Fifty year-old Hasan Al-Saaidi protested for justice in Tunisia’s revolution last year and survived being shot by government security forces. Yet like a thousand others like him, who were injured during the uprising last year, his everyday post-revolution life was marred by inglorious hardships: injury, unemployment and financial struggle.

Fifty year-old Hasan Al-Saaidi protested for justice in Tunisia’s revolution last year and survived being shot by government security forces. Yet like a thousand others like him, who were injured during the uprising last year, his everyday post-revolution life was marred by inglorious hardships: injury, unemployment and financial struggle.

In May, Al-Saaidi was again in trouble with the law after having a verbal disagreement with a Tunisian security force member, which resulted in his arrest. His brother claims that Al-Saaidi was tortured and subjected to sexual abuse while in police custody.

In a desperate act, Al-Saaidi swallowed 60 tablets of a prescription tranquilizer.  Many who were injured in the revolution and have yet to receive official status have taken drastic measures, from self-mutilating protest to ending their lives.

Justice deferred

At least 1,380 injured Tunisians have fallen under the “Transitional Justice” file. Hamadi Jebali, transitional Prime Minister made this file a priority of his government. Consequently, the Ministry of Human Rights and Transitional justice, headed by Sameer Dello, was established.

Dello did not deny the government’s delay in addressing transitional justice. He particularly described the slow redress process as “upsetting” and maintained that transitional justice is “a national process that must be fulfilled under national consensus and on solid foundations”. So far, no consensus has been reached.

Foundations of transitional justice

Political parties and legal experts in Tunisia have not yet agreed on a common definition for transitional justice. Dr. Wahid Fershishi, member of the International Center for Transitional justice, stressed that any transitional justice process consists of five major stages. No stage may be excluded: investigation should precede prosecution and trial; victims’ compensation and redress should precede national reconciliation and legal and institutional reforms.

The data of the National Coordinating for Transitional Justice and the Tunisian Center for Transitional justice indicate that this sequence has not been respected.

In his National Day speech on March 20, President Moncef Marzouki officially apologized to all people whose rights have been violated since the independence in 1956. He demanded the page of the past to be turned and called for national reconciliation.

Transitional justice activists say this apology was a hasty step, noting that a state apology should culminate the transitional justice process, following the accountability stage, which started after Ben Ali’s flight with the government of Mohamed Ghannouchi (Ben Ali’s last prime minister) and the government of Beji Caid Essebsi (Prime Minister during the early transitional period), and is still going on with the current government.

But the rushed apology was not an exception. Initiatives for reconciliation have been taken with a number of businessmen who were closely associated with the former regime and sponsored by Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of Ennahda.

This trend toward businessmen is incorporated in the third chapter of the supplementary budget law, passed by the National Constituent Assembly. The law ensures impunity for businessmen, something the opposition labeled as “raising concerns” about the possibility of continuing the impunity approach.

Victims’ compensation and redress

Initial discussions on compensation and redress were based on the moral compensation approach and ensuring treatment of the damages stipulated in Decree 1 dated 19 February 2011 and Decree 97 dated 24 October 2011. The redress includes cash compensations and free health and transport services, as well as moral compensation (for example naming public squares and streets after martyrs).

Previous statements made by Samir Dello, Minister of Human Rights and Transitional Justice during a public, government hearing session in the National Constituent Assembly sparked controversy when he declared the government’s intention to pass a financial compensation law for political prisoners.

This triggered heated debates between Ennahda supporters who demanded compensations for the “embers years” and the leftists who opposed burdening the state with such compensations, given the deteriorating economic situation. He called for postponing this issue until settling that of the revolution’s martyrs and wounded.

The leftist groups blamed Ennahda for the delay in compensating the revolution victims while hurrying to compensate its supporters for their years of imprisonment and deprivation and to allocate huge funds for this purpose, despite the difficult economic times of Tunisia.

Samir Dello considered the leftists’ rejection of compensation and their criticism of the government as outbidding, aimed at portraying them as caring for the country’s interests while showing the Islamists as money seekers who do not care about such interests. He maintained that people who sacrificed fighting tyranny should not be ashamed of claiming redress, in a reference to the right of Ennahda prisoners whose number is estimated at thirty thousand.

Dello also recalled the government’s commitment to allocating the second installment of compensation to the families of martyrs and wounded, which was delayed after revealing the mistakes made by the previous governments. For example, some families of martyrs or wounded who benefitted from compensation though the lists prepared at the state level did not match those of the fact-finding committee lists.

However, these measures did not prevent many civil society players from criticizing the ministry’s approach to this issue. Mohsen Marzouk, General Secretary of the Arab Foundation for Democracy describes the transitional justice process as a “messy path”, citing the absence of a clear road map and the confused performance of the ministry. “Some measures supposed to be taken at the end of the process are being taken in the beginning,” he said.


Ben Ali’s sons-in-law, several members of his family, senior officials and a number of security men have been arrested. Many of them have been sentenced on a number of charges and are still under trial in others.

A 20-year prison sentence was issued against a number of security men involved in killing protesters during the revolution. But recently, these trials raised eyebrows by Tunisian citizens, especially after the release of Jalila Trabelsi, sister of Laila Trabelsi, Ben Ali’ wife and his nephew Sofiane before the judiciary ordered to Sofiane’s arrest again.

But can justice be served when the revolutionaries’ sacrifices have not yet been recognized?