Casualty Recording in Tunisia: Responses to the 2010-2011 Uprising

First published 28th Sep 2015

In a new study, Every Casualty examines the relevance of casualty recording to transitional justice, using Tunisia's National Fact Finding Commission, also known as the Bouderbala Commission, as a case study.

This study analyses and comments on 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 decision to undertake this case study was prompted by the fact of the rapid establishment of the Bouderbala Commission after the removal from power of former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, along with its mandate empowering it to comprehensively and systematically record the deaths and injuries related to the protests. It is perhaps not surprising that such a fact-finding commission was created as part of the Tunisian transitional justice process. However, it is particularly noteworthy that its mandate provided for the documentation of all the victims rather than representative cases as is often seen in both national and international fact-finding missions. 

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, thus also supporting other aspects of transitional justice. Casualty recording can form the basis on which to attribute compensation, and - if it is already part of the truth-seeking initiative - will avoid duplicating work thus allowing resources to be used efficiently. 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 building up society and the creation of a common narrative within the wider society that is inclusive of all victims. 

Download the full report here