Document - Tunisia: Two years since the uprising, justice must be done and be seen to be done

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL �PUBLIC STATEMENT

14 January 2013

AI index: MDE 30/002/2013

Tunisia: Two years since the uprising, justice must be done and be seen to be done

On the second anniversary of former President Ben Ali’s ousting from Tunisia, family members of people killed and those injured during the uprising continue to demand truth and justice. These demands have yet to be met.

Ali Mekki, President of the Association for the protection of the Rights of the Martyrs and the Injured of the Tunisian Revolution Lan Nansakoum (We will not forget you), and the brother of Abdelkader Mekki who was killed in Degueche on 11 January 2011, described to Amnesty International the anguish and frustration of families as they fail to obtain answers to their questions and the unfairness of knowing that their loved ones have been killed while some of the perpetrators are at large.

He told Amnesty International that as he and the other relatives of those killed and the injured prepared to demonstrate on 14 January, they had lost all trust in the military justice system. He added that the situation was getting worse for the families. On 7 January fifteen family members went to Sfax, about 300 km away from Degueche to attend the hearing at the military court in the case of three people killed in Degueche during the uprising, among them Ali Mekki’s brother, and two injured. He explained that when they arrived, they were told at the entrance that only one or two people per family could attend, allegedly because the courtroom could not accommodate them all. Upset, the family members refused to go in, even when the judge later allowed them to, and their lawyers refused to participate in the hearing. The hearing has been postponed until 21 January.

“The military justice system is treating us like we are the problem, like we are the enemy”, Ali Mekki said. “We have no trust in this system. We will go to the hearing on 21 January, we want the truth, but we are not expecting a fair judgment”.

He said that the judgements delivered in the cases before the first instance military courts of Kef and Tunis had made it even worse for the victims’ families by issuing judgments without revealing the truth.

When asked what needed to be done, in his opinion, for the victims and their families to obtain justice, Ali Mekki said the first step was the political will.

“The courts must be independent, and the families should not only be able to attend the trials, their concerns must be heard and taken into account”, he said.

Background

According to the National Fact Finding Commission on Abuses Committed from December 17, 2010 to the End of its Mandate (Commission nationale d’établissement des faits sur les dépassements commis entre le 17 décembre 2010 et la fin de son mandat), 338 people were killed and over 2000 were injured in the weeks before and the days immediately after Ben Ali’s departure, in different parts of Tunisia. Under the pressure of victims’ families, a number of trials of former and current officials suspected of being responsible of human rights violations are ongoing before military courts in Tunis, Kef and Sfax, some at the appeal stage. A number of high-ranking officials were tried and convicted in these proceedings, including former President Ben Ali who was sentenced in absentia by the military tribunals of Kef and Tunis to life imprisonment and 20 years’ imprisonment respectively for complicity in murder and for incitement to use arms and provoke sedition. Former Minister of the Interior Rafiq Haj Kacem was also convicted and sentenced to prison terms by both tribunals. However, only a few members of the security forces were convicted of directly killing protesters.

The Tunisian authorities provided financial compensation in the form of a lump sum distributed in two instalments in 2011 to families of those killed and to the injured. However several families of people killed told Amnesty International that they had refused to accept the second instalment as they felt justice had not been done and the truth had not been told.

In a briefing entitled “One step forward, two steps back? One year since Tunisia’s landmark elections” (MDE 30/010/2012) and published in October 2012, Amnesty International identified serious shortcomings in these judicial proceedings including the fact that the cases are being tried by military tribunals despite the principle that cases involving civilians, and cases of human rights violations, should be tried in civilian courts. During a fact-finding visit to Tunisia in September 2012 and through its ongoing monitoring of the situation Amnesty International has found concerns about the thoroughness of the investigations, the independence of military courts and the participation of the families in the proceedings. Amnesty International has also received allegations of intimidation and harassment of some family members and lawyers.

Two years have passed, and it is time for the Tunisian authorities to address, without further delay, these concerns which have been repeatedly raised by families of those killed and the injured. Amnesty International reiterates its calls on the Tunisian authorities to:

Co-operate fully with investigations into the human rights violations that occurred during the uprisings;

Ensure that victims and witnesses of those violations and their relatives and lawyers are protected from harassment and intimidation and investigate promptly any allegations of such harassment;

Allow all victims of human rights violations and their family members to participate in the judicial proceedings, including attending the trials, in they wish to do so;

Suspend all members of the security forces who are suspected of being responsible for human rights violations, pending full investigation and the conclusion of the judicial proceedings;

Ensure that adequate reparations, including medical care, rehabilitation and psychological and social services, are promptly provided to the victims of human rights violations.

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