Opposition to Amended Economic Reconciliation Bill Surges

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Opposition to Amended Economic Reconciliation Bill Surges

Organizations Concerned over Declining Press Freedom

Tunisia’s Undergoes UN UPR Process

Chahed Dismisses Two Ministers

Foreign Affairs

Tunisia Undergoes UN Universal Periodic Review: At Tunisia’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), member states of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) presented a series of recommendations to advance human rights in Tunisia. The United States’ statement commended Tunisia for expanding independent observers’ access to prisons, but expressed concern for the lack of transparency in investigating recent reports of security forces abuses, arbitrary detentions, and arrests under the state of emergency and counterterrorism laws. It recommended that Tunisia ensure that all allegations of excessive use of force are investigated promptly, effectively, and independently. It also recommended the amendment of Article 230 of the Penal Code to end criminalization of same-sex relations. Representatives from other UNHRC member countries recommended that Tunisia abolish the death penalty, take measures to eradicate violence against women, and develop employment policies that guarantee a great reduction in the unemployment rate, particularly among young people.

Merkel Reaffirms German Support for Tunisia: Over the course of a working visit to Berlin, Speaker of Tunisia’s Assembly of the People’s Representatives (ARP) Mohamed Ennaceur attended a German Bundestag plenary session, during which German ChancellorAngela Merkel stressed that Germany will spare no effort to help Tunisia’s efforts towards political and economic improvements succeed. Bundestag President Norbert Lammert added that Ennaceur’s visit will “likely contribute to boosting bilateral co-operation in the political, economic and security fields.”

Meanwhile, Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende and Tunisian Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui announced that Norway was reopening its embassy in Tunis. “The reopening of the Norwegian embassy in Tunisia reflects the interest of the friendly countries in Tunisia and is likely to strengthen Tunisian diplomacy,” said Jhinaoui. “Norway is contributing to several development projects in Tunisia. Four companies are currently operating in the country,” he specified. According to Jhinaoui, the talk was an occasion to look at ways to provide young people in Tunisia, especially those from the interior, with training programs to help them find employment. For his part, the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs said the two ministers discussed means to strengthen their partnership in several fields, including vocational training and employment.

Tunisia Parliamentary Week in Brussels: The European Parliament is hosting a Tunisian parliamentary delegation this week in Brussels to reinforce Europe’s support for the country. In a speech before the European Parliament’s general assembly on May 4, Speaker of Tunisia’s Assembly of People’s Representatives (ARP) Mohamed Ennaceur stated that “strengthening Tunisia-EU cooperation is more necessary than ever to meet security, immigration, economic, and social challenges.” Ennaceur additionally called for more support from the European Union (EU) to meet the country’s investment and budget deficit challenges. “The challenges facing Tunisia today require more support and more effort on the part of the EU. These include the implementation of a specific program for the benefit of Tunisia equivalent to the Marshall Plan for the revival of the economy,” he added.

 

Domestic News

Opposition to Amended Economic Reconciliation Bill Surges: Following Parliament’s decision to review an amended version of a controversial economic reconciliation law first introduced by President Beji Caid Essebsi in 2015, several political parties and civil society organizations have come out against the amended law as civilians launched protests. The bill provides amnesty for those found guilty of corruption committed under the Ben Ali regime in exchange for the return of the funds and a fine. On April 26, civil society organizations and associations called for the “immediate and final withdrawal” of the draft law, saying it “runs counter to the fundamental principles of transitional justice enshrined in paragraph 9 of Article 148 of the Constitution and the right to the truth and the fight against impunity.”

Ennahda’s Shoura Council denounced the law in its current form on April 30. “The bill on economic reconciliation will never ever be adopted,” Moncef Marzouki, President of Tounes Al-Irada party said on April 29. “The revolution had erupted against corruption and corrupt people, and I will not accept their return,” he added.

On April 29, several hundred people demonstrated in Tunis against the law. Some protesters wore shirts with the “Manich Msamah” campaign logo, or “I will not forgive” in Arabic. A statement distributed during the “Manich Msemah” protest called on the national and democratic forces opposing this bill to coordinate efforts to counter it.

Organizations Raise Concerns over Declining Press Freedom: On May 2, 18 domestic and international organizations released a statement warning of violations of freedom of information and freedom of expression in Tunisia. The groups suggest that Tunisia’s Press Freedom Index ranking of 97 out of 180 countries represents “a new sign of the Tunisian authorities’ failure to respect and guarantee the freedom of information and expression.” According to the signatories, “The Tunisian government has not ceased to tighten its grip on the press by postponing the implementation of the law on access to information while introducing a draft law on the Audiovisual Broadcast Regulatory Authority (ICA) which reduces the body’s prerogatives and independence.” They further stressed that Tunisia is still prosecuting journalists under military law, as well as civilian codes that are no longer applicable. The following day, President of the National Syndicate of Journalists (SNJT) Néji Bghouri accused the government and the Ministry of the Interior of attempting to limit press and journalistic freedom in Tunisia.

Chahed Dissmisses Education and Finance Ministers: On April 30, Prime MinisterYoussef Chahed dismissed Tunisia’s Ministers of Education and of Finance. Minister of Education Neji Jalloul was dismissed for mishandling disputes with syndicates and taking unilateral action without respecting government commitments. Secretary General of the General Education Union Lassad Yacoubi commended Chahed’s decision, adding that the union will continue to discuss reforms with the interim minister. The union has been demanding Jalloul’s resignation for several months following disputes over the academic calendar reforms. Minister of Finance Lamia Zribi had been at the center of a controversyover the devaluation of the Tunisian Dinar last week and was accused of having been responsible for its accelerated decline.

Agreement in Tataouine Remains Elusive: Protests have been ongoing [Fr] in the oil-rich region of Tataouine since the end of March as local oil extraction and production plants have failed to employ residents indigenous to the area, with hiring preferences often going toward foreign workers. Young job seekers have blocked major roads and burned tires, while residents have been leading a sit-in that has blocked access to oil fields since April 23. Both the Tataouine Regional Workers’ Union (URTT) and the General Tunisian Labor Union (UGTT) have expressed support for the protests. Prime Minister Youssef Chahed visited Tataouine on April 27, where he was booed of a stage outside the governorate building. Following the failure of April 27 negotiations between Chahed and demonstrators, protesters closed several roads and promised to continue their demonstrations until 20 percent of the revenues from the region’s oil companies is reinvested in the region.

On April 28, Chahed met with high level officials responsible for the security situation in Tataouine to discuss the unrest. The Prime Minister also dismissed the governor of the region and appointed Mohamed Ali Barhoumi to replace him on April 29. On April 30, Barhoumi expressed his determination to “bring about the necessary improvements and support the aspirations of dissatisfied young people” and called on all parties to “combine their efforts to achieve legitimate aspirations.”

A spokesman for the demonstrators in Tataouine announced that they had rejected proposals presented by Minister of Employment Imed Hammami during a May 1 meeting. On May 2, the Regional Workers’ Union, the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA), and several other active parties in Tataouine published a statement announcing that they have accepted 60 measures the Prime Minister has committed to in order to improve employment and development in the region.

Sidi Bouzid Security Operation Kills Two Militants: An anti-terrorism operation on April 30 led by security forces in Sidi Bouzid led [Fr] to the deaths of two terrorists and the arrest of several others. One of those killed was implicated in the death of Socrate Cherni, one of six guards killed during the 2013 conflict between members of Ansar al-Sharia and the Tunisian National Guard in Sidi Bouzid. On May 1, residents of Sidi Bouzid led a march against terrorism, commending the security operation but also demanding new projects to create jobs and boost development in the marginalized region.

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