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Truth and Dignity Commission: Tunisia

Tunisia's Truth and Dignity Commission investigates rights' violations between 1955-2013

June 5, 2023
Author: Rabab Hteit

Tunisia was a French colony between 1881 and 1956, and struggled to achieve a democratic government between independence and 2011. In 2013, the Truth and Dignity Commission was established to investigate human rights violations and corruption between 1955 and 2013. The Commission sought national reconciliation by seeking justice for  victims.

Following the 2011 revolution, the Government adopted the Organic Law No. 53-2013, creating the Truth and Dignity Commission (Instance Vérité et Dignité or IVD). The law included 71 articles related to the establishment of transitional justice, and was the result of extensive consultations between the Ministry of Human Rights and Transitional Justice and members of civil society in Tunisia.1


IVD was responsible for investigating human rights violations that occurred in Tunisia between 1955 and 2013. The objectives of IVD were to transition the country towards democracy, reveal the truth about past violations of human rights, hold those responsible to account, restore the rights and dignity of victims, preserve memory and, finally, facilitate national reconciliation.2

The work of IVD launched with 62,354 cases filed by victims. They covered 14,000 cases of unjust arrest and imprisonment, 10,000 cases of torture, 350 cases of rape and sexual abuse, 600 homicides, 200 forcible disappearances, 61 executions without just trials, and other cases of freedom suppression. IVD hearings further included the testimonies of 1,782 Tunisians who fought against the French for Tunisia’s independence, out of which 367 were women.3

Public hearings began on 17 November 2016, and were broadcast on national and international networks.4 IVD was a state body with legal, financial and administrative autonomy.5 The Commission included 15 members elected by the National Constituent Assembly, and a President.6 Its mission was limited to four years, renewable one time for one year only.7 The Presidency was assigned to Siham Bensedrine, a female Tunisian human rights defendant, imprisoned in 2001 for denouncing corruption and torture.8

In 2016, the Quartet, a civil society coalition of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), the Tunisian Union of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA), the Tunisian Bar Association, and the Tunisian League of Human Rights (LTDH), led the act of preserving the political transformation of the country from authoritarianism to democracy. They promoted the work of IVD, encouraged and supported victims in the process of filing their cases.9 In addition, civil society played a pivotal role in defending IVD against the political constraints it was facing during its mission, by continuously communicating its role and its goals to the public.10


The cost of the IVD was covered by the Tunisian government. The yearly allocated funds increased from 2.5 million TD in 2014 (USD 1.5 million using 2014 average exchange rate) to TND 19 million in 2017 (USD 7.9 million using 2017 average exchange rate), for a total budget of TND 56.7 million (USD 24 million using 2017 average exchange rate) covering expenses between the years 2014 and 2018.11 The majority of these funds was allocated to paying the salaries of employees.12 Furthermore, the Tunisian government allocated TND 10 million (USD 3.3 million) for the compensation of victims.14


Despite the Parliament ending the mission of IVD in December 2018, IVD’s final report13 was released on March 26, 2019. The report was transmitted to the President, the Parliament and the Government, and published in Tunisia’s Official Journal on June 24, 2020.15

The final report report detailed 49,654 hearings,16 and presented a list of more than 10,000 victims17 who were entitled to obtain reparation. It also included structural reform recommendations to support the transition towards democracy, to guarantee that human rights were upheld, and to prevent the misuse of public funds.18

IVD transferred 204 files to the judiciary,19 and as a result, 430 persons were convicted of torture, and 66 persons were convicted of corruption.20 Political support for IVD was sometimes challenged by high-level officials with ties to previous regimes. At the same time, the work of IVD was criticized by the media for a lack of  impartiality, and a slow disbursement of reparation funds which was not considered to be commensurate to the extent of damage inflicted.21

Additional information to be considered for inclusion

The Quartet is an association of civil society organizations in Tunisia. It was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 “for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011.” The Quartet took the initiative of leading a national dialogue after the Jasmine Revolution, saving Tunisia from a civil war.