by Samantha Parks
A new Amnesty International report alleges that security measures taken by Tunisian authorities in the name of counter-terrorism often have been arbitrary, discriminatory, and disproportionate, leading to human rights violations reminiscent of the Ben Ali era, albeit on a much lesser scale. The report describes ill-treatment perpetrated by the police since January 2015, including 23 cases of torture.
At the release event for the report in Tunis on February 10, Amnesty’s North Africa Research Director Heba Morayef stated, “The fact that abuses are being committed in the name of security has meant that the scale of human rights violations in Tunisia today has thus far gone unaddressed by the Tunisian authorities.” She added, “This report exposes how entrenched impunity has fostered a culture in which violations by security forces have been able to thrive.”
Tunisia has been under a state of emergency for four and a half of the past six years, first in response to post-uprising unrest and then since July 2015 in response to several major terrorist attacks. The state of emergency is regulated by a 1978 decree and gives the Minister of Interior the power to restrict certain rights, such as freedom of …
On January 31, Freedom House released its annual Freedom in the World Report. A panel discussion, featuring David Sanger, Chief Washington Correspondent of the New York Times; Tamara Wittes, Director for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution; and Arch Puddington, Distinguished Fellow for Democracy Studies at Freedom House and main author of the report, examined the general decline in freedom and the reciprocal relationship it has with changes in global order.
Of the 195 countries assessed, 87 (45 percent) were rated Free, 59 (30 percent) Partly Free, and 49 (25 percent) Not Free. This is the 11th consecutive year of decline in freedom, which Puddington described as a discouraging development in an era dominated by new media, the internet, and a global civil society. One result that set 2016 apart from past years was that the declines were concentrated in countries ranked as Free; nearly a quarter of the countries that registered a decline were in Europe. One of the largest questions to come out of these findings was whether democracies will continue to advocate for freedom around the world.
Puddington began by outlining a steady erosion of democratic institutions in the United States. He …
February 1, 2017
by Samantha Parks
On December 13, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) announced it had selected Tunisia as eligible for significant funding to “encourage economic growth and reduce poverty.” The MCC cited the “opportunity to work with Tunisia as it consolidates its recent democratic gains, takes on a significant policy reform agenda, and combats poverty and inequality challenges.” While the MCC has not released further details, on December 15, the Tunisian Minister of Industry and Commerce Zied Laadhari announced that the MCC agreed to negotiate a four-year, $400 million grant.
In 2004, the MCC was established as an independent U.S. foreign assistance agency designed to deliver aid using different criteria and processes. It awards funding to developing country governments that demonstrate a commitment to reform and good governance. MCC grants, known as compacts, support economic growth and governance projects that are proposed and implemented by countries selected by the MCC board. After selection by the MCC, a compact-eligible country completes a report that identifies the binding constraints to growth that “are the most severe root causes that deter households and firms from making investments […] that would significantly increase incomes.” The compact-eligible government then develops its own grant …
Photo Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria
Last week, the Trump administration issued an executive order to suspend refugee resettlement as well as immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries (including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) under the guise that the government is working to augment its already stringent screening procedures. The order sparked spontaneous protests across the United States, especially at some airports where refugees and green card holders alike were detained under the order. A number of federal judges have issued emergency rulings against key parts of the executive order requiring deportations from airports over questions of its constitutionality.
Democrats in both chambers of Congress have strongly opposed the order, while Republican reactions have been mixed. Sixteen Republicans have come out in opposition of the ban, while dozens of others expressed concerns and reservations; several dozen other Republicans have come out in favor of the ban. The move has sparked strong and widespread criticism from rights groups, activists, legal analysts, conservative political donors, and newspaper editorial boards.
The ban also prompted a number of countries to make statements on President Trump’s controversial decision. Of the seven countries included in the ban, four have …
January 19, 2017
by Finn Quigley
Last week, Human Rights Watch released its annual World Report examining the state of human rights across the world. The chapter on Tunisia provides hope in an otherwise bleak assessment of the Arab region. The report notes the Tunisian government’s continued progress in safeguarding civil liberties since the 2011 revolution. In 2016, the country saw important criminal justice reforms and some progress on transitional justice and women’s rights. Nevertheless, rights abuses still occur in the new Tunisia. The state of emergency declared by President Beji Caid Essebsi after terrorist attacks in 2015 and extended in 2016 allows the government to limit some freedoms, and torture of detainees by police remains a significant problem. The LGBT community continues to suffer pervasive discrimination.
Among the 2016 advances in human rights highlighted in the report is the Truth and Dignity Commission (IVD). In November 2016, it began holding public hearings to investigate human rights crimes committed by the state between 1955, shortly after Tunisian independence, and 2013, when Parliament passed the law establishing the commission. In 2016, Parliament also passed a law ensuring suspects of most crimes the right to counsel at the start of their detention …