Torturer's confessions stir controversy in Tunisia

Torturer's confessions stir controversy in Tunisia
Televised extracts from an interview with one of Ben Ali's torturers have provoked an outcry as citizens attempt to come to grips with the country's dark past.
3 min read
02 February, 2015
Demonstrators in Tunis hold pictures of people thought to have been tortured to death [Anadolu]
Extracts from a TV interview with a security officer responsible for torture in Tunisia have unleashed a storm of public controversy.

The Tunisian al-Hiwar channel aired a one-minute advert composed of extracts from an interview with security officer Kamel Mraihi - despite reported requests from the Tunisian General Prosecution not to broadcast the interview.

It is thought that parts of the interview regarding torture under the regime of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali are particularly sensitive.

Mraihi, commonly known as "Chakif", was apparently known for his cruelty and the diverse methods of torture he employed.
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The Independent High Authority of Audiovisual Communications (known by its French acronym HAICA) also asked the channel not to air the interview with Mraihi.

According to HAICA member Khaled el-Krichi, the Truth and Dignity Commission (TDC), which started work last year to address the human rights violations committed since Tunisia's independence in 1956, had invited Mraihi to appear before it and testify.

The Commission has received nearly 4,000 complaints regarding human rights violations thus far.


Mohammad Fatati, is the head of the Tunisian Association for Prisoners of Conscience. "What the channel aired was shameless and provocative for the feelings of those who spent years under torture in Tunisian prisons," he told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

"It is also disrespectful to the memory of those who were tortured to death... I find it ironic that torturers are enjoying their freedom, and even taking part in television shows to recount their revolting experiences."

Fatati demanded that perpetrators of torture be held accountable by the due process of the law.

You cannot build a society's awareness by banning content, but by working for the rights of victims and punishing the perpetrators.
- Monther Cherni, OTCC

Fatati said the methods of torture used on him and other prisoners were countless, including stress positions, waterboarding, torture of the genitals, "and even sometimes torturing family members to break the prisoners psychologically".

Mondher Cherni, head of the Organisation Against Torture in Tunisia (known by its French acronym OTCC), told al-Araby that the torture of the former regime was "a disgrace for Tunisia".

"Interviewing a security officer on TV to recount his experience as a torturer means that impunity and the lack of accountability for torture only add to Tunisia's shame," Cherni added.

"We need prompt accountability for everyone who has ever practiced torture... They need to become an example for the people to understand what has happened.

"You cannot build a society's awareness by banning content, but rather by working to ensure the rights of victims and punishing the perpetrators as a lesson to all in the future," Cherni said.

Accountability for the victims and perpetrators of torture and reparations are all part of the issue, which has come to be part of Tunisia's public consciousness only after Ben Ali was ousted.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.