On a sunny morning in early March, ten minutes before the trial opens, Jamel Baraket seems hopeful. “Five of the accused are here. Today it will be serious,” he told representatives of the two civil society associations that are closely following the case of his brother Faysal, one of the most emblematic of the repression exerted by the Ben Ali dictatorship.
Faysal Baraket, a young student and militant Islamist, was tortured to death on the day of his arrest, on 8 October 1991, at the Nabeul police station. The regime falsified the autopsy, however, and claimed that he had died of a traffic accident. A subsequent examination revealed that he died of internal bleeding when he was sodomised with an iron rod. Since then, and despite the difficulties, his family has never given up on their efforts to take his executioners and their accomplices to court.
The Baraket trial is part of the transitional justice process launched in Tunisia after the 2011 revolution, which aims to forge national reconciliation by revealing the truth about the state’s crimes, compensating the victims financially and morally and ensuring that the guilty parties are publicly held to account.
At the heart of this process is the Truth and Dignity Commission (l’Instance Vérité et Dignité, or IVD), which during its four years in office studied more than 62,000 case files presented by the victims, covering all kinds of abuses, from murder or torture by the police to cases of politically motivated dismissals.
The Baraket family on the staircase of the Nabeul court: Faysal’s mother together with her sons, Jamel on her right and Kaïs and Hatem on her left. (Ricard González)