Tunisia: Specialized Criminal Chambers to hear enforced disappearance case, a first step towards accountability

The ICJ today welcomed the first referral of allegations of gross human rights violations to the recently constituted Specialized Criminal Chambers (SCC) at the Tribunal of First Instance of Gabés.

On 2 March 2018, the Truth and Dignity Commission (“Instance Vérité et Dignité”, IVD) transferred a case concerning 14 suspects and the crime of enforced disappearance to the SCC, established to bring justice and accountability for the legacy of serious human violations allegedly committed in Tunisia from 1 July 1955 to 31 December 2013.

“The IVD’s decision is an important first step in the process of ensuring accountability and dismantling the structural impunity that has prevailed over cases of gross violations of human rights in Tunisia,” said Said Benarbia, Director of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“We call on the responsible Tunisian authorities to fully support this process and remove the obstacles that continue to impede the IVD’s work, including by ensuring its full, rapid and unimpeded access to archives and to information related to the conduct of police and security forces under the former regime,” he added.

The ICJ also reiterated its previous call on the Tunisian authorities to remove the legal and practical obstacles that may hinder the SCC’s capacity to deliver justice effectively.

In two memos addressing the jurisdiction and the procedures to be applied by the SCC, the ICJ identified such obstacles and formulated recommendations for amendments and reform.

“The Government must reform the legal framework and procedures to be applied by the SCC so that they can effectively exercise their jurisdiction, establish the truth about past violations, hold those responsible to account, and deliver meaningful justice and reparation for victims,” Benarbia said.


Said Benarbia, Director of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +41 798783546, e: said.benarbia(a)icj.org


The SCC were formally established by Decree No. 2014-2887 of 8 August 2014 and have been set up within the Tribunals of First Instance of thirteen Courts of Appeal.

Under article 8 of the 2013 Transitional Justice Law, the SCC have jurisdiction over cases related to gross violations of human rights, as defined in international treaties applicable to Tunisia and in the provisions of the 2013 Law, involving “murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, torture, enforced disappearances, and death penalty without fair trial guarantees”.

The 2013 Law attributes a leading role to the IVD with respect to how cases are brought before the SCC. According to article 42 of the 2013 Law, the IVD refers to the Office of the Public Prosecutor (OPP) “cases where gross human rights violations are proven”. As of 15 June 2016, the deadline for victims to submit files, the IVD has received over 60000 cases.

Tunisia-SSC disappearances-News-2018-ARA (full story in Arabic, PDF)