Panel 1e Transitional Justice in the Middle East and North Africa

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Chair: Dr Maaike Voorhoeve, Researcher at the Law Faculty, Department of General Jurisprudence, University of Amsterdam

Paper 1: Transitional Justice in Post-revolutionary Tunisia: What ‘Justice’ means in the Tunisian Context of Dealing with the Past
Dr Maaike Voorhoeve, Researcher at the Law Faculty, Department of General Jurisprudence, University of Amsterdam

In Tunisia, the first steps in the field of transitional justice (TJ) were taken directly after Ben Ali’s departure: his family members were arrested, two ‘truth commissions’ were installed and people involved in the former regime have been prosecuted. However, the process of TJ is confronted by a number of difficulties. Due to the considerable number of people involved in the previous regime, people are divided over questions of ‘justice’ and ‘order’: should all members of the former political party be prosecuted, or should only the most important members be punished? As TJ is in the hands of national courts, the question arises whether these judges have legitimacy to decide on matters of ‘justice’. This paper examines what acts are being sentenced in the name of TJ, taking the Court of First Instance as a case study. In this way, the paper aims to establish what norms are affirmed by this court, what acts are being ‘normalised’ and what acts are not, taking into account the relationship between the court and the former regime. >> download the paper

Paper 2: Exemplary or Exceptional? The Iraqi Transition in the Context of the Arab Spring
Professor Erin Daly, Professor of Law, Widener University School of Law

Because Iraq was the first Arab nation to experience political transition and to attempt reconciliation and reconstruction in recent years, the countries of the MENA region are likely to look to it as a model. The Iraqi experience offers lessons about how (if at all) the principles of TJ can operate within the context of Arab culture and politics and Islamic traditions, even though the Iraqi transition was unique in the Arab world, in that it emerged from foreign invasion and under foreign occupation. Using Iraq as a model, we can hypothesize that mechanisms that consolidate democracy and build social and economic capacity are more likely to promote true and durable reconciliation than the traditional tools of TJ. This is especially likely to be true in countries like Egypt and Tunisia where the common desire for democracy and rights predominates over sectarian and other identity-based divisions. >> download the paper

Paper 3Towards ‘Transitional Justice’? Policy Discourse and Processes in Tunisia and Egypt
Domenica Preysing, PhD candidate, Free University of Berlin

As the dust settles after the ouster of presidents Ben Ali and Mubarak, Tunisia and Egypt are standing at a historical juncture. Justice and accountability for human rights violations are a critical aspect in the process of political transition.  Calls to establish the facts about past abuses, hold perpetrators responsible, and put an end to human rights violations have gained momentum. ‘Transitional justice’ circulates in scholarly and policy communities to describe a range of approaches to deal with past human rights violations in transition states.  But what confronting the wrongdoings of a predecessor regime really means in terms of policy content is only gradually developing. The paper examines to what extent there is a difference in the way opinion leaders and policy makers in both countries talk and act on issues of the transitional justice type, as well as what this may imply for the direction of political transition. >> download the paper

These are abridged versions of the abstracts submitted by  the presenters.
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