Tunisia parliament votes to end truth commission

MPs reject extension of Truth and Dignity Commission's mandate tasked with investigating rights violations in post-dictatorship Tunisia.

TUNIS - In a contentious vote late Monday, Tunisia's parliament voted to end the work of a tribunal tasked with healing the wounds of six decades of dictatorship.

After two particularly stormy sessions on Saturday and Monday, Tunisian MPs rejected an extension of the Truth and Dignity Commission's (IVD) mandate, set to end on May 31, parliament said on Twitter.

The vote was 68 against, zero votes for and two abstentions.

But dozens of MPs, including those of the Islamist Ennahdha party, left parliament before Monday's vote, alleging it was tainted with irregularities.

Two thirds of lawmakers did not vote.

Set up in the wake of the 2011 uprising that toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the tribunal was created to investigate human rights violations, hold perpetrators to account and rehabilitate their victims.

Several parties are contesting the vote, and members of the tribunal say they do not need parliamentary approval to continue their work.

"Since 2014, the government has seen a significant return of the former regime's elite, and it seems difficult for some who may find themselves in the spotlight to accept" the tribunal's work, researcher Eric Gobe said shortly before Monday night's vote.

Gobe said that in the absence of a parliamentary mandate, the tribunal might lack resources.

In February, the tribunal extended its own mandate until December 31, 2018, citing a lack of state cooperation.

The tribunal, established in 2013, was given a four-year mandate, with the possibility of a one-year extension.

Several organisations have called on the government to allow the tribunal to complete its work.

"A vote against this extension would sabotage the fragile transitional justice system and violate victims' rights to truth," Human Rights Watch said.

The tribunal was tasked with investigating human rights violations between 1957, when Habib Bourguiba became president, and 2013, when the IVD was set up in the wake of the uprising.

Since the tribunal began work, it has received more than 62,000 allegations of human rights violations and interviewed close to 50,000 people.