Tunisia Opens First Rights Trial Since 2011 Uprising

Published May 30th, 2018 - 11:25 GMT
Lawyers in charge of the Kamal Matmati case, a member of the Islamist movement Ennahdha who was arrested in 1991 during Ben Ali's rule and tortured to death, gather in the Gabes court on May 29, 2018. (AFP/ STRINGER)
Lawyers in charge of the Kamal Matmati case, a member of the Islamist movement Ennahdha who was arrested in 1991 during Ben Ali's rule and tortured to death, gather in the Gabes court on May 29, 2018. (AFP/ STRINGER)

A Tunisian court has heard the first round of a series of alleged human rights violations cases, brought by an investigation committee, against the North African country’s former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and 13 other ex-officials.

The Truth and Dignity Commission (IVD) was established some four years ago following the toppling of Ben Ali in 2011, which sparked a wave of revolts that jolted Arab monarchies in the Middle East and North Africa.

The commission has a mandate to probe human rights violations purportedly occurred since 1957, when Habib Bourguiba became president. Its aim is holding perpetrators to account and to rehabilitate their victims.

Tuesday's first court case concerned the forced disappearance of Kamel Matmati, a member of the Islamist movement Ennahda, who was detained in 1991, during Ben Ali's rule, and later was tortured to death.

“We want those who killed him, tortured him, to be tried” and convicted, Matmati's widow Latifa said, adding, “We have spent terrible years. The hardest of all is” that his body has not been returned to the family.

Ben Ali, who lives in exile in Saudi Arabia, is being tried in absentia. His interior minister Abdallah Kallel along with 12 other former officials, accused of voluntary homicide, are also being tried in absentia.

“It is an exceptional day,” defense lawyer Habib Kheder said, adding, “It is rare for results to emerge from a case of forced disappearance... we know part of the truth but the rest must come to light.”

Since the IVD commenced its work, it has received over 62,000 allegations of human rights violations and has interviewed close to 50,000 people.

It has referred at least 32 cases of “serious violations” of human rights to Tunisian courts.

The North African country has been hailed for its relatively smooth democratic transition, but it is still experiencing economic and political turbulence.

This article has been adapted from its original source.


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