The 8th ACRPS Conference on Democratic Transition “Transitional Justice and Democratic Transition in the Arab Countries Politics, History and Memory,” ran over this weekend in Tunis.
This conference, an established academic tradition of the Arab Center, has become the most prominent space for Arab researchers to come together to discuss the issues of democracy and democratic transition in the region. Dr. Mehdi Mabrouk, Director of the Arab Center in Tunis, opened the three day event with a welcome speech. He noted that the issue of transitional justice deserves Arab academic interest, which prompted the Center to organize a conference approaching the subject from many angles. In his own opening remarks, Abdel-Fattah Mady, Arab Center researcher and coordinator of the Democratic Transition Project, presented a review of the process of organizing this conference and selecting Arab and international experts to discuss regional and international experiences. Mady reviewed the problematic questions facing Arab researchers on transitional justice issues, including the relationship between transitional justice and democratic transition as well as the question of whether transitional justice should be extended to include social justice. Most human rights violations are carried out in the context of the so-called “war on terror” and the methods of repression emulate the practices of the Zionist occupation and the policies of the former colonial powers. Finally, Mady spoke of the urgent question of how to promote the goals of transitional justice by taking advantage of local values and cultures.
The conference was held with the aim of providing a forum for the exchange of views between academics and researchers on the one hand and Arab and international experts on the other. The most prominent recommendation of the conference was that Arab research centers and the academic community should pay more attention to the issue of democratic transition and understanding the dimensions of its relation to transitional justice. Sessions examined the various Arab experiences and attempts to understand the contribution, if any, which transitional justice can play not only in the resolution of conflicts, but also in the transition to democracy. The conference paid special attention to the Tunisian experience, as this can benefit the countries experiencing a new wave of revolutions.
A session on international experiences was also held asking the questions: What are the requirements for establishing a system of transitional justice in countries undergoing political transitions in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Africa? What lessons have been learned from the experience of transitional justice in South Africa, particularly with regard to balancing forgiveness, accountability and justice? How can the experience of international justice in Sierra Leone, for example, be used to strengthen the national justice system in the Arab region? How can transitional justice be placed on the political transition agenda that many Arab countries are going through today? Is it possible to repeat the Latin American example of tracking arrests and enforced disappearance in the Arab political scene?
The conference concluded with a closing session chaired by Mehdi Mabrouk, where the urgent task of building deep Arab knowledge about transitional justice was emphasized.