Tunisian autocracy's abuses bared by truth commission

AP News
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Posted: Nov 17, 2016 12:35 PM
Tunisian autocracy's abuses bared by truth commission

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisians who faced abuses under decades of authoritarian rule aired their grievances in a first public hearing Thursday before a special commission seeking to reconcile lingering tensions after a democratic revolution.

More than 62,000 complaints have been filed to the Truth and Dignity Commission since its creation in 2013, and 11,000 hearings have been held behind closed doors. But the two days of public hearings, held in the Tunis suburb of Sidi Bou Said, were the first allowing Tunisians to bear witness to the complaints.

Complaints reportedly include police torture, corruption and killings. The commission hopes to expose the truth and end impunity. Those considered guilty are expected to present their excuses to the victims and to the people of Tunisia, according to commission president Sihem Ben Sedrine. Reparations, moral and material, are to be determined.

"The goal is to turn the page of despotic violations and reach a global national reconciliation and build a state of law," said Ben Sedrine's deputy, Khaled Krichi.

However, there have been disagreements between the commission and the government, which includes people who worked under longtime leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali as well as his critics.

Anger at decades of corruption, abuses and neglect erupted into nationwide protests that overthrew Ben Ali in 2011 and sparked uprisings around the Arab world.

The first witnesses were chosen according to the gravity of their complaints and a geographic distribution of those testifying.

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, government officials and foreign envoys were among those invited to the public hearing — held symbolically at the Club Elyssa in picturesque Sidi Bou Said where former Tunisian first lady Leila Ben Ali, despised by many Tunisians, held private soirees. A huge tent was erected for the overflow crowd.

Officials said other such hearings were expected, including on Jan. 14, the date of the Tunisian revolution and the flight of Ben Ali to Saudi Arabia.