Tunisia's protesters still waiting for justice

Tunisia's protesters still waiting for justice
A Human Rights Watch report labels the transitional justice process in Tunisia as "flawed".
2 min read
14 January, 2015
Tunisian protesters still seek justice for crimes committed during the revolution [AFP]
Four years after the fall of Tunisian autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the families of the 132 protesters who died, and the hundreds injured at the hands of security forces during the uprising which ousted him are yet to receive justice, according to a Human Rights Watch report released to coincide with the anniversary.

Flawed Accountability: Shortcomings of Tunisia's Trials for Killings during the Uprising
notes many flaws within the judicial process that have resulted in only a handful of officials being successfully prosecuted on charges of killing protesters.

Ben Ali lives in exile in Saudi Arabia but was tried in absentia and convicted in June 2012, along with the former minister of interior, Rafiq Haj Kacem and 26 others.

Almost two years later, a military court of appeal heavily reduced the sentences meted out to all defendants other than Ben Ali.

"Tunisia's efforts in holding officials to account for the killings committed during the uprising have faced legal difficulties," Amna Guellali, the Tunisia and Algeria researcher at Human Rights Watch, told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

As a result of old laws being used in the trials, the defendants were tried in military courts, which HRW labelled as a flaw in the justice process. Military courts "resulted in extensive procedural delays" as cases that had already begun in civil courts were transferred across and re-started.

The report also pointed out that there was a "perception on the part of victims that the executive had undue influence on the military courts' decision to hand down lenient sentences on those convicted".

Other flaws included weak evidence gathering, flaws in legal reasoning, lenient sentences or acquittals, a lack of adequate law or command responsibility and a lack of political will to extradite Ben Ali.

"The failure of the Tunisian authorities to put enough pressure on Saudi Arabia to extradite Ben Ali... has led to a gross weakening of the path towards justice, and resulted in the prosecution... being unable to question the two main defendants, as well as specifying Ben Ali's role, and the role of other officials, in the killing of protesters," Guellali said.