Ten members from a commission set up to probe violence that took place last Martyrs’ Day have resigned in protest over what they say is a delayed investigation.
The members resigned April 5, just a few days before this year’s Martyrs’ Day observance.
“I have resigned because I refuse to participate in this stupidity,” Noomane Fehri, a National Constituent Assembly (NCA) member from the Al Jomhouri Party and the vice-president of the commission, told Tunisia Live in a phone interview.
On April 9th 2012, hundreds of people gathered to commemorate Martyrs’ Day and to protest against a government ban on demonstrations on Avenue Habib Bourguiba in downtown Tunis. Fehri said that the the commission has so far determined that the demonstrations were violently broken up by the police and other nonofficial actors working with the police. The violence took place before the protesters reached Avenue Bourguiba, said Fehri, and thus they were not in violation of the ban.
In June 2012, 22 NCA members were appointed to the ad-hoc commission to investigate the events and identify those responsible for the violence. The investigations, however, are still ongoing.
Fehri said that the work of the commission has been delayed because the NCA did not treat the commission as a high priority. The commission suggested creating a legal framework for its operations by integrating it within the NCA’s internal bylaws, but this has not happened.
“If the laws were to be implemented, we would be able to finish this investigation within two months,” Fehri said.
“Civil society and victims have been very supportive of our work, but we have faced a lack of cooperation from the Ministry of Interior and Tunisian public institutions,” Fehri said. He reported that Ali Laarayedh, former Minister of Interior and current Prime Minister, earlier this year told the commission members: “Who are you? Why do I have to tell you? This is a waste of time.”
“The Ministry of Interior has promised to issue a report on the investigation it opened,” said Fehri, but this has not been received.
“This issue has been closed and that there’s no point in continuing this matter,” Laarayedh said Tuesday on radio station Mosaique FM. “Only political interests can explain this matter.” He also that he had provided the commission with sufficient information for carrying out the investigation.
“For the first time a commission will investigate events related to security,” Fehri said, calling it a fundamental element for the reform of the Tunisian security sector. He added that the commission needs the support of experienced advisers to assist it in its work.
Fehri also asserted that the presidency of the commission should be assigned to an independent or opposition figure as is the case in many other countries. The current president is a member of the ruling Ennahdha party.