Tunisia: Thousands of cases of human rights violations filed into databases

Manifestation in memory of
victims in violence,
(Photo: S. Rougeaux/ASF)

Eight Tunisian human rights associations, headed by Avocats Sans Frontières, have categorized 7,454 cases of human rights violations and filed them into databases. A better knowledge of that information will contribute to the transitional justice process currently underway in the country that is the beacon of hope for the Arab Spring.

Operational in Tunisia since the start of the year, Avocats Sans Frontières has just closed its first project: the management of thousands of cases of human rights violations collected by eight Tunisian associations: Tunisian League for Human Rights, Tunisian Democratic Women’s Association (both focal points of Social Watch), Association of Tunisian Women for Research and Development, National Council for Freedoms in Tunisia, International Association for the Support of Political Prisoners, World Organization Against Torture in Tunisia, Organization for Liberty and Equity, and the Association of Families of Martyrs and Wounded of the Revolution.

The project is aimed to help these associations to efficiently organize their files, store them and better manage the information available, such as the type of victims, the violations and the profiles of the perpetrators.

The organizations carried out the tasks of archiving 7,454 cases of victims as well as managing the information. Avocats Sans Frontières provided the necessary training and set up the common database. The Government of Switzerland funded the project through its Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

This archiving was not an easy task, due to the physical deterioration of a certain number of files, disappearance of others due to sabotage under the old regime, or even incapacity of victims and their families to provide details about the harm they suffered.

Despite these difficulties, the project resulted in positive outcomes. “The work on analysing and collating the information recounted by the victims has allowed the associations involved in the project to share their practice in running files, helping and accompanying victims”, explains Solène Rougeaux, head of the Avocats Sans Frontières’ mission in Tunis.

Managing and putting together the data provided a sort of map of the injustices committed under the old regime. “These databases are an invaluable source for monitoring the respect of freedoms in the country”, says Rawdha Gharbi from the Tunisian League for Human Rights, which participated in the project. “Thanks to this information we can draft reports and reinforce our advocacy on the need for justice, which is an essential part of the democratic transition process that Tunisia is currently going through”.

A year and a half after the revolution, the Tunisian civil society has still not succeeded in obtaining the setting up of mechanisms which would establish the truth about the abuses perpetrated by those in power since 1987, the year of the coup by Ben Ali, or indeed since 1956, the year of the country’s independence. The crimes of the past consist of torture and imprisonment, as well as economic and social crimes such as corruption and embezzlement. “The victims of these crimes must be acknowledged. We are therefore going to continue our work supporting the NGOs for human rights and legal professionals”, concludes Solène Rougeaux. “The Tunisian justice must be accessible for all and should help re-establish confidence between the citizens and those in power”.

Avocats Sans Frontières: http://bit.ly/RwmP8t