The POMED Wire

Event Notes: “Elections and Libya’s Democratic Transition”

On Tuesday, July 27th, 2015, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) held an event titled “Elections and Libya’s Democratic Transition,” featuring a conversation with Dr. Emad Alsaiah, chairman of the Libyan High National Elections Commission (HNEC). IFES President Bill Sweeney introduced Alsaiah, highlighting his role in establishing an election commission in Libya and serving as the technician for the 2012 election, where he oversaw a period of voting that was a new experience for the country. Alsaiah then began his remarks, thanking IFES for helping with Libya’s democratic transition, particularly regarding the election of officials to the country’s National Congress.

To read these notes as a PDF, click here

Alsaiah conveyed his intention to speak about the electoral side of Libya’s democratic transition, while noting that the process is closely tied to the country’s challenging political situation. One of the challenges of democratic processes at the political level, said Alsaiah, is the current political environment in the Arab region, often featuring a “façade” of “artificial democracy” rather than governments that are truly committed to democracy.  Additionally challenging for Libya, he noted, is that the elites leading the transitional phase lack a refined understanding of democracy. They are …

Highlights of the 2014 State Dept. Human Rights Report on Iraq

The State Department released its 2014 Human Rights Report for Iraq, which noted that the majority of the country’s  human rights violations were committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Despite free and fair national parliamentary elections, which led to a peaceful transition in power, ISIL committed human rights violations such as; “large scale and frequent killings, attacks and offensive operations over large areas of the country; abuses against government officials, women, children, ethnic and religion minorities; and civilians. ” Other major human rights violations committed by the government include; “disappearances; life-threatening conditions in detention and prison facilities; arbitrary arrest;  denial of fair public trial; ineffective implementation of civil judicial procedures; limits on freedoms of speech, press, and assembly.”

Civil liberties that have been violated in Iraq include: freedom of press and speech, internet freedom, academic freedom, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, freedom of religion, freedom of movement, and protection of refugees. Journalists and other members of the media practice self-censorship in order to protect themselves from the government’s restrictions on “violating public order.” There were reports of journalists being arrested or harassed for covering “politically sensitive topics” related to “poor security, corruption, and weak …

Turkey Begins Airstrike Campaign, Motives Questioned

Photo Credit: Nath Paresh

On July 20th, a suicide bombing killed over 30 people in the town of Suruc, a mainly Kurdish town, where a group of youth activists were meeting before traveling to Syria to help rebuild the town Kobani. The attack spurred violent clashes in major Turkish cities as protesters accused the government of complacency in combating the threat of the Islamic State. Kurdish PKK militants claimed responsibility for the killing of two Turkish police officers in retaliation for the bombing, accusing the government of “collaboration” with the Islamic State.

In  the wake of these attacks, President Barack Obama and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to collaborate to “stem the flow of foreign fighters and secure Turkey’s border with Syria.” This cooperation manifested in the announcement of an agreement to allow U.S. warplanes to carry out aerial attacks on the Islamic State from airbases at Incirlik and Diyarbakir. There are also reports that Turkey and the United States have agreed to create a “safe zone” in northwest Syria, though U.S. officials have been reluctant to confirm, stating the two governments are still discussing how such a zone would be operated and secured. U.S. officials acknowledged the agreement …

Highlights of the 2014 State Dept. Human Rights Report on Syria

The State Department released its 2014 Human Rights Report for Syria, which noted that the majority of the country’s  human rights violations were committed by President Bashar al-Assad in response to “major political conflict” within the country. The Assad regime used “deadly military force” against civilians throughout the country to end peaceful protests calling for political reform and democracy. Air and ground-based military assaults ordered by Assad targeted  cities, residential areas, and civilian infrastructure. The most common attacks were on schools, hospitals, houses, and places of worship. Opposition groups have gained control over different parts of the country, with the most notable terrorist organization in power being the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). More than 200,000 people have died and 3.2 million Syrians have registered as refugees as a result of the current civil war.

Use of excessive force by opposition groups increased significantly. Use of lethal tactics and killings by the Assad regime also increased throughout the year. 32,507 people, including 3,629 children and 131 medical professionals were killed as a result of the government’s increasing attacks on opposition-ruled areas of the country. Despite the UN Security Council calling on the Assad regime to end the …

Inspector General Releases Report on U.S. Embassy in Tunis


Photo credit: U.S Department of State

On July 16, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of State released the findings of its inspection of the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, conducted from February 17 to March 12, 2015. The report concludes that the embassy’s leadership and institutional processes have hindered its efficiency and productivity. The OIG makes a total of 33 recommendations to Embassy Tunis and various bureaus of the Department of State.

The OIG report begins with an evaluation of the embassy’s leadership. Based in part on OIG-administered questionnaires given to Embassy staff, the report concludes that “the Ambassador has advanced U.S. national interests in Tunisia,” but that his “communication, coordination, feedback, and interpersonal behaviors, as well as his intolerance for dissenting views on policy and management issues, had contributed to low morale.” Furthermore, the report cites “the Ambassador’s failure to involve senior embassy staff members in decision-making processes” as damaging to interagency coordination. It also goes on to  criticize the deputy chief of mission, concluding that her “unwillingness to consider dissenting or alternative views and her inability to provide explanations or feedback for the decisions and instructions she relays to staff from the Ambassador were …

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