New report: The ticking ‘jihadist’ timebomb

In a new report from HSI, Houda Mzioudet and Rhiannon Smith discuss radicalization in Tunisia and whether the country’s Transitional Justice process can help diffusing a ‘jihadist’ timebomb in the country.

The 29-page report offers insight into radicalisation and violent extremism in Tunisia, looks at its root causes and gives an overview of the Transitional Justice process and its role in the struggle against radicalization in the country. Its key findings are:

  • Transitional Justice Allows Grievances To Be Aired, But Justice Must Also Be Seen To Be Done: If the perpetrators of human rights violations made public through the TDC hearings are not prosecuted or held accountable in some form, there is a risk that the process of publically airing human rights abuses and grievances will actually reinvigorate public anger and frustration, potentially radicalising a new cohort of disenfranchised Tunisians.
  • Transitional Justice Can Help Redress Past Abuses Against Islamists But Not At The Cost Of Justice For Other Victims: By introducing reforms and establishing justice mechanism which appear to favour one section of society over another, the legitimacy and effectiveness of transitional justice mechanisms is likely to be undermined and could create a backlash which reignites tensions. There is a danger that a zero-sum approach to justice will lead to a cycle of repression and retribution which is likely to facilitate further radicalisation rather than preventing it.
  • Transitional Justice Mechanisms Can Help Seek Justice For Terrorism But Should Not Be Used As An Excuse For An Arbitrary Crackdown On Islamists: Excessive use of violence by the state legitimises the use of violence by those opposed to it, facilitating radicalisation. Transitional justice mechanisms should aim to create wide reaching institutional and systemic reforms which can tackle the root causes of the systemic grievances that led to the 2011 revolution and have also contributed to elevated levels of radicalisation among Tunisian youth.
  • Transitional Justice Mechanisms Can Help Bridge The Gap Between The Citizen And The State But Face Challenges in Implementation: Many of the grievances that sparked both the Tunisian revolution and the apparent acceleration of young Tunisians joining jihadist groups have their roots in the corruption and inequality that is endemic at an institutional level in Tunisia. Institutional change is by its very nature both excruciatingly slow and difficult to achieve. Transitional justice mechanisms have the potential to begin the process of reforming institutions and bridging the gap between the citizen and the state thereby treating, or at the very least recognising, the underlying cause of some of the country’s current problems. However, this is dependent on the state not obstructing or undermining the transitional justice process.

The report can be downloaded in PDF format by pressing the following link: Tunisia’s Time Bomb.

(Front page illustration:, under CC BY 3.0 license)

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About Øyvind Strømmen

Øyvind Strømmen is a Norwegian freelance journalist, author and managing editor of Hate Speech International. He has written extensively on the extreme right and other forms of extremism since 2007, and has published the Norwegian-language books Det mørke nettet (2011) and Den sorte tråden (2013), the first of which is also translated into Swedish, Finnish and French.
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