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 …
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Eight individuals have been charged with “insulting the King” and “incitement to spread chaos to undermine the political regime of Jordan using social media” in a Jordanian military court after publishing comments critical of the government. The General Intelligence Directorate (GID) arrested the individuals on the night of January 12 after a meeting at one of the detainee’s homes. Al Jazeera reports that, according to organizers, the meeting was convened to discuss “ways to facilitate reform and combat corruption in the public arena.” Among those detained is former Member of Parliament Wasfi al-Rawashdeh, who wrote a Facebook post decrying Jordan’s current economic struggles and whether King Abdallah is aware of them.
Lawyers for the arrested men reported that they were unable to meet their clients, and that their clients had been ordered to be held for an additional 14 days. Faisal al-Kuzae al-Frehat, who represents former GID General and one of the detained men, Mohamad al-Otoom, called the charges “trumped up… in order to try the activists in the state security court…which is an illegal military tribunal…used to settle scores against activists who dared criticize the government and demand reform.”
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, President of Iran from 1989 to 1997, and a leading figure in the Islamic Revolution of 1979, died on January 8 at the age of 82.
Tuesday’s funeral was attended by reformist and hard-line political, military, and religious figures, including current President Hassan Rouhani and Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani. Disqualified from running for the 2013 presidency, Rafsanjani supported Rouhani for the position. Rouhani’s win gave the former president an insider role in reform efforts, including the new president’s push for rapprochement with the West. With Rouhani’s efforts toward re-election in the upcoming May elections, the loss of Rafsanjani is seen as a major setback.
An estimated 2.5 million people took to the streets to bid farewell to Rafsanjani. Authorities were reportedly forced to raise the volume on the loudspeakers playing songs of mourning after some in the crowds shouted support slogans for prominent reformist leaders under house arrest. An anonymous Iranian citizen journalist wrote that “one group…started chanting: ‘Loudspeakers are yours; the voice of justice is ours!’”
The U.S. State Department commented on January 9 that Rafsanjani had been “a prominent figure throughout the history of Iran” and “consequential” in its recent …
Photo Credit: Al Hadass Online
Moussa al-Kuni, the Deputy Head of the UN-backed government’s Presidential Council, announced his resignation from his post on January 2, 2017, citing failure to solve the country’s political and economic crises as the key reason. Al-Kuni told a press conference that the Government of National Accord (GNA) had to “…take responsibility for everything that has happened in the past year: dramas, violence, murder, rape, invasion, the squandering of public funds.” His tweets following the conference contained admissions that the Presidential Council is ruling Libya “only in appearance,” and that “everyone is ruling Libya.”
The resignation comes amid renewed tensions as fighting in the country’s central region has flared. Recently, General Khalifa Haftar, who exercises power over much of Libya’s east, declared he has no plans to resume talks with his rival, Prime Minister Fayez Seraj, who heads the internationally recognized GNA.
The U.S. State Department commented in its January 4, 2017 press briefing that the United States “[urges] all parties to exercise…restraint” and “encourages all parties to support the Government of National Accord…as it works to address the country’s critical challenges.” In response to comments by Haftar that suggested he was seeking …
Photo Credit: YouTube/KabylieTimes
A shopkeepers’ strike in Algeria’s eastern coastal wilaya of Béjaïa devolved into violent protests on January 3. An anonymous call for a general strike circulated [Fr] on social media over the preceding days after the Parliament passed the 2017 finance law on December 28. The new budget includes [Fr] broad tax increases across various sectors to compensate for deficits the global drop in oil prices has created in Algeria’s heavily hydrocarbon-dependent budget.
The demonstrations began as a peaceful strike against the finance law in the morning, devolving [Fr] into more violent protests in the afternoon as hundreds of youth joined. Videos and reports have surfaced [Fr] of widespread looting and tire fires. Clashes between protesters and security forces broke out when anti-riot forces attempted to disperse [Fr] demonstrators after they began to throw stones at authorities. Protesters then reportedly overturned [Fr] police vehicles to block roads and burned a public transportation bus. The majority of those who took part in the violence in Béjaïa were reportedly young, some adolescent, with few job prospects. Several demonstrators were arrested [Fr] by security forces and several were injured as anti-riot police deployed [Fr] tear gas. Multiple civil society organizations, including …