The role of casualty recording in transitional justice: Responses to the 2010-2011 Tunisia uprising

In a new study, Every Casualty Counts examines the relevance of casualty recording to transitional justice, using Tunisia’s National Fact Finding Commission (‘the Bouderbala Commission’) as a case study.

This study analyses the role of, and methods used by, the Bouderbala Commission in the wider transitional justice process that was inaugurated in the aftermath of Tunisia’s 2011 uprisings. The Bouderbala Commission was established rapidly after the removal from power of former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and incorporated a mandate to comprehensively and systematically record the deaths and injuries related to the protests. Although fact-finding commissions are frequently found within transitional justice processes, the Bouderbala Commission was noteworthy for the fact that its mandate empowered it to record all the victims of the violence, rather than just representative cases.

There has been some confusion among the population concerning the relationship between the truth-seeking, reparations and criminal justice efforts. Despite this, the Bouderbala Commission has demonstrated how comprehensive and rigorous casualty recording has been central to carrying the transitional justice process forward. The work undertaken by the commission also illustrates the demand by the Tunisian population to see real accountability on the part of the state, signalling a desire to uncover the truth and to use it as a first step towards accountability and justice.

This case study demonstrates that casualty recording can contribute to transitional justice in supporting truth discovery in a systematic and comprehensive way. Casualty recording can form the basis on which to attribute compensation and – if it is already part of the truth-seeking initiative – will avoid duplication of efforts. Casualty data and records can also provide useful starting points for further investigations, including those that could lead to criminal prosecutions. They are also important in supporting efforts towards reconciliation and the creation of a common societal narrative that is inclusive of all victims.

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