Reconciliation Act passes despite civil society backlash
As previously covered on the CIVICUS Monitor, Tunisia's controversial Administrative Reconciliation Act has prompted sustained resistance from civil society groups. The controversial act grants amnesty to public officials involved in cases of corruption during Tunisia's dictatorship, which was overthrown in the 2011 Tunisian uprisings and has been widely viewed as a retrograde step in Tunisia's transition to democracy. In particular, the protest movement Manich Msamah (We will not forgive) has been at the forefront of the campaign against the bill's passage into law. On 13th September 2017, the Tunisian parliament voted to pass the bill into law, despite the rising tide of dissent from civil society groups.
'Amnesty of the corrupt': Tunisia's move to heal old wounds branded a sham https://t.co/Bm2mdqKRjo— The Guardian (@guardian) October 30, 2017
Although officials claim the law is not designed to grant amnesty to the corrupt, many human rights organisations claim it represents a backward step for justice that will degrade Tunisia's fragile democracy. In a statement, the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) denounced the passage of the bill and emphasised the flaws in the legislation, noting:
"Among its many flaws, the new bill offers no mechanism for establishing the facts about past corruption and does not require individuals who receive amnesty to provide any information or evidence about their past conduct or where their assets came from. Nor does it offer any remedies to redress or stop illegal conduct. The legislators who approved the law argue that it will apply only to those public officials involved in corruption who claim not to have personally profited during the dictatorship. However, according to ICTJ’s analysis, the law does not lay out a process for determining whether their claims are true, in stead leaving it to the public to dispute individual amnesties".
Manich Msamah claims that a leaked document from the Tunisian government details the deliberations surrounding the bill. If true, this means the bill was designed as an act of amnesty, rather than a genuine act of reconciliation, prompting further questions over its validity. The leaked document can be seen below:
Following the passage of the law, several members of the Manich Msamah movement organised a march on 16th September, attracting over 3,000 people. In a statement, a spokesperson for the movement noted that the marchers were blocked from reaching a statue of the country's first president, Habib Bourguiba, by Tunisian security forces. Despite the curtailment of peaceful assembly rights in this instance, the spokesperson declared that the protests against the government's passage of the law will continue, stating that:
"We will still be putting pressure on the authorities so that the law will not pass...We trust the commission will make the right decision because it is clear that the law is against the basic concepts of the constitution".