The Tunisian Interim Government held an early celebration of International Human Rights Day, today December 8 in Carthage. Entitled “Revolutionary Tunisia is grateful for you,” the celebration aims to commemorate Tunisian and foreign human rights activists who participated in toppling the dictatorship of ousted president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.
President Moncef Marzouki, Head of the National Constituent Assembly Mustapha Ben Jaafar and Minister of Human Rights and Transitional Justice Samir Dilou delivered opening speeches that were followed by awarding prominent human rights figures, such as Violette Daguerre, Sihem Ben Sedrine, Ayachi Hamami and Radhia Nassraoui.
“Tunisia is also grateful for anonymous heroes who were victims of oppression as well and yet no one has heard of their names,” stated Marzouki. Additionally, he denied that the supremacy of international human rights conventions might not be compatible with the Islamic identity of the country.
Ben Jaafar stressed the importance of human rights activists during the dictatorship period. “One of the dictatorship’s strategies was to keep us in isolation, and to make us feel that we were on our own. However, you helped us break free [from that isolation.] So thank you for that,” he added. Tunisian civil society has been very active since the Revolution and has exercised continuous positive pressure on the government, he argued.
Representatives of both Tunisian civil society and international human rights organizations attended the ceremony. Human Rights Watch-Tunisia, International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, Tunisian League of Human Rights, and Tunisian Association of Democratic Women were some of the honored organizations.
Among the attendees were relatives of former political prisoners and human rights activists who are still seeking justice for their husbands and brothers. “Look at where you are today, and look at where that who used to oppress you is,” said Dilou, a former political prisoner himself.
However, representatives of the Association of Tunisian Judges, who attended the ceremony, expressed dissatisfaction over not being awarded in the occasion. They demanded a recognition for their role in the Tunisian Revolution and an official apology from the president.
Celebrated annually and worldwide on December 10, the occasion is to commemorate the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly.