The fall of president Zine Ben Ali in 2011 did not bring justice to victims of abuses under his rule. In spite of promises, impunity remains widespread in Tunisia. Judicial proceedings leading to the conviction of torturers are extremely rare, leading TRIAL International to explore legal avenues outside the country.

President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali ruled in Tunisia for 20 years before being ousted in 2011. During his presidency, hundreds of political opponents were victims of arbitrary detention, and torture was a widespread practice.

The Tunisian Revolution brought immense hope of truth and justice for his victims, but it failed to materialize. The judiciary is still plagued with slowness, political interference and a lack of support for victims of human rights abuses.

As the sun sets, hundreds line up for food at a transit camp near the Tunisia-Libya border. Credit: David Ohana/OCHA AVMU
The judiciary is still plagued with slowness and a lack of support for victims of human rights abuses. ©David Ohan

What does TRIAL International do in Tunisia?

In 2003, using the principle of universal jurisdiction, TRIAL International filed a criminal complaint in Switzerland against the former Interior Minister General Habib Ammar for acts of torture.

In 2004, again in Switzerland, the organization assisted a victim in a case against another Interior Minister, Mr Abdallah Kallel, to pay him compensation for acts of torture that he had endured. The case was of this action by the Swiss Federal Court in 2007 and the European Court of Human Rights in 2018.

From 2012 to 2015, TRIAL International joined forces with ACAT-France. Together, they trained Tunisian lawyers and investigators on the prosecution of people who had committed acts of torture within the context of their duties. Both organizations also brought their expertise to a dozen criminal proceedings in Tunisia, and submitted several cases to the UN Committee against Torture.