12 March 2012 - NPWJ News Digest on Middle East and North Africa

NPWJ press release

Successful conclusion of the Conference on “Transitional Justice in Tunisia: for a Participatory and Consultative Process”
NPWJ, 09 Mar 2012

On 7-9 March 2012, a Conference on “Transitional Justice: for a Participatory and Consultative Process” (the Conference), organised by the United Nations Development Programme, the International Center for Transitional Justice, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Al Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center (KADEM), in partnership with No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ), was held in Tunis, Tunisia.
The Tunisian Minister of Transitional Justice and Human Rights, H.E. Samir Dilou, opened the Conference, announcing that in April he will launch a national dialogue to consult with Tunisian people about their views and expectations on transitional justice. He was followed by Mohsen Marzouk, President of KADEM, who called for a national consultation involving all stakeholders and regions of the country, including marginalised areas. He also insisted on starting the process by identifying the objectives of transitional justice to be able to choose the various mechanisms and measures that best can achieve them.
During the Conference, special attention was dedicated to the role of victims in transitional justice and victims and representatives of victims from Tunisia also had the opportunity to tell their stories and express their expectations towards transitional justice. Speaking during one of the sessions, Greta Barbone (NPWJ/KADEM) focused on the importance of consulting victims to build their views into the fabric of transitional justice and, based on previous consultations with groups of victims in the country, gave practical examples of how their needs could help shape Tunisia’s transitional justice process. She also called for a robust communications strategy and outreach campaign to engage victims and the population on the nature, purpose and process of transitional justice, promoting understanding and support for it.

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Women were ‘force behind Arab Spring’
by Mel Frykberg, 12 Mar 2012

Media images of the uprisings which swept through North Africa and the Middle East during the 2011 Arab Spring protests, conjures images of scores of young men, their faces covered in kaffiyehs (or traditional Arab headscarves), stones in hand and with angry expressions, confronting the Arab world’s security forces.

However, the involvement of Arab women in the respective revolutions has not received the same publicity. Yet they were at the forefront and deeply involved.

In Yemen, protests were sparked by the arrest of 32-year-old Tawakul Karman, head of Women Journalists Without Chains. In Egypt, 36-year-old Amal Sharaf, an English teacher and single mother was one of the organisers of the April 6 Youth Movement

“They took part in demonstrations and sit-ins, participated in intellectual debates, acted as human shields and disseminated information,” said Lilia Labidi, a visiting research professor from the Middle East Institute at the University of Singapore.

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Egypt parliament moves to oust new Cabinet
by Tamim Elyan, 12 Mar 2012

Egypt’s parliament voted Sunday to begin steps to withdraw confidence from the military-appointed government, a move that will pile pressure on the ruling generals to appoint a new Cabinet led by the Muslim Brotherhood.
A vote of no confidence would take Egypt into new political waters and could set the stage for a confrontation if the generals, who assumed power after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak last year, refuse to yield to the will of a parliament elected in the country’s most democratic vote in six decades.
It could also complicate negotiations with the International Monetary Fund over a $3.2 billion loan the government of Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri is seeking to stave off a looming financial crisis after more than a year of political and economic turmoil.

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Annan leaves Syria with no deal
Agencies, 12 Mar 2012

International envoy and former U.N. chief Kofi Annan left Syria Sunday without a deal to end the bloody year-old conflict as regime forces mounted a new assault on rebel strongholds in the north.
Annan said that he presented President Bashar Assad with concrete proposals “which will have a real impact on the ground.”
“Once it’s agreed, it will help launch the process and help end the crisis on the ground,” he told reporters at the end of his two-day visit to Syria.
Annan, who also met with Syrian opposition leaders and businessmen in Damascus, said he was optimistic following two sets of talks with Assad, but acknowledged that resolving the crisis would be tough.

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Egypt clears 'virginity test' military doctor
aljazeera, 11 Mar 2012

A military court in Egypt has acquitted a doctor who had been accused of forcing female protesters to undergo virginity tests.
Ahmed Adel was cleared because the judge found contradictions in witness statements, Egypt's state-run Mena news agency reported on Sunday.
The case was brought by one of the women, Samira Ibrahim, who said the "tests" took place after they had been detained during protests last year.
As many as 17 came forward saying they were violated last year during the revolution.

The verdict cannot be appealed. The court denied that such tests were carried out.

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Libya rallies denounce Cyrenaica autonomy calls
BBC News, 10 Mar 2012

Thousands of Libyans have rallied in the country's two main cities to denounce moves by leaders in the east to create a semi-autonomous territory.

Demonstrators chanted slogans demanding unity and used shoes to hit photos of Ahmed Zubair al-Senussi, the head of the regional council seeking a split.

The rallies took place after Friday prayers in the capital Tripoli and in Benghazi, the main city in the east.

Tribal and militia leaders there announced the move on Tuesday.

In a BBC interview, Mr Senussi said he was ready to hold talks with the country's leadership about setting up the oil-rich semi-autonomous territory, to be known as Cyrenaica.

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Yemen air raids 'target al-Qaeda militants in south'
BBC News, 10 Mar 2012

Suspected al-Qaeda fighters in southern Yemen have been targeted in air strikes, reports say.
Between 18 and 45 militants are said to have been killed in raids late on Friday and on Saturday.
The strikes hit positions west of Bayda and near the rebel-controlled town of Jaar, officials said.
Local sources claimed the attacks in the Bayda area were carried out by US drones or warplanes, but there has been no independent confirmation.
Local officials said Yemen air force planes carried out strikes on Saturday near Jaar.

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Renewed protests demand democracy in Bahrain
CNN Wire Staff, 09 Mar 2012

Protesters marched on the outskirts of the Bahraini capital on Friday, demanding democratic reforms amid renewed tension in the island nation more than a year after the beginning of pro-reform demonstrations.
The marchers filled a four-lane highway between Duraz and Maksha, and ended peacefully despite skirmishes between police and some protesters who tried to break away from the main column and reach Lulu Roundabout, the focal point for dramatic standoffs as authorities cracked down on protests last year.
A few protesters were injured, but their wounds did not appear serious, according to eyewitnesses.

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The “Arab Spring” and the Decline of the Arab Nation-State
by Daniel Brode, 05 Mar 2012

The genesis of Arab states is in mandates maintained by European powers, Britain and France, following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in World War One. The Sykes-Picot Agreement carved up zones of influence for the two colonial powers in the Middle East. As a result, newly independent Arab states were hastily crafted without much consideration for outstanding sectarian conflicts. Concepts of sovereign nation-states are foreign to the region, thus a lack of unifying narratives, combined with outstanding internal sectarian conflicts, destined Arab states to be plagued with a myriad of seemingly irreversible problems. On top of all that, the rise of radical Islam further jeopardizes the future of the Arab nation-state.

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