Thursday’s TV broadcast was the first chance for the public to see the workings of a Truth and Dignity Commission (IVD) that was set up following the ouster of long-time leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.
The first to give testimony was Ourida Kadoussi, the mother of a protester shot by security forces in January 2011 during the Arab Spring uprising.
“They killed our children. We have not been given our rights,” she told the commission.
The widow and mother of Kamel Matmati, an Islamist who was arrested and killed in the city of Gabes in 1991 also told their story.
“My husband was beaten by the police in a detention centre until he died,” said the widow, Latifa, adding that she only found out about his death in 2011.
Another victim, Sami Brahm, described how he had been tortured, after being arrested in 1989 for suspected ties to Islamists.
Amnesty International’s Tunisia Office Chief Heba Morayef tweeted several of the testimonies aired on national TV.
The commission is investigating crimes and abuses dating back to 1955, a year before Tunisia gained independence from France, in an effort to come to terms with its past.
Thousands of submissions
Over the past three years, it has received more than 62,000 submissions and gathered testimony behind closed doors from about 11,000 people.
The complaints received include accounts of torture, sexual and physical abuse, arbitrary detentions, and violations of freedom of speech.
The New York-based International Center for Transitional Justice, which has been following the commission’s work, tweeted several harrowing accounts of torture, including the prominent opposition activist Gilbert Naccache, who said he was “arrested 3 times and I was tortured … you get used to it … three, four days a week would be painful.”
Several other people were expected to appear on TV on Friday evening to recount their stories. Other broadcasts are scheduled for December and January, to mark key anniversaries in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising.
The IVD seeks to rehabilitate and compensate victims as part of the country’s transition to democracy.
IVD president Sihem Bensedrine described the inquiry as “a historic moment that our children and grandchildren will read about in books”.
Despite winning international support for its democratic transformation over the past five years, many Tunisians are still frustrated over a lack of economic opportunities and the fact that some former officials have been allowed to return to public life.
mm/kl (AFP, Reuters)