A group of lawyers and academics from the U.S., UK and Turkey will be visiting Tunisia at the invitation of the Tunisian National Bar Association from March 12 to 19, 2011. The purpose of the delegation is to investigate human rights abuses committed during the Ben Ali regime, as well as U.S. and European complicity in these abuses, and to offer support to organizations on the ground who are working toward a progressive alternative to the ousted government.
The delegation aims to develop a better understanding of the role of U.S. and European governments in legitimizing the Ben Ali regime, considered an essential ally in the “War on Terror,” through military, financial and diplomatic support in the run up to, and aftermath of, the Tunisian Revolution. The delegation will also seek to learn about the proposals for transitional justice and constitutional reform following the revolution, and to offer solidarity to those who are working towards a democratic and pluralistic future free from U.S. and European intervention.
Azadeh Shahshahani, Executive Vice President of the National Lawyers Guild and member of the delegation, said, “at a time of extraordinary change in the Middle East and North Africa, it is important to understand and explore the role played by Western governments as an impediment to change, and how that role must be altered in the future.” Shahshahani and two other U.S. lawyers and Guild members, Steven Goldberg and Tom Nelson, will participate in the delegation.
The group will meet with representatives of the organizations who were instrumental in bringing about revolutionary change, including human rights organizations, trade unionists, lawyers, students, journalists, women’s organizations and opposition party members. It will also meet with members of the interim Tunisian government.
The delegation also intends to meet with the U.S., UK and French embassies and various ‘democracy promotion’ initiatives. One focus will be to investigate the role of Ben Ali’s regime in the U.S. government’s treatment of former and current Tunisian detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
The group will produce a report documenting the findings and recommendations of the delegation on its return, and will be available for comment throughout the trip. Follow the delegation’s progress on Twitter @tunisiaHRdel or read the delegation’s blog at: http://tunisiahrdelegation.wordpress.com.