A resident of central Tunisia gestures
during a demonstration in front of the
Government Palace, January 2011
(FETHI BELAID/Getty Images)
The international conference on transitional justice ‘Addressing the Past, Building the Future: Justice in Times of Transition’ concluded today in Tunis, following two days of discussions on justice models and measures implemented in transitions.
The conference explored justice-related issues arising from recent developments in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere in the region, pairing international experiences with current issues facing societies transitioning to democracy. The discussions largely focused on the situation in Tunisia, with participants seeking to use lessons learned abroad and examine whether they can be applied in the local setting.
The first panel discussion covered transitional justice in post-authoritarian settings, with particular focus on experiences from Latin America. Speakers and participants emphasized the need for a holistic and creative approach to transitional justice which takes into account the unique circumstances of the Tunisia case. Questions and debate focused on criminal justice as an integral part of the transition process, but one that must be implemented alongside other measures, such as reparations, vetting, or truth-seeking.
The next session continued discussion of criminal justice and judicial accountability. Speakers highlighted the hurdles facing criminal justice in transitional contexts, including case complexity, the large numbers of both perpetrators and victims, and limitations of criminal trials to provide adequate compensation. Ensuing participant dialogue focused on the need for reform and strengthening of investigative and prosecutorial bodies within the Tunisian judiciary, and underscored that doubt exists within the Tunisian public forum in regards to the judiciary’s independence.
Director of ICTJ's Research Unit, PabloDe Greiff
discusses challenges of vetting.
The final panel discussion on Thursday focused on security sector reform (SSR)—the process of changing once-abusive institutions into ones responsive to the needs of society—and vetting, a process by which public employees are screened to ensure they are qualified for their positions. SSR poses particular challenge to countries in the region that do not have a robust history of reforming the security sector. Participants discussed the possibilities of re-education and training for security-sector personnel, and considered the possible dangers of vetting.