Anger as Ben Ali Era Crooks Offered Amnesty Damaging the Tunisia Revolution

Published September 14th, 2017 - 02:14 GMT
Tunisian activists fear that the country’s revolution could be in jeopardy (مانيش مسامح Manich Msamah)
Tunisian activists fear that the country’s revolution could be in jeopardy (مانيش مسامح Manich Msamah)

 

  • Tunisia has passed the controversial 'Economic Reconciliation' law by 117 votes to nine
  • The bill was passed on Wednesday night despite months of widespread opposition from activists and civil society groups
  • The new law will allow officials from the Ben Ali regime to escape prosecution for corruption offences
    Analyst Dr Zied Mhirsi believes "This law also is the last blow to a weak transitional justice process."

Tunisian activists fear that the country’s revolution could be in jeopardy after the country’s controversial 'Economic Reconciliation' law was given the green light on Wednesday.

The bill, which passed by 117 votes to nine, will provide an amnesty for corrupt officials from the Ben Ali era.

Under the law, officials who made money from corruption can avoid prosecution, provided they return the loot along with a penalty.

The new law is not applicable to those who made personal financial gains from corruption, including businessmen favored by the old regime.

The law was spearheaded by current President Beji Caid Essebsi, a former figure in the Ben Ali regime.

Essebsi's secular Nidaa Tounes party and their Islamist political partners in the Ennahda Movement both backed the controversial law, which was first proposed in 2015.

Essebsi claims that the law will draw a line under the past and encourage future foreign investment into the North African state.

However, activists and opposition politicians believe that the law marks a shift away from the democratic process and a return to the ways of the old regime.

Tunisian political analyst Dr. Zied Mhirsi believes that the law is yet another sign that the current government is not interested in the goals of the 2011 revolution.  

“There are two things here: the way the law passed and the content of the law. I have been extremely disappointed by the way this law was passed, four attempts to pass it, a huge waste of the parliament precious time while so many crucial bills are put on hold,” he said.

“This bill was one of the very few bills proposed by the presidency while so many other more important bills could have been proposed, and the fact that it was backed by Ennahda shows clearly where the priorities of the political elite lie,” he added.

Thousands of Tunisians took to the streets to protest against the law, which has finally been pushed through on the fourth attempt.

“It also shows that even if civil society criticized the project, mobilized large groups of young people it still failed to block the process,” he said.

“I do not think folks in the Parliament care about the revolution's goals that much,” Mhirsi added.


The news that the bill had passed sparked anger among opposition politicians.

"I congratulate you on the return of the dictatorial state and reconciliation with the corrupt," Ahmed Seddik a deputy of the Popular Front said.

"Tunisians will not forgive you," he added.

"This law is an advanced stage of counter-revolution," politician Ammar Amroussia said.

Many of those accused of corruption under Ben Ali were considered economically important to the state.
Worryingly, Dr. Mhirsi also believes that the law could even signal the failure of the failure of the country’s transitional justice program.

“No one from Nida Tounes or the presidency was able to give a list of the number of people affected by this law and the benefits of this law beyond the alleviation of suffering of the people affected,” he said.

“It is hard for regular people to understand the impact of this law. This law also is the last blow to a weak transitional justice process that took much longer than expected and seems heading towards failure,” he said.

“It is certainly a victory for Essebsi and evidence of his tremendous influence on politics in today’s Tunisia. This bill wasn't a priority and the fact that so much time was lost for it to pass was definitely against the interest of the people,” he added.


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