18 August 2014
Brussels/Tunisia, 18 August 2014 – Twenty-three years after they were accused of attempting a coup d’état, 244 soldiers were rehabilitated at the end of July on Republic Day, at a ceremony presided over by Moncef Marzouki, President of the Republic of Tunisia. Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) welcomes this official rehabilitation as a positive sign that mechanisms for dealing with the past and for transitional justice are being implemented.
In May 1991, under the regime of Ben Ali, the Barraket Essahel case broke. 244 soldiers were arrested and wrongly accused of an attempted coup d’état. Most were imprisoned, others were tortured. They were all dismissed and stripped of their military ranks. Among them were Mohamed Ahmed and Moncef Zoghlami, who decided to unite all these soldiers and create the organisation INSAF (Justice for former soldiers), and for whom “the last two decades have been nothing but a continual struggle to bring the truth to light, so that we can be recognised as victims, and so that justice may be done by giving us back our ranks, allowing us to wear our military uniforms once again and restoring our families’ honour”.
For Martin Causin, Head of the ASF Mission to Tunisia, “ASF works towards bringing to light the truth and obtaining recognition and reparation for all victims of serious human rights violations committed before and during the revolution of 2011. This is why, with the support of the Swiss Development Aid as part of the project Supporting Tunisian civil society to strengthen the effect of its actions in the field of transitional justice, we have provided technical and financial support to INSAF, as well as to seven other organisations”.
Moncef Zoghlami and Mohamed Ahmed, the President and Coordinator General of INSAF who were both promoted to Colonel-Major in the recent rehabilitation, believe that “this support provided by ASF for victims and for victims’ organisations has been decisive in the struggle all these soldiers have undergone. It has allowed them to reclaim their rights, and will be crucial for other organisations and for the correct application of the law and mechanisms of transitional justice”.
This first step in restoring trust between the legal system and the Tunisian population shows once again that victims must be kept at the heart of transitional justice to ensure their voices are heard throughout this process. “That is what ASF aims to do with its new project For victim-centred transitional justice, a project also financed by the Swiss Development Aid. This project will focus our actions on victims, through a programme of education, awareness and judicial assistance”, concludes Martin Causin.