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Tunisia: Ben Ali’s interior minister on trial for ‘torturing to death’

Tunisia's former interior minister, Abdallah Kallel
Tunisia's former interior minister, Abdallah Kallel

On Tuesday, Tunisia’s former interior minister, Abdallah Kallel, appeared before the transitional justice court in Tunisia, which specialises in investigating human rights violations committed during the regime of former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his predecessors.

Abdallah Kallel, the interior minister under Ben Ali, is being tried in the case of torturing, Kamel Matmati to death.

Matmati, an Islamic political activist in Ennahda Movement, was arrested on October 7, 1991 in the southern Governorate Gabès. He is considered to be forcibly disappeared by his family, who have been unable to recover his remains.

The specialised judiciary in Tunisia has worked over the past year within a framework provided by the Truth and Dignity Commission, which had been tasked to investigate human rights violations in Tunisia between 1955 and 2013.

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The representative of the World Organisation Against Torture, Ossama Bouajila, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that Abdallah Kallel was brought before the court in Gabès, explaining that “he held on to his statement that he was not responsible at that time for the disappearance of Matmati.”

Bouajila confirmed that “Kallel apologised to Matmati’s family.”

Kallel had been brought before judicial hearings on transitional justice previously, in 2018.

Bouajila called for further “work to overcome the lack of responsiveness of the security services to the Court’s requests” to bring the main suspects in various issues relating to transitional justice in Tunisia.

The Truth and Dignity Commission completed its work by the end of 2018 and submitted 173 files to 13 specialised transitional justice courts to investigate cases involving 541 victims and 687 accused people, according to statistics prepared by human rights organisations, including the organisation of Lawyers Without Borders.

To date, the specialised judiciary has investigated 38 cases over 108 sessions while the accused people attended only nine sessions.

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