Tunisia: a first lady for the truth commission

25 June 2014 by Julie Schneider, Tunis (Tunisia)

A well-known human rights activist, Sihem Ben Sedrine, 64, has been appointed president of the Truth and Dignity Commission in Tunisia. She received 11 of the possible 15 votes from the other commissioners, themselves nominated a week before [IJT-161]. She is one of the few women to preside over a truth commission. 

Ben Sedrine was denouncing human rights violations under the regime of the former president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali as a journalist and member of the Tunisian League for Human Rights. She co-founded the National Council for Liberties in Tunisia in 1998, an NGO that stayed illegal until Ben Ali’s ouster in January 2011, and she launched the online newspaper Kalima in 2000. In 2001, she was jailed for seven weeks after she gave an interview to a TV channel based in London. She was in exile from 2009 to January 2011. In August 2011, she received the Alison Des Forges award for extraordinary activists from Human Rights Watch.

Since Ben Ali fled, Ben Sedrine has fought for access to the archives of the former regime. But her detractors, including professor and expert in constitutional rights Amin Mahfoudh, denounce her “sympathies” for Ennahda, the islamist party that ruled the country from October 2012 to last December, and for the leagues for the protection of the revolution – an islamist militia that has been convicted for violent acts and dissolved earlier this year.

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