Among the dilemmas Tunisia has been suffering is financial corruption which destroyed economy, burdened the people, widened the gap -under dictatorship- between the Haves and the Have-nots and accelerated the revolt against the mafia and the symbols of corruption in the country. The slogans of the revolution included promoting equitable development, establishing justice to the oppressed and putting the thieves on trial. Five years have passed since the dictator –Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali- fled the country(January 14, 2011), yet the politicians’s viewpoints concerning the corruption dossier are still split: a sharp debate over the economic reconciliation bill, submitted by the President Beji Caied Essebsi (March 20, 2015) and consented by the Council of Ministers (July 14, 2015), took place.
The main parties in coalition government (Nidaa Tounes, Ennahdha Movement, Free Patriotic Union and Afek Tounes) strongly advocate this law and call for a comfortable work atmosphere in favor of businessmen. They believe that promoting « the national reconciliation » helps heal economy and bring back money smuggled out country. The main Human Rights organisations along with Opposition parties (Popular Front, Democratic Current, People’s Movement, Congress for the Republic, etc.), on the other hand, consider such a law as unconstitutional and anti revolution.
The planned national economic reconciliation bill is grounded on three bases. First, unconditional legislative amnesty (including public officials and semi-public officials who committed financial crimes). Secondly, the prime minister sets up a six-member committee (four from the government ; two from Truth and Dignity Commission). The role of the Committee is to dispose the reconciliation claims made by the accused. Lastly, reconciliation with those accused for exchange irregularities (like money smuggling).
The reconciliation law -seemingly- aims to heal economy ; to bring back money smuggled out country ; to promote infrastructure and regional development ; to heal environment and to support entreprises. But this law, in reality, is illegal, unconstitutional, anti human rights and improper.
From a legal perspective, it is the judicial branch that has the power to deal with and to try the financial criminal cases (this is the case in developed countries). Neither the legislative nor the executive branches have the right to, as it happens in Tunisia. The government initiatives to condone the accused businessmen’s crimes is obstruction of justice and a violation of the checks and balances principle.
Constitutionally, the economic reconciliation law is a clear violation of the Tunisian constitution (January, 2014) which provides as follows: The state undertakes to apply the transitional justice system in all its domains and according to the deadlines prescribed by the relevant legislation. In this context the invocation of the non-retroactivity of laws, the existence of previous amnesties, the force of res judicata, and the prescription of a crime or a punishment are considered inadmissible (Tn. Const. art. 148, § 4, cl. 9). It is known that the Truth and Dignity Commission is the constitutional body which has the full power not only to handle the cases of torture and tyranny, but also the situations of the accused for financial crimes. The Commission, thus, is concerned with all sorts of human rights abuses. However, there arose a sharp disagreement with the Reconciliation Committee formed by the government ; a clash of powers and interests in fact.
The reconciliation act is unsafe since its provisions do not respect those attributed to financial corruption and meant to promote Transitional Justice. The act, therefore, would eliminate the Truth and Dignity Commission, infringe the constitution and inevitably waste public money.
As far as human rights are concerned, the reconciliation law grants pardon for perpetrators, obstructs justice and paves the way for judicial mess.
Ethically speaking, the so-called economic reconciliation act makes the government seem untrustworthy to the citizens, as it defends the corrupt lobbyists and makes the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The dream of justice, therefore, would never come true…