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Human rights must be at centre of Tunisia’s transitional justice efforts – UN expert

Special Rapporteur Pablo de Greiff.
UN Photo/Violaine Martin
Special Rapporteur Pablo de Greiff.

Human rights must be at centre of Tunisia’s transitional justice efforts – UN expert

Noting that the transitional justice process in Tunisia faces some serious challenges, an independent United Nations expert today urged authorities there to put human rights at the centre of their efforts in this area.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Truth, Justice, Reparations and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence, Pablo de Greiff, welcomed the Government’s efforts to implement transitional justice measures over the last two years, especially in the areas of truth and reparations.

“I commend the Tunisian Government for the efforts to create a legal framework that refers to the four elements of transitional justice, namely, truth, justice, reparations, and guarantees of non-recurrence,” he said in a news release issued at the end of his first official mission to the country.

“However, the transitional justice process in Tunisia continues to face some serious challenges,” added Mr. de Greiff, a human rights expert from Colombia who has worked with different transitional justice bodies around the world.

The Special Rapporteur’s visit took place amid the country’s constitutional drafting process and the work towards the adoption of a law on transitional justice.

Tunisia has been moving towards becoming a society based on the rule of law in the wake of an uprising by its people, in 2010-2011, in which they demanded democracy and freedom, leading to the removal of the long-standing regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Their actions sparked a wave of popular uprisings, known as the Arab Spring, that brought down regimes in Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

Mr. de Greiff urged the North African country’s authorities to further their efforts on prosecutions, in the areas of institutional reform of the judiciary and the security sector, including vetting, which are essential to guarantee the non-recurrence of violations.

The Government must put the concept of human rights unambiguously at the centre of all transitional justice efforts, he stated, adding that a gender sensitive approach is also needed.

“Establishing effective measures dealing with past abuses requires deliberately designed mechanisms of institutional coordination,” he emphasized. “I therefore propose that an inter-ministerial coordination body be established to face the important challenges that lie ahead, and that guarantee adequate service delivery to victims.”

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back, in an unpaid capacity, on specific human rights themes. Mr. de Greiff will report on his mission to Tunisia at a session of the Council in 2013.