On February 12th, 2012, Amnesty International called on the protection of the victims and families of 300 or so Tunisians that have been killed amid the country’s upheaval last winter. According to the organization, they have been repeatedly threatened by members of the nation’s internal security forces “either directly or in public statements on television or other forms of media.”
The lives and careers of many victims and their families, particularly those called in to testify as witnesses during the trials of Thala and Kasserine – two regions in the country’s interior – are being threatened. Amnesty International declared in their statement that, “Lawyers have told Amnesty International of direct threats they have received and of witnesses being threatened with losing their jobs.”
The head of the Thala and Kasserine file at the Ministry of Human Rights and Transitional Justice, Chaker Darwich, said that the ministry has no knowledge of the threats that Amnesty International deplored in its statement. “While we have not heard of any instances of direct threats, we are ready to deal with every complaint on a case by case basis if need be,” he said.
The threats are symptomatic of many problems plaguing the country’s effort to guarantee victim reparations and establish transitional justice in Tunisia.
The judiciary and internal security structures in Tunisia are two of the least touched sectors following the ouster of former president Ben Ali. While numerous ministries and institutions have begun a steady process of internal reform, these two sectors remain largely unchanged.
The absence of reform has translated into countless postponed and delayed trials, and judges who are still protecting vested interests of the past. Many of those charged with the killing of protesters remain at large – some even remain in government. For example, Moncef Ladjimi, the former head of the riot police in Tunisia, was recently transferred in January 2012 from his post to a job within the Ministry of the Interior. Ladjimi was accused of being responsible for the deaths of over twenty people who died in Kasserine and Thala, and after the postponement of his case twice so far, he has yet to be brought to justice.
Darwich said that the ministry plans to hold a national congress with major “political and civil society stakeholders” to draft a set of laws that facilitate the process of ensuring a just transition to democracy. The set of laws will be presented to the national constituent assembly for approval. He also mentioned that the ministry will hire 2,500 employees to work specifically in the field of transitional justice.
In regards to reforming the judiciary, Darwich said that, “It is preferable that the judiciary take it upon itself to reform its internal structure.”