Tunisia – Together with the Tunisian people for a democratic and pluralist transition

Press release
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The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) is carefully watching developments in the political situation in Tunisia following the departure of former President Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali and in the framework of preparation for a real political and democratic transition. These are significant developments and may symbolise an opening that many communities of the Arab world are waiting for.

The first announcements made by the authorities currently in charge of the transition constitute important steps in response to several demands that the Human Rights organisations and the United Nations Human Rights protection mechanisms have made for many years.

These announcements come at a time when the security situation remains fragile, particularly with the difficult demobilisation of the presidential guard of former President Ben-Ali and of other police units and which are likely to increase the chaos. In addition, the formation of a national unity government responsible for ensuring the transition before the next elections remains complex.

FIDH welcomes the initial announcements, including the following:

 the release of prisoners of opinion and the announcement of their imminent amnesty;

 the lifting of acts of accusation against the Tunisian Human Rights League (Ligue tunisienne des droits de l’Homme) and the announcement that organisations that have not been recognised so far, particularly the FIDH member organisation the National Council for Liberties in Tunisia (Conseil National pour les Libertés en Tunisie), which will be able to register and work freely to take part in protecting Human Rights;

 the lifting of restrictions on access, the announcement of respect for freedom of expression and access to information, especially on the Internet;

 the setting up of three commissions, each presided by independent personalities of repute, which will be concerned with political and institutional reforms, clarifying responsibility for the crimes committed since 17 December, and with examining the phenomena of corruption throughout the country. Their respective mandates are challenges that are particularly serious and difficult to carry out.

For FIDH, the three commissions of enquiry must elucidate the individual and collective responsibilities of the Tunisian authorities in committing serious human rights violations and provide victims of these crimes with the prospect of reparation. FIDH believes the moment is right for these commissions to prepare the establishment of a “truth and justice” commission made up of representatives of civil society and independent bodies so that they can expose the Human Rights violations committed under the regime, and to recommend particular political changes in support of or to monitor the three commissions.

The mission of these three commissions is ambitious as it is essential in accompanying the change from a dictatorial regime to a free and democratic society. It will also be hard, since authoritarian reflexes have affected a society that has been deeply hurt.

FIDH calls on the Tunisian authorities to take advantage of international support, in particular the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Union, to accompany implementation of the mandates of each of these commissions, to guarantee their independence and to highlight recommendations that are useful and relevant for Tunisia. FIDH has met the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to make its recommendations.

FIDH calls on the international community overall to support these democratic and pluralistic developments, including with respect to any real or possible pressure from the country’s neighbouring states.

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