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.

Want to read more?

If you subscribe to a free membership, you can read this article and explore our full archive, dating back to 1997.

Subscribe now

Related articles

19 February 2007 by Laetitia Grotti

One year ago on January 6, 2006, the 17 members of Morocco's Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER) were closing up shop after submitting their final report to King Mohammed VI. The Moroccan truth commission had received a flood of compliments from the international community praising the recommendations in its report, especially those advocating legislative and constitutional reforms. One year later, however, the results have been rather mixed.

11 September 2006 by our correspondent in Arusha

After having tried high-ranking officers, ministers, businessmen, priests, journalists, local officials and militiamen, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is in uncharted waters. On September 11, the most famous rwandese troubadour of his generation will stand trial for genocide. 

23 October 2006 by Christine Chaumeau

China is keeping a polite distance from international criminal justice. Beijing is hardly disinterested, but China does want to make sure that these new global mechanisms are not going to infringe upon its sovereignty by delving into particularly sensitive cases such as Tibet. 

United Nations Operation in Burundi disarms rebel forces in Mbanda in February 2005 (Photo: Flickr/UN Photo/Martine Perret)
03 June 2015 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

Over the last month, Burundi has hit the headlines as the president put himself forward to be elected for a controversial third term, resulting in street protests, thousands of refugees who fled instability and an attempted coup. Behind the issues of elections and constitutionalism are also those of justice following Burundi’s long-running civil war. The international community supported an intensive process of negotiation and the signing of the Arusha Accord in 2000. But in the decade and a half since, its provisions on justice have been debated though never fully implemented.

06 November 2006 by Pierre Hazan

France's attitude towards international criminal justice is marked by ambiguity. Paris subscribes to a vision of the world in which international humanitarian law is considered a way to curb violence against civilian populations, but at the same time it is wary of an unchecked judicial system that could end up prosecuting French soldiers engaged in areas where it has old and deep-rooted interests.