Since its independence in 1955, victims of the Tunisian State suffered gross human rights violations under a regime that lasted until 2013 with serious implications. The TDC sought to preserve the evidence for public memory and provide compensation and rehabilitation to victims.
Problems and Purpose
Between the years 1955 and 2013, the Tunisian people suffered gross human rights violations, financial corruption and embezzlement of public funds by the Tunisian State that had lasting implications for the economic, social and cultural rights of Tunisian citizens. Victims suffered from death from torture, forced disappearance, political imprisonment, sexual and psychological torture, and persecution of prisoners and their families for years after their release. In 2014, Tunisia established the Truth and Dignity Commission, and its Report includes an official list of more than 10,000 victims and details the network of corruption around former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.
The Tunisian model of Transitional Justice includes: 
- A lengthy period of time as the proceedings of TDC extend from July 1, 1955, to December 24, 2013
- The diversity of violations as the focus was not solely confined to gross violations such as willful killing, rape, torture, enforced disappearance or summary execution without any guarantee of a fair trial. The scope of action also addressed systematic violations such as electoral rigging and even police procedures (administrative and security control) designed by the authorities as a way of punishing part of the population
- Probing into violations pertaining to financial corruption and embezzlement of public funds, which ultimately results in the dismantlement of the system of corruption as gross human rights violations remain inalienably connected to financial corruption and embezzlement of public funds
- Providing leeway for arbitration and reconciliation in the areas of human rights violations and financial corruption and embezzlement of public funds: This tool paved the way for those having perpetrated such violations to appear before TDC and face their victim before confessing to the wrongdoing perpetrated and asking forgiveness and pardon. Unfortunately, this important mechanism has not been harnessed by most of the alleged perpetrators, intentionally or unintentionally. Strangely, the State (represented by the General Commissioner of State Litigation), the prime victim of financial corruption and embezzlement of public funds, abstained from making recourse to this mechanism, thus depriving those requesting arbitration and reconciliation from seizing this precious opportunity and reaching settlement with it
- Granting due importance and consideration to liability and accountability before the courts, a clear acknowledgment of the pre-eminence of the law and a move designed to counter impunity and ensure non-recurrence
- Broadening the concept of “victim”: victims can be individuals, groups of individuals, a legal entity or a region
This course of action sought to achieve national reconciliation and collective memorialization and ensure a non-recurrence of state totalitarianism .
Background History and Context
Human rights violations in Tunisia date to its colonial exit, during which the French army committed war crimes and massacres in various areas of Tunisia . Under President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, corruption, violence, and human rights abuses characterized political affairs and life in Tunisia. Ben Ali was arrested and tried in 2011, however, the implications of his regime continued to affect the Tunisian people beyond his resignation.
In 2013, the Tunisian people chose to address past human rights violations peacefully with the TDC, which sought to implement a process of Transitional Justice. Through truth-seeking, the unveiling of past violations, holding perpetrators accountable, and reparations and rehabilitation for victims, the TDC sought to reconcile with Tunisia’s past under a despotic regime that had ruled for over twenty-two years .
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Reparations to victims were dispersed through the Victims Fund and the Dignity Fund .
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The Commission’s Council initially consisted of fifteen Commissioners elected by the National Constituent Assembly . However, following four resignations, three dismissals and one vacancy filled, the final number of Commissioners was nine.
The TDC’s Executive Body was separated into eight departments: 
- The Department of Administrative and Financial Affairs
- The Department of Information and Communication Technology
- The Documentation and Archive Department
- The Research and Survey Department
- The Communication Department
- The Department of Legal Affairs
- The Department of Internal Auditing and Organization
- The Department for Coordination with Regional Offices (of which there were nine)
Methods and Tools Used
Prior to the establishment of the Commission, two fact-finding communities were established to “unveil the system of corruption under the rule of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali” . First, the National Fact-Finding Committee into Corruption and Bribery Files, was tasked with investigating cases of corruption since 1987. Second, the National Fact-Finding Committee Probing into Abuses and Violations Reported during the Period Extending from 17 December 2010 until the Expiry of its Mandate, concluded that law enforcement officers were responsible for 60% of the killings and 99% of the wounding under the Ben Ali regime .
Tunisia also established the Ministry of Human Rights and Transitional Justice in 2012, which was tasked with strategically addressing past human rights violations .
In 2013, the TDC was established and sought to cover the period 1955 to 2013.
The Commission’s obligations consisted of the following: 
- Publish its findings after verification and investigation
- Determine responsibilities
- Unveil the reasons behind the violations covered by the Transitional Justice Law and the recommendations to ensure their non-recurrence in the future
- Propose the measures that need to be taken to prompt national reconciliation and protect the rights of individuals, in particular, the rights of women, children and vulnerable groups
- Propose the recommendations pertaining to “political, administrative, economic, security, judicial, media, educational and cultural reforms along with other reforms designed to prevent a return to tyranny, oppression, violation of human rights and mismanagement of public funds”
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The TDC’s members were elected during the General Assembly of the National Constituent Assembly on May 19, 2014, and they proceeded to take the oath before the President of the Republic, Prime Minster and the Speaker of the National Constituent Assembly on June 9, 2014. In June 2014, when the TDC’s President and Vice President were elected, the TDC held its first meeting .
The TDC launched nationwide awareness-raising campaigns prompting victims and witnesses to deposit their files within the legal parameters. Between December 15, 2014, and June 15, 2016, the TDC reported 62,720 complaints by individuals and groups.
In addition, 49,654 victims took part in confidential hearing sessions through 81 audition offices and 190 statement-takers .
Online statements, taken by IFADA, a statement-taking software, were categorized into 32 types of violations including but not limited to :
1. Willful killing
2. Executions without fair trial guarantees
3. Rape and forms of sexual violence
5. Enforced disappearance
6. Arbitrary arrest
7. Cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in prison
8. Enforced divorce
9. Violation of the right to health
10. Financial corruption and embezzlement of public funds
The TDC then had to map and further categorize the violations to develop a survey plan for truth-seeking, which entailed the processing of 13,586 applications for an immediate response .
Public statements and hearings also contributed to the truth-seeking process. The TDC held 14 public hearing sessions, which were designed to “inform the public about the scale of the violations, instill preservation of national memory and non-repetition by documenting the various violations and their historical context” . Hearings took place from November 2016 to January 2018 and included 108 testimonies from victims and witnesses .
In the truth-seeking process, the TDC faced a number of obstacles that impeded its ability to function within its originally-allotted time. Some difficulties include the abstinence of state institutions from granting the TDC access to information, such as presidential and national archives . Also, despite the Organic Law on Transitional Justice and the TDC Bylaws’ stipulations, the TDC’s resolutions were not published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Tunisia . Some unofficial parties, too, including the media and some law enforcement unions, held negative biases toward the TDC .
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The Report outlined the need for various methods of reparation and rehabilitation . What the TDC called a Comprehensive Reparation Program sought “to achieve human dignity through compensating the right-holders, giving them the opportunity to defend themselves and helping them to regain their place in society” .
The TDC expressed the obligation of the State to provide free healthcare to victims who suffered psychological or physical damage . In addition, reparations in the form of apologies, enhanced and restored fundamental rights, and judicial reform characterized the TDC’s recommendations . More specific rights, such as the right to practice culture, language and religion, the right to learn one’s mother tongue, and the fight against all forms of discrimination were carefully laid out by the TDC .
The TDC also emphasized the rights of women and suggested that various sectors of Tunisian society review their gender biases and combat gender discrimination . This includes but is not limited to: 
- Implementing literacy programs, legal awareness programs and skill-development programs to reduce discrimination against women
- Providing special buses to secure the transportations of women working in agriculture
- Facilitating loan procedures and extending repayment deadlines to encourage women entrepreneurs
- Provide scholarships for girls to limit poverty-related dropout rates
- Create women’s committees within bodies, cultural clubs and women’s clubs within schools
The TDC concluded that education was the best route for guaranteeing non-recurrence. Thus, the preservation of national memory and memorialization was central to its recommendations, which include: 
- The establishment of a memory preservation institution that undertakes the preservation of TDC’s legacy and the archives of oppression and corruption
- The reform of the National Archives
- The provision of the necessary equipment and supplies to respond to the increasing preservation and access requests
The Commission recommended that the president meets with survivors to make a public apology to the victims in the name of the Tunisian state and that an independent body to oversee or monitor the work of the Tunisian security forces be created. In addition, the official recognition of the victims’ suffering and accountability of the State by way of official apology, the commemoration of national days and holidays and the creation of museums and memorials would memorialize victims and ensure non-recurrence .
Ben Ali was sentenced in absentia to imprisonment for deaths during the 2011 protests and for corruption and the misuse of several state-owned properties.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Since the Report’s publication, Tunisia is still trying to implement the Commission’s recommendations. The Report is not entirely accessible as it has not been translated into local languages, and thus many Tunisian people cannot read it . The ICTJ has recommended that Tunisia consider accessible healthcare in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and also the establishment of an “institution mandated to preserve the TDC’s historical record and tasked with archiving and digitalizing this collection of materials and making it accessible to the public and to future generations” .
 The Truth and Dignity Commission, The Final Comprehensive Report (Tunisia: Truth and Dignity Commission, 2019), 28-29.
 Ibid., 29.
 Ibid., 255.
 Ibid., 28.
 United Nations, “Taking on the Past: The Tunisian Truth and Dignity Commission” UN Office of the High Commissioner, 2014; International Center for Transitional Justice, “After the Truth Commission, Tunisia Must Pursue Inclusive Transitional Justice” ICTJ, 2020.
 The Truth and Dignity Commission, The Final Comprehensive Report, 34.
 Ibid., 36.
 Ibid., 30.
 Ibid., 31.
 Ibid., 32.
 Ibid., 5.
 Ibid., 34.
 Ibid., 52.
 Ibid., 57.
 Ibid., 62.
 Ibid., 67.
 Ibid., 67-68.
 Ibid., 113.
 Ibid., 121.
 Ibid., 127-128.
 Ibid., 420.
 Ibid., 421.
 Ibid., 429.
 Ibid., 429-435.
 Ibid., 442.
 Ibid., 461.
 Ibid., 465.
 Ibid., 492.
 Ibid., 493.
 International Center for Transitional Justice, “After the Truth Commission, Tunisia Must Pursue Inclusive Transitional Justice.”
 International Center for Transitional Justice, “After the Truth Commission, Tunisia Must Pursue Inclusive Transitional Justice.”
International Center for Transitional Justice. “After the Truth Commission, Tunisia Must Pursue Inclusive Transitional Justice.” ICTJ, 2020. https://www.ictj.org/news/after-truth-commission-tunisia-must-pursue-inclusive-transitional-justice
The Truth and Dignity Commission. The Final Comprehensive Report. Tunisia: Truth and Dignity Commission, 2019.
United Nations. “Taking on the Past: The Tunisian Truth and Dignity Commission.” UN Office of the High Commissioner, 2014. https://www.ohchr.org/en/stories/2014/06/taking-past-tunisian-truth-and-dignity-commission
The first version of this case entry was written by Sarah Slasor, McMaster University.