Tunisia’s truth commission carries on despite red tape and lacking funds

28 January 2015 by Julie Schneider, Tunis (Tunisia)

Since opening its doors last month, the Tunisian Truth and Dignity Commission (TDC) has received scores of people every day. Ready to file complaints, they come from all over the country, passing through the headquarters’ entrance, flanked by “Be welcome!” flags in the Montplaisir business district of Tunis. 

Sihem Bensedrine, president of Tunisia's Truth and Dignity Commission (Flickr/Deutsche Welle/K. Danetzki)
Image caption: 
Sihem Bensedrine, president of Tunisia's Truth and Dignity Commission (Flickr/Deutsche Welle/K. Danetzki)

The TDC is to investigate human rights violations and economics crimes allegedly committed by the Tunisian state between 1955 and 2013.

One complainant sitting in the plastic chairs of the low-ceilinged reception room where all visitors must wait is Mohamed, who did not want to give his real name. He looks tired, explaining how he had to arise in the middle of the night in Kasserine for the five-hour journey to arrive in Tunis at 9 that morning. Asked about the papers he was clutching, he said: “They are not mine. They represent five people who were political victims of the former regime.”

The TDC’s five offices receive, on average, “150 persons every day,” said Hayat, a commission employee who helps usher the complainants. “They mainly come from Sidi Bouzid and Kasserine [key towns in the 2011 Tunisian revolution that led to the ousting of president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, widely seen as sparking the Arab spring]. But we don’t listen to their stories, we just classify them.” 

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