The Tunisian government has revealed that the official death toll of the 2011 revolution was 129 people. A further 634 people were injured. The announcement has been described by an independent commission as a “strong indication” of the democratic transformation that took place in the North African country.
The official list of the revolutionary martyrs and wounded, which has been demanded by the families of the victims for years, was released on Friday evening, on the eve of the 65th anniversary of Tunisia’s independence.
Abdul Razzaq Kilani, the head of the General Authority of Resistance Fighters and Martyrs and Wounded of the Revolution and Terrorist Attacks, considered the released list as “recognition by the state of the people’s sacrifices in order to overthrow the dictatorship” of the late President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. According to Kilani, the next step is to compensate the victims and their families.
The move also paves the way for about 1,500 people who consider themselves wrongly excluded from the list to file administrative appeals. A preliminary report issued in 2012 indicated that 338 people were killed and 2,147 were injured during the revolution.
Sufyan Al-Farhani, a spokesman for Al-Wafaa Association, lost his brother during the revolution. “This list is meaningless,” he said, “because it did not result from investigations or trials that pave the way for revealing the circumstances [of the killings].” Publishing the list, he believes, is intended to calm the current social tension, not to do justice to the victims.
The list covers the period of anti-regime protests, during which clashes with security forces erupted between 17 December 2010 and 14 January 2011, when Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia. It was actually published by the Higher Committee on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of the Republic of Tunisia in October 2019.
The delay in publishing the list in the Official Gazette reflects the difficulties that the transitional phase has faced. The efforts to achieve justice and national reconciliation have been hindered for years by figures close to the old regime who managed to take part in post-revolution politics.
Transitional justice has resulted in dozens of trials before special courts since 2018 related to violations committed during the dictatorship era, including the killing of protesters in 2011. However, the authorities have blocked access to the archives and names of the defendants in these cases, and no judgment has been issued to date.