Nobel Peace Prize award recognizes the role of the Tunisian Bar Association in securing the country’s transition

ILAC congratulates the members of the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet on their receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2015. For ILAC, the role played in the Quartet by the Tunisian Bar Association (ONAT, Ordre National des Avocats de Tunisie) has been particularly gratifying.

ILAC was invited to Tunisia in January 2011, only weeks after former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was forced into exile, as a result of the long-standing relations between the Tunisian Bar and ILAC founding member, the Union Internationale des Avocats (UIA).

The Tunisian Bar had played a prominent role in the opposition to President Ben Ali, and as a result both the President and the Prime Minister of the interim government were former bar presidents.

In the following months, discussions between ILAC and the Tunisian Ministry of Justice resulted in an agreement to initiate a sensitization program on the application of human rights and judicial independence in the context of the transition to democracy for all 1,800 sitting judges and prosecutors in the country.

In 2014, this ongoing work was merged into a broader MENA Programme that extended ILAC and its member organizations’ engagement with Tunisian legal expertise to include programs undertaken with the Tunisian Judicial Training Institute and the Anti Corruption Agency. Most recently, at the request of the Justice Ministry, ILAC organized an assessment of court administration in the Tunisian judicial system.

During this time, the Tunisian Bar Association went on to play a prominent political role in ending Tunisia’s political crisis as a Quartet member, alongside the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT, Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail), the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA, Union Tunisienne de l’Industrie, du Commerce et de l’Artisanat) and the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH, La Ligue Tunisienne pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme).

In fact, the Nobel Prize is clearly understood, and apparently intended as a form of recognition to all Tunisians who contributed to and supported peaceful dialogue through their daily actions and political activism. The breakthrough achieved with the help of the Quartet facilitated appointment of a new Government in late 2014 and the adoption of a widely praised Constitution in January 2015 that set Tunisia on a new and positive course.

While many challenges remain to the establishment of the rule of law and full respect for human rights in Tunisia, ILAC is proud to recognize the role of all its national partners in the Tunisian justice sector who play a crucial role in the development of a sustainable, peaceful and democratic Tunisia.