Document - Tunisia one year on: no justice for victims of the uprising
16 December 2011
Index: MDE 30/024/2011
Tunisia one year on: no justice for victims of the uprising
A year after a young Tunisian street vendor set himself alight, triggering an uprising which led to the toppling of his country’s government, many Tunisians say their demands for justice have yet to be fulfilled.
The newly-announced government must ensure that the needs of the victims and their right to truth, justice and reparation are met. It now has the opportunity to show its commitment to human rights and its will to break with the legacy of human rights abuses of the past.
Mohamed Bouazizi’s desperate act on 17 December 2010 prompted a wave of protests across Tunisia and the Arab world, calling for freedom, an end to corruption and better living conditions, which led to the demise of Tunisia’s long time autocratic and repressive government – followed by the fall of the authorities in Egypt and Libya.
In Tunisia more than 234 people were killed when security forces brutally crushed the protests that continued until President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali fled the country on 14 January. A further 74 prisoners were reportedly killed in incidents related to the uprising.
But many Tunisians say the interim governments failed to respond to their calls for justice for those killed and injured and did not do enough to improve living conditions. They are now calling on the new democratically elected government to take concrete action without delay to address their grievances..
The families of those killed or injured by government forces have told Amnesty International that many of the perpetrators are still free - and that some have even been promoted to higher positions.
While the interim government announced in March that the notoriously repressive Directorate of State Security had been disbanded, there are allegations that the members of these forces have simply been integrated into other security forces.
Some of the accused high level security officers initially simply refused to be questioned. And although investigations into some cases were initiated by civilian courts, judges were sometimes unwilling or unable to carry out full and independent investigations. Amnesty International said that it is high time that these families are given justice and reparation.
Investigations into the events of December 2010-January 2011 were transferred to the military courts last summer and Amnesty International cautions that procedures before these courts need to fully meet international fair trial standards which Tunisia is obliged to uphold.
The Commission formed in February to investigate abuses during the uprising has yet to make public any results of its investigations eleven months later.
Many victims say they were never contacted by the Commission, including some who sent their medical records through the post.
In November, following protests and hunger strikes by injured protesters calling for justice and reparation, the government issued a decree providing for the payment of financial and medical compensation for the injured and the families of those who died.
But victim’s families say this is not enough.
The mother of Rashad al-Arabi, who was left paralysed after being shot in the chest during a protest in Ben Arous, says it does not bring them truth or justice. She describes the decree as “words on paper to sedate us, and nothing more.”
Amnesty International said that the new Tunisian government must spare no effort to ensure that the victims of the uprising receive the justice they have been waiting for and deserve. The organization said that those responsible for these terrible abuses up and down the chain of command must be held to account.
Tunisians also feel that the economic and social demands behind last year’s uprising are being ignored. Protests have continued in Tunis and other cities, including Gafsa and Kasserine. There have also been several reports of torture and ill-treatment by officials, a practice common under Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. People in Kasserine have told Amnesty International that they have suffered violations at the hands of local police. Two men arrested in March after the burning of a police station during a protest there said they were beaten repeatedly to make them sign incriminating testimonies.
International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK www.amnesty.org