law on transitional justice, the IVD initially had a four-year term, with the possibility of renewal for a single additional year, on the basis of a reasoned decision by the IVD.
The 2013 law provided that the IVD’s decision on renewal should be submitted to the Parliament.
The law is however silent as to whether the submission of the IVD decision was simply a matter of notification, or required approval of Parliament to be effective.
In any event, 68 members of the Parliament voted on 26 March against extending the term of the IVD for another year.
Under its bylaws, for decisions of Parliament to be valid they must be adopted by at least 72 of its members.
The apparent lack of quorum for the Parliament’s 26 March decision has only introduced more uncertainty and confusion, further complicating the position for the IVD and others, including most notably the victims themselves.
On 24 May 2018, the IVD and the Minister in charge of relations with constitutional bodies, civil society and human rights issued a joint statement reiterating Tunisia’s commitments to the transitional justice process as provided by the Constitution.
In the statement, the IVD was requested to transfer all cases concerning serious human rights violations to the SCC, to establish criteria on the basis of which reparation for victims will be provided, to establish compensation criteria for the Victims Fund, and to send the final report to the President of the Republic, the President of the Parliament and the President of the Government.
Tunisia-IVD Parliament-News-2018-ARA (full story in Arabic, PDF)