Tunisia & Transitional Justice

On Thursday, February 7, 2013, members of the New York Law School community and Transitional Justice Network had the opportunity of hearing from Human Rights Officer Dr. Kora Andrieu on the continuing transitional justice process in Tunisia. The talk could not have come at a more relevant time as Tunisian opposition leader Chokri Belaid was shot outside his home just the day prior. Dr. Andrieu spoke honestly and openly about her work in the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Tunis.

In my opinion, Tunisia faces many challenges as the country seeks to effectively implement transitional justice into their reconstruction in light of the Arab Spring. Since the departure of former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on January 14, 2011, a transitional government has been put in place and a new assembly has been working on drafting a new constitution. Even though there continues to be a very unstable political and legal regime, transitional justice is still being implemented through its four stages – prosecution, truth seeking, reparations, and vetting. A Ministry of Transitional Justice was created in April 2012, causing some to question the idea of how an established ministry can adequately be “transitional.” Nevertheless, the Ministry has conducted consultations with individuals across Tunisia, which resulted in the draft law’s creation.

A number of criticisms of the new Tunisia were raised during the dialogue between students, professors, and professionals in the human rights field. Yet despite all the criticisms, it was very evident, as Dr. Andrieu reaffirmed, that transitional justice is working in Tunisia, unlike in other Arab Spring countries such as Egypt and Libya where it is a much slower and more difficult process. The implementation of the four stages of transitional justice has proven to be challenging yet has clearly begun in Tunisia. This evidence is encouraging to promoters of human rights and transitional justice around the world, as it becomes clearer that transitional justice can work, even in the Middle East.

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