The Laws of Rule


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Tunisia – Can the Clean Up Begin?

Feb 2, 2011

“We are listening to eye-witnesses, following all leads that can help us get to the killers whomever they may be, policemen, members of the former ruling party, militias formed by the former regime, or the former president and his entourage”, lawyer Taher Yahya told Al Jazeera English today.


Amnesty International investigators have turned up evidence that suggests some Tunisian protesters were shot in the back while fleeing or in the head and chest, suggesting an intent to kill; evidence, AI says, of excessive force and “brutal methods used by Tunisian security forces to try to quell anti-Government protests in recent weeks.”

Last week AI issued “Tunisia: A Human Rights Agenda for Change” with lots of excellent suggestions about establishing the rule of law. But implementation will not be easy.

Speaking to AL Jazeera English in Tunis, Eric Goldstein of Human Rights Watch (HRW) suggested Tunisia could set an example for the rest of the Arab world about how to deal with a repressive security apparatus once it has been overthrown. But “can you go from a justice system that never held accountable policemen or torturers for those crimes to one that is capable of holding accountable the authorities?” Meanwhile, HRW warned that police brutality was not yet a problem of the past.

As Eileen Byrne reported for LoR earlier this week, Tunisia’s lawyers played an important part in forcing Ben Ali to flee. It now looks like they face the challenge of ensuring the security forces are brought under the rule of law. Justice Yahya Mokhtaoui waxed eloquent on the challenge ahead in his blog yesterday.

For those interested in a slightly more political take on the transition now underway in Tunisia, have a look at Eileen Byrne’s coverage in the Financial Times or Amy Aisen Kallander’s recent piece at Middle East Report.