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Tunisia women recount torture in ‘transitional justice’ trials

Hundreds of demonstrators hold placards and shout slogans during a march from Bab Sadun to Bardo square, demanding equal inheritance rights for women in Tunis, Tunisia on March 10, 2018 [Yassine Gaidi / Anadolu Agency]
Hundreds of demonstrators hold placards and shout slogans during a march from Bab Sadun to Bardo square, demanding equal inheritance rights for women in Tunis, Tunisia on March 10, 2018 [Yassine Gaidi / Anadolu Agency]

Women who were subjected to torture in Tunisian prisons and interrogation centres yesterday appeared in the country’s “transitional justice” trials as part of the Truth and Dignity Commission.

On Friday several Tunisian women participated in the “transitional justice” trials to recount their experience of being tortured under the regimes of Habib Bourguiba and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Amid fears that their cases would be obscured, since the end of May trials have taken place to investigate human rights violations which took place during the terms of former presidents Habib Bourguiba (1956-1987) and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (1987-2011).

Ben Ali was among the defendants in these cases, along with a number of his ministers and security staff – most of whom did not attend the hearings. These ministers and officials have been accused of committing torture, rape and sexual assault.

Last month, the first case relating to the violation of women’s rights was brought before Tunisia’s Nabeul (East) Court to investigate anyone involved in the torture of activist Basma Bilai. Bilai, whose testimony was broadcast on Tunisian TV during the public hearings, is “waiting for rehabilitation and reparation which may or may not occur”. Bilai is one of hundreds of women facing the same uncertainty.

Bilai told the court how she and her younger sister were victims of harassment and threats of rape, as well as brutal torture at the hands of the security forces.

Honorary Chairman of the Association of Tunisian Judges, Rawdha Al-Karafi, said of today’s trial that: “The scene today is shifting and changing, and the judiciary is tending to listen to the victims and break with past practices”.

Read: Tunisia allocates $19.5m to support rural women

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