تونس: العدالة الانتقالية ومكافحة الفساد
تونس: العدالة الانتقالية ومكافحة الفساد
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Tunisia’s Leap into the Unknown
Tunisia’s Leap into the Unknown
Tunisians hold placards during a protest against a controversial draft law on amnesty for corruption offences in the capital Tunis, 12 September 2015. AFP PHOTO/Sofienne Hamdaoi Download permissions
Tunisians hold placards during a protest against a controversial draft law on amnesty for corruption offences in the capital Tunis, 12 September 2015. AFP PHOTO/Sofienne Hamdaoi

تونس: العدالة الانتقالية ومكافحة الفساد

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الملخص التنفيذي

تؤدي التوترات السياسية بين مؤيدي ومعارضي مسلسل العدالة الانتقالية في تونس وتطبيقها في الميدان الاقتصادي إلى تأخير تنفيذ السياسات الضرورية لتحفيز الاقتصاد ومعالجة مشكلة الفساد. مؤيدو المسلسل يعتبرونه جوهريا من أجل المحافظة على الجذوة الثورية حيّة، من خلال استعادة  ثقة المواطنين في مؤسسات الدولة وتعزيز سيادة القانون والتنمية العادلة والمصالحة. أما خصومه فيعتبرونه من بقايا سياق سياسي قديم وعقبة في وجه الانتعاش الاقتصادي. سيكون هناك حاجة لحلول وسط لتحقيق المصالحة بين هذين المعسكرين وكذلك تعزيز جهود الحكومة لاستئصال الفساد وتحقيق الاندماج الاقتصادي للأقاليم التي كانت أكثر عرضة للإهمال في ظل النظام السابق.

بعد سقوط الرئيس زين العابدين بن علي في 14 كانون الثاني/يناير 2011، نفذت الجهات السياسية الفاعلة في تونس شكلاً عشوائياً من العدالة، واعتباطياً في كثير من الأحيان، شمل جملة متنوعة من الإجراءات ترمي لمعالجة قضايا بعينها خارج إطار الجهاز القضائي، يمكن وصفها بـ "العدالة الثورية". تمكّن ضحايا النظام السابق من الحصول على تعويضات مادية ورمزية، بينما تمت مصادرة أملاك  رجال الأعمال الذين كان يعتقد بأنهم ضالعون في الفساد، وواجهوا المحاكمات (التي لا زال العديد منها معلّقاً) أو تعرضوا للابتزاز.

في كانون الأول/ديسمبر 2013، تم تأسيس هيئة الحقيقة والكرامة كآلية لتنفيذ عدالة انتقالية شاملة على أساس قانوني وتبعاً لتطورات نظرية العدالة الانتقالية واستخداماتها في بلدان أخرى، وتم ترسيخها في الدستور التونسي الجديد (الذي صدر في كانون الثاني/يناير 2014). حكومة الترويكا التي كانت في السلطة حينذاك (والتي كانت تضم القوى السياسية المعارضة أو تلك التي كانت في المنفى خلال حقبة بن علي) دعمت ذلك التحرك.

بعد التغيّرات التي طرأت على المشهد السياسي التونسي في كانون الأول/ديسمبر 2014، بدأ دعم هيئة الحقيقة والكرامة بالتداعي. التحالف الحكومي والبرلماني الجديد بين نداء تونس، الحركة العلمانية التي منحت حياة سياسية ثانية لأفراد النظام السابق، وحزب النهضة الإسلامي (العضو السابق في الترويكا) أوجد توازناً سياسياً مال لصالح فقدان الذاكرة الانتقائي على حساب التذكّر.

خلال النصف الثاني من عام 2015، أصبح النقاش العام حول عملية العدالة الانتقالية أكثر حضوراً  وأيضاً أكثر استقطاباً. في تموز/يوليو، طرح الرئيس الباجي قائد السبسي مشروع قانون مصالحة اقتصادية يقلّص صلاحيات هيئة الحقيقة والكرامة. يجادل الخصوم الأكثر تشدداً لمشروع القانون، الذي تم تأجيله في الوقت الراهن، لكن الذي يمكن أن يعود إلى الظهور بشكل جديد، بأنه سيكون بمثابة عفو عن أولئك الذين كانوا ضالعين في الفساد وبالتالي سيؤكد انتصار "الثورة المضادة". يشير استخدام هذا التعبير إلى إعادة إحياء النخبة الاجتماعية – الاقتصادية التقليدية في تونس، والتي يتحدر معظم أفرادها من العاصمة والساحل الشرقي، وهي المناطق التي أضعفتها ثورة 2010-2011.

يعتبر مؤيدو مشروع القانون – بما في ذلك حركة النهضة، التي تتنازعها مُثُلها الثورية كحركة معارضة سابقة، من جهة، وتصميمها على المحافظة على الائتلاف الهش مع نداء تونس، من جهة أخرى – تنفيذ إجراءات العدالة الانتقالية تهديداً للاستقرار، حيث يريد هؤلاء من هيئة الحقيقة والكرامة التخلّي عن ملاحقتها لحالات الفساد التي ظهرت في الفترة 1955-2013 والتركيز بدلاً من ذلك وبشكل حصري على انتهاكات حقوق الإنسان.

على كلا الطرفين تقديم تنازلات إذا أرادا تجاوز هذا الصراع. أولاً، سيكون ضرورياً تسوية سوء الفهم الناشئ عن ارتباط العدالة الانتقالية – والدور المشروع الذي يمكن أن تلعبه فيما يتصل بالعدالة والمصالحة – بالإجراءات الارتجالية التي تم تبنّيها خلال فترة "العدالة الثورية"، التي تعتبرها بعض المجموعات عمليات ملاحقة على أساس غير سليم لرجال الأعمال وكبار موظفي الدولة.

ثانياً، وبالنظر إلى الوضع الاقتصادي المتدهور، لا تستطيع البلاد انتظار توصيات لجنة الحقيقة والكرامة النهائية في عام 2018-2019. سيكون من الأفضل بالنسبة للحكومة أن تدعم سن قانون ينظّم، في ظل ظروف معينة، وضع التونسيين الضالعين في الفساد والتهرّب الضريبي. بدلاً من الدخول في إجراءات مصالحة من شأنها أن توفر فرصاً جديدة للمحسوبية والابتزاز، سيكون على هؤلاء أن يوكلوا أمر أصولهم لمحاسبين عامين معتمدين، يتحملون المسؤولية عن أية تصريحات زائفة، كأساس للتقييم الضريبي ودفع المبالغ المترتبة عليهم.

من أجل إنعاش الاقتصاد، ينبغي أن يكون رجال الأعمال قادرين على تحرير أنفسهم من إجراءات "العدالة الثورية" التي يزعمون أنها استهدفتهم على مدى السنوات الماضية. كما ينبغي أن يصبح بإمكان موظفي الدولة المتهمين بالاختلاس في ظل حكم النظام القديم جعل أوضاعهم نظامية. وبالمقابل، على الرئاسة والحكومة أن تقدما دعماً فعالاً لتعاون المؤسسات العامة الأخرى مع هيئة الحقيقة والكرامة، وضمان انتشار أنشطتها، وخصوصاً جلسات الاستماع العامة التي تعقدها.

وبموازاة مع ذلك، على الحكومة أن تعجل بصياغة وتنفيذ اجراءات لمكافحة المحسوبية والواسطة والفساد؛ وإعطاء الأولوية للحوار بين الأقاليم، خصوصاً بين رواد الأعمال في المناطق الحدودية، ومنطقة الساحل (الجزء الشمالي من الساحل الشرقي) والعاصمة؛ ووضع آليات شفافية جديدة للعروض والمناقصات العامة.

ينبغي ألاّ يكون الهدف تعديل آلية العدالة الانتقالية القائمة على أساس دستور كانون الثاني/يناير 2014، بل إيجاد أرضية مشتركة تعزز ثقة النخب السياسية فيها، بحيث يمكن لعمل هيئة الحقيقة والكرامة أن يتم في بيئة أكثر ترحيباً. على عكس التصور الواسع الانتشار، فإن تشجيع تنفيذ مسلسل العدالة الانتقالية هو في مصلحة الطبقة السياسية الحالية. من شأن تجديد الدعم السياسي لها ومواكبتها بإصلاحات فورية لمنع انتشار الفساد أن يقلّص من مخاطر الاستقطاب وأن يساعد على تفادي خيبة أمل التونسيين الكاملة من السياسة.

تونس/بروكسل، 3 أيار/مايو 2016

Executive Summary

Political tensions between supporters and opponents of Tunisia’s transitional justice process and of its application in the economic realm are delaying the implementation of policies necessary to stimulate the economy and tackle corruption. The process’ supporters view it as essential to keeping the revolutionary flame alive, reestablishing citizens’ trust in state institutions and promoting the rule of law, equitable development and reconciliation. From their side, its opponents see it as a remnant of a past political context and an obstacle to economic recovery. Compromises will be needed to reconcile these two camps as well as strengthen government efforts to root out corruption and economically integrate regions most neglected under the former regime.

After the fall of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali on 14 January 2011, Tunisia’s new political actors implemented a politicised, often arbitrary and thus haphazard, form of justice; comprising a variety of ad hoc and extrajudicial measures, this process could be described as “revolutionary justice”. The former regime’s victims were able to receive material and symbolic reparations, while businessmen believed to have been implicated in corruption had assets seized, faced trials (many of which are still pending) or were blackmailed.

In December 2013, a Truth and Dignity Commission (Instance vérité et dignité, IVD) was established to implement a comprehensive transitional justice mechanism anchored in the law, informed by the evolution of transitional justice theory and its use in other countries, and enshrined in Tunisia’s new constitution (enacted in January 2014). The Troïka government in power at the time (composed of political forces in opposition or in exile during the Ben Ali era) supported the move.

After Tunisia’s political landscape changed in December 2014, official support for the IVD began to crumble. The newly consecrated parliamentary and governmental alliance between Nida Tounes, a secular movement that has given a second political life to former regime members, and the Islamist party An-Nahda (a former Troïka member) created a political balance that has favoured selective amnesia over remembrance.

During the second half of 2015, public debate about the transitional justice process became both more prominent as well as more polarised. In July, President Béji Caïd Essebsi proposed an economic reconciliation bill reducing the IVD’s prerogatives. The most determined opponents of the bill, which has been shelved for now but could yet re-emerge in a new form, argue it would absolve those implicated in corruption and thus underscore victory by the “counter-revolution”. Use of this latter term points to the revival of Tunisia’s traditional socio-economic elite, mainly hailing from the capital and the east coast, which was weakened by the 2010-2011 revolution.

The bill’s supporters – including An-Nahda, which is torn between its revolutionary ideals as a former opposition movement and its determination to preserve the fragile coalition with Nida Tounes – view the implementation of transitional justice measures as a threat to stability. They want the IVD to abandon its pursuit of corruption cases stemming from the 1955-2013 period and instead focus exclusively on human rights violations.

Both sides must make concessions if this struggle is to be overcome. First, it will be necessary to resolve the misunderstanding that derives from the association of transitional justice – and the legitimate role it can play in relation to justice and reconciliation – with the ad hoc measures adopted during the “revolutionary justice” period, which some groups deem a witch hunt against businessmen and senior civil servants.

Second, given the deteriorating economic situation, the country cannot afford to wait for the IVD’s final recommendations in 2018-2019. It would be better for the government to support a law regularising under certain conditions the status of Tunisians implicated in corruption and tax evasion. Instead of entering into conciliation procedures that could create new opportunities for cronyism and blackmail, these Tunisians would have to entrust the inventory of their assets to certified public accountants, who would be held responsible for any false declarations, as a basis for a tax assessment and back payment.

To restart the economy, businessmen must be able to free themselves from the “revolutionary justice” measures which they claim have victimised them for the past several years. State agents accused of embezzlement under the previous regime should also be able to regularise their status. In exchange, both the presidency and the government should actively support the collaboration of other public institutions with the IVD, and ensure its activities, in particular its public hearings, are disseminated.

In parallel, the government should quickly formulate and implement measures to fight cronyism, nepotism and corruption; prioritise dialogue between regions, specifically between entrepreneurs in border areas, the Sahel (northern part of the east coast) and the capital; and institute new transparency mechanisms for public tenders.

The aim should not be to modify the transitional justice mechanism rooted in the January 2014 constitution but to find a middle ground that increases political elites’ confidence in it, so that the IVD’s work can take place in a more auspicious environment. Contrary to a widespread preconception, encouraging the implementation of the transitional justice process is in the current political class’s interest. Renewing political support for it and accompanying it with immediate reforms to prevent the spread of corruption would reduce the risks of polarisation and help prevent Tunisians’ complete disillusionment with politics.

Tunis/Brussels, 3 May 2016

Supporters of Kais Saied seut up the Tunisian flag on the roof of a store in front of the riot police, during a demonstration held in front of the building of the Tunisian parliament in Bardo, in the capital Tunis, Tunisia, on July 26, 2021. Chedly Ben Ibrahim / NurPhoto via AFP

Tunisia’s Leap into the Unknown

On 25 July, Tunisia’s President Kaïs Saïed invoked the constitution to seize emergency powers after months of crisis. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Riccardo Fabiani says compromise between Saïed and his parliamentary opponents remains possible, but so does grave violence.

What has happened in Tunisia?

Late on 25 July, following a day of rowdy demonstrations that included reports of looting, President Kaïs Saïed invoked the constitution’s Article 80, which grants the president augmented powers in emergency situations, citing as his justification the collapse of many public services and destruction of government property. Saïed also “froze” parliament for 30 days, revoked legislators’ parliamentary immunity and seized control of the public prosecutor’s office. The next day, he cited the same article to dismiss by presidential decree Hichem Mechichi, the prime minister and interim interior minister whose nearly one-year tenure had become marked by increasing paralysis as the country grew more polarised, as well as the defence, justice and civil service ministers.

These actions have triggered the worst political crisis in Tunisia since the 2011 revolution that brought down its autocratic leader, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, in the first of the Arab uprisings. An angry rejection of President Saïed’s move came immediately from his main political opponent, Rached Ghannouchi, the speaker of parliament and head of the Islamist Ennahda Party, Tunisia’s largest, who called the move a “coup against the revolution”. Other parties allied with Ennahda and representing a majority of seats in parliament also cried foul, arguing that Saïed’s seizure of emergency powers was unconstitutional on two grounds: first, they claimed that he had not fulfilled the requirement to inform the parliament speaker and prime minister prior to invoking Article 80; and secondly, they said he exceeded his constitutional powers in freezing parliament (which Article 80 foresees operating in permanent session alongside the president in emergencies) and stripping deputies of immunity, as well as in taking control of the public prosecutor’s office.

Now there is a serious risk of further confrontation. The direction of events is uncertain, and the president’s action feels like a leap into the unknown.

Popular participation in events in the first 24 hours went through three phases. The first was a wave of rioting in several cities that preceded Saïed’s announcement on 25 July. The rioters were not clearly associated with any single political party, and their ranks included soccer hooligans and other unruly elements. These rallies took on a markedly anti-Islamist flavour, with crowds raising chants blaming Ennahda for the 2013 assassination (allegedly by Salafi jihadists) of two leading Tunisian left-wing secularists, Chokri Belaïd and Mohamed Brahmi. The mobs targeted the Ennahda offices in Monastir, Sousse, Sfax, El Kef and Tozeur, reportedly engaging in looting.

In the second phase, which began later that day, after Saïed announced his power grab, the character of demonstrations changed to one of celebration among more middle-class Tunisians, especially in the capital Tunis, with people dancing, singing the national anthem and shouting: “Long live the president!”

The third phase came the next morning, on 26 July, when the mood turned tense as Ennahda supporters trying to gain access to parliament were stopped by security forces. Demonstrators threw stones and bottles, and a few people were wounded by gas canisters and projectiles.

While clashes between supporters of the two camps have so far been limited, the risk of an escalation of violence over the coming days cannot be ruled out

While clashes between supporters of the two camps have so far been limited, the risk of an escalation of violence over the coming days cannot be ruled out. The president’s next decisions (were he to use corruption arrests against parts of the political and business class, as his takeover of the public prosecution office and his apparent policy priorities might indicate, or order the security forces to arrest key opposition figures, for example) and the opposing side’s reactions (potentially mobilising their own networks against Saïed on the streets) will be crucial.

Was what happened a coup?

While President Saïed’s opponents say his manoeuvres were extra-constitutional and thus amount to a coup, or a “constitutional coup”, Saïed pointed to the constitution itself, lecturing his detractors to educate themselves by taking some law classes. (He was a constitutional law professor before being elected president.)

But whether or not Tunisians and foreign governments deem Saïed’s 25 July action a coup, it was clearly an orchestrated power grab. His close circles had spoken months ago about his desire to invoke Article 80 of the constitution. The demonstrations that framed his actions themselves looked provocative and may well have been pre-planned, even if nurtured by the frustrations of impoverished citizens. A recent controversy surrounding a transitional justice financial compensation of Ennahda activists who suffered during Ben Ali's era had recently stoked further popular anger.

The military has been involved, but only up to a point. Once Saïed invoked emergency powers under the constitution, the army moved quickly to seal off parliament and took control of the headquarters of the state radio-television broadcaster. So far, however, that is the extent of the military’s muscle flexing. There has as of yet been no wave of arrests of opponents, though there are rumours of thousands of politicians and senior officials being prevented from leaving the country, which could indicate future arrests.

What is the main cause of Tunisia’s political polarisation, and will Saïed’s actions resolve or exacerbate it?

Saïed soared to power in 2019 with 73 per cent of the vote, buoyed by his promises to fight corruption and rebuild state sovereignty, which Ennahda supported at the time. But despite this large popular mandate, he argued that he was unable to govern properly due to other parties’ control of parliament and Tunisia’s political system, which empowers both president and parliament. Mechichi, the prime minister whom Saïed himself had put forward in September 2020, increasingly distanced himself from the president, to the point that in January 2021 he dropped the president’s nominee for the all-powerful interior minister position. Even worse polarisation and paralysis ensued, as Saïed refused to allow the swearing-in of the new government.

Saïed claims to be strengthening his hold on power so as to break the country’s political impasse

This deadlock has exacerbated popular anger at a series of pre-existing and more recent problems, which gave Saïed a pretext for his 25 July announcement. These include the public’s ever-increasing loss of confidence in legislators and political parties; rising living costs; the socio-economic consequences of repeated border closures with Algeria and Libya; a series of lockdowns and curfews aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19, which have failed to reduce the number of new cases and deaths; and a general sense that institutions are dysfunctional. Saïed claims to be strengthening his hold on power so as to break the country’s political impasse, and to be addressing the socio-economic crisis. But the cost may be very high – potentially even the end of Tunisia’s post-2011 experiment with parliamentary democracy.

It is not impossible that Saïed succeeds in establishing a new status quo. In what undoubtedly will be a stiff battle of messaging at home and abroad, Ennahda and its parliamentary allies will hold up the banner for parliamentary politics and democratic process, while Saïed will stress his promises to end corruption and make the state strong and effective. His enduring popularity among some parts of Tunisian society suggests that at least some citizens want power in the hands of a strongman who they believe can make the state work better. By supporting an anti-corruption campaign against officials and businessmen tied to Ennahda, for example, he could permanently weaken some of his strongest political rivals.

Still, there are plenty of other scenarios that are at least as plausible, given the potential opposition to Saïed. It remains unclear whether the public administration, business circles, professionals, political parties and civil society groups will collaborate with or resist the president’s next moves. A second important factor will be the profiles of the people he chooses to advise him and to fill the state’s key positions, as they will help define his policy priorities and their execution. Third will be the reaction of international financial institutions, rating agencies and creditors, which could widen or narrow Saïed’s room for economic manoeuvre.

The economy is in dire shape, with a contraction of 8.8 per cent and a fiscal deficit of 11.4 per cent of GDP. The pandemic has exacerbated these problems, with hundreds of deaths per day and severe restrictions on movement. The country desperately needs international loans to balance its budget, and it is not clear where the money will come from. Saïed will inevitably be forced to adopt austerity measures, which will likely prove unpopular. This reinforces the likelihood that the 25 July events signal a turn toward more authoritarian rule.

What are the regional dimensions of the crisis?

Tunisia is a small country of 11 million people, much weakened by economic disruptions since the Arab uprisings, the latest political stalemate, mismanagement of the COVID-19 response and the decline of tourism. It is thus unusually dependent on the policies and support of its larger, often richer North African neighbours – notably Algeria, Egypt and Libya – as well as the Gulf Arab states and the former colonial power France just across the Mediterranean. All these countries pursue their own agendas vis-à-vis Tunisia.

Many in Tunisia accuse outsiders of having a hand in recent events. Ennahda officials, for example, tend to blame the first wave of anti-Ennahda demonstrations on 25 July on the United Arab Emirates (UAE), noting that the Emirati satellite television network Al Arabiyya broadcast images of demonstrators live and at length, making it look like there were large masses blaming the party for a decade of mismanagement and assassinations of secularist and leftist politicians. Meanwhile, the widely watched Al Jazeera network called upon Tunisians to rally to the defence of “revolution and democracy”. Al Jazeera is based in Qatar, a Gulf Arab rival to the UAE that has long supported the Muslim Brotherhood, a movement that inspired Ennahda’s founders. Shortly after Al Jazeera broadcast its call, police stormed its offices in Tunis and closed them down. Some Tunisians also noted that in April, Saïed visited Egypt, where he voiced support for the policies of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who crushed the Muslim Brotherhood after taking power in 2013 and is often seen as part of a regional anti-Islamist axis and close to the UAE. For them, Egypt is a clear supporter of Saïed’s move.

The current crisis owes more to deteriorating living conditions and political deadlock than to the role of outside players

In reality, though, domestic factors offer a better explanation for the recent developments than regional politics. While in the past external actors have interfered with and aggravated pre-existing tensions, the current crisis owes more to deteriorating living conditions and political deadlock than to the role of outside players.

Is there anything the world can do to promote a peaceful resolution of the situation in Tunisia?

Everything is in flux. Tunisia’s main social and economic actors, including lawyers’, judges’ and journalists’ professional associations, are calling for respect of the constitution’s fundamental tenets. The General Union of Tunisian Workers (known by its French acronym, UGTT), the powerful and broadly representative federation of trade unions, has demanded that the president specify the goals and duration of the exceptional measures.

Most countries are aware of the nuances of Tunisia’s predicament and are unwilling to rush in to act or even comment. While Turkish officials have condemned the president’s move, others, including France, the European Union (EU), the African Union and the U.S. – all of which are influential in Tunisia – have avoided taking a clear stance on these events, instead preferring to encourage all parties to stick to the constitution, without passing judgment on whether Saïed’s power grab was constitutional, and avoid violence.  

Outside powers should put as much pressure as possible on those interlocutors who listen to them to avoid polarising things further and risking violence. In particular, France, the U.S., the EU and Germany should take a tougher line, even if behind the scenes. They should push the president to publicly commit to a roadmap detailing what he intends to do during this period and to re-establishing normal democratic processes, including parliament’s constitutionally defined role, no later than October, when parliament returns from recess. The U.S. and EU have already made statements to this effect. They should urge him to regularly consult the country’s main political, social and economic groups, including opening talks with his rivals, during this emergency period and to operate within the constitution’s limits. They should send clear signals that crackdowns against opponents or the misuse of corruption trials would run against serious foreign opposition.

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