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).


US has ‘no plan’ as Syria pullout proceeds: ex-envoy

Updated 21 January 2019
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US has ‘no plan’ as Syria pullout proceeds: ex-envoy

  • Former envoy Brett McGurk says the absence of a plan is increasing the risk to US forces
  • Trump announced the US withdrawal because, he said, Daesh had been defeated

WASHINGTON: The United States has no plan for Syria as it proceeds with President Donald Trump’s order to pull American troops out of the country, a top official who quit in protest at the policy said on Sunday.
Brett McGurk, who was America’s envoy to the US-led global coalition against the Daesh group, said “there’s no plan for what’s coming next” and this is increasing the risk to US forces.
He spoke in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation,” after a suicide bomber on Wednesday killed four Americans and 15 others in the northern Syrian town of Manbij. It was the deadliest attack to hit US troops since they deployed to Syria in 2014 to assist local forces against the Daesh group.
The bombing came after Trump’s announcement last month that he was ordering a full withdrawal of the 2,000 US troops from Syria, shocking allies and leading to the resignations of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as well as McGurk.
Senior US officials have since given contradictory statements about US intentions, but the Pentagon said it had begun the withdrawal, although how long it would take remained uncertain.
“The president has made that clear — we are leaving. And that means our force should be really with one mission: to get out and get out safely,” McGurk told “Face the Nation.”
But he added: “Right now we do not have a plan. It increases a vulnerability of our force... It is increasing the risk to our people on the ground in Syria and will open up space for Daesh,” another acronym for IS.
Most importantly, said McGurk, the US cannot expect “a partner” such as NATO-ally Turkey to take the place of the United States.
“That is not realistic. And if our forces are under order to withdraw, as at the same time they are trying to find some formula for another coalition partner to come in, that is not workable. That is not a viable plan.”
Trump announced the US withdrawal because, he said, IS had been defeated — something McGurk and other experts dispute.
McGurk has previously warned that the US pullout would shore up Syria’s President Bashar Assad and lessen America’s leverage with Russia and Iran.