Tunisia’s newly formed “truth commission” announced on Wednesday that it has begun to hear testimony from victims of the country’s post-independence dictatorships.
“We announce the start of hearings, behind closed doors, of testimony from victims of… violations of human rights,” Truth and Dignity Commission president Sihem Bensedrine told reporters.
She said the compilation of testimony would last two years and that each victim would be granted a hearing of up to two-and-a-half hours.
Victims started on December 15 to apply to the commission, which was set up under a law on “transitional justice” in the wake of Tunisia’s 2011 revolution.
The panel is made up of human rights activists, representatives of victims’ associations and opposition figures under the regime of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali who was ousted in the revolution, and jurists.
Its mission is to uncover within five years “the truth of violations of human rights committed between July 1, 1955 and December 31, 2013,” covering the rule of Tunisia’s first president, Habib Bourguiba, his successor Ben Ali and the first post-revolutionary governments.
The commission, which has full access to state archives, aims to identify those responsible for abuses, make them accountable and to rehabilitate and compensate victims.
Its remit covers violations of human rights — notably voluntary homicide, rape, extrajudicial executions and torture — by “state bodies, groups or individuals acting in its name or under its protection”.