Documents on Tunisia

Examining the past in Tunisia should have been an easy task given that the country has had a state archive since 1874. But many documents were never even sent there. Even the Commission for Truth and Dignity appointed by Parliament complained that it was denied access to important documents. It did, however, manage to document more than 62,000 cases of human rights violations. Two earlier commissions on corruption and police action during the revolution also collected extensive material.

Credit: Hubertus Knabe

Coming to Terms with the Past by Law

Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali ruled Tunisia with an iron hand for 24 years. His secret police were notorious throughout in the Arab world, as was the kleptomania of his wife and family. On December 15, 2013, almost three years after his overthrow, the Constituent Assembly passed a law on transitional justice in Tunisia. There had been lengthy discussions about what form and direction the law should take.

The law “on establishing and organizing transitional justice,” as the process of coming to terms with the past is called in international parlance, describes a broad spectrum of tasks. It aims to address serious human rights violations committed since July 1, 1955 and to bring those responsible to justice. To this end, the law provides for the establishment of special chambers at the criminal courts. It also calls for a Commission for Truth and Dignity, which is responsible, among other things, for setting up a committee to vet civil servants and implement institutional reforms. The law came into force on December 31, 2013.

The English translation of the law is here.


Website of the Tunisian National Archive

Website of the Tunisian Truth Commission


After the Dictatorship. Instruments of Transitional Justice in Former Authoritarian Systems – An International Comparison

A project at the Department of Modern History at the University of Würzburg

Twitter: @afterdictatorship
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With financial support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development 


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