Transitional Justice as Elite Justice? Compromise Justice and Transition in Tunisia

This article reflects upon the ways in which transitional justice debates and processes impacted Tunisia's transition. It explores key questions such as what demands for justice emerged in the aftermath of the Tunisian revolution? Did Tunisia's transitional justice process reflect these demands? And, did international norms of transitional justice, which emerged from a field of practice that draws heavily upon European, Latin America and Sub-Saharan experiences, but has largely excluded the Arab Middle East, serve to mediate between competing demands for justice in the aftermath of the Tunisian revolution? It will be argued that transitional justice demands in Tunisia reflected a breakdown in the state–society socioeconomic bargain, which had maintained autocratic regimes since independence in 1956; however, due to the elite-centred nature of transitional justice discourses, many transitional justice demands never resonated into mainstream transitional justice discourse. We will argue that international transitional justice entrepreneurs' attempt to import a normative framework that was ill suited to grapple with the complex legacies of socioeconomic marginalization, resulted in a growing disillusionment and disengagement from the state driven transitional justice process on the part of Tunisian society.