13 Feb 2012 - NPWJ News Digest on Middle East and North Africa Democracy

NPWJ press release

Syria: the regime must be held accountable for its crimes
By Gianluca Eramo, 05 Feb 2012

After a 10-month-old crisis, it is now self-evident that geopolitical balances and real-politik principles cannot any longer have primacy over democracy and respect for human rights. Since the beginning of the protests in March 2011, Syria has witnessed massive violations of human rights by Syrian military and security forces. Since then, pervasive crimes against humanity have engulfed Syrian towns and villages; while the regime continues to repress its citizens brutally, the international community is becoming increasingly aware that the wind of change cannot be reversed and that the fundamental demands of the Arab Spring - sparked one year ago in Tunisia - need to be supported and defended also in Damascus.

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Rejecting Arab League Pressure, Syria Resumes Shelling, Reports Say
By Liam Stack and Neil MacFarquhar, 13 Feb 2012

Syrian forces were reported on Monday to have resumed their bombardment of the embattled city of Homs for a 10th day after the authorities in Damascus rejected efforts by the Arab League to seek a United Nations peacekeeping mission for Syria and to deepen the ostracism of President Bashar al-Assad within the Arab world.
Tank fire hit two neighborhoods at the vanguard of opposition to Mr. Assad, Reuters reported, quoting activists seeking the Syrian leader’s downfall. Opposition campaigners said at least 23 people were killed on Sunday, triggering protests in many parts of Syria as a gesture of support for activists in Homs.

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Bahrain Youths and Police Clash
By Reuters, 13 Feb 2012

Riot police officers in Bahrain battled youths who threw gasoline bombs on Sunday as violence escalated ahead of the Feb. 14 anniversary of an uprising last year. Teenagers blocked off streets in the village of Sanabis, near the capital, Manama, taunting the police as “cowards” and “mercenaries” because some are thought to be Pakistani or Yemeni immigrants. One youth lobbed four gasoline bombs toward a group of police officers, who responded with a volley of percussion grenades and tear gas.

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3 Executed by Militants for Helping U.S. in Yemen
By Reuters, 12 Feb 2012

Islamist militants in southern Yemen said they executed three men on Sunday for giving the United States information used to carry out drone strikes in the area. Residents of the towns of Jaar and Azzan said two Saudis and one Yemeni were beheaded at dawn by the militant group Ansar al-Sharia. A spokesman for the group later said none of those executed were Saudi citizens, but all three had been working for the intelligence services of the kingdom, a close ally of the United States.

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Egypt strike to mark Mubarak overthrow 'fails'
BBC News, 11 Feb 2012

Calls by Egyptian activists for a day of strikes and civil disobedience to mark the first anniversary of President Hosni
Mubarak's overthrow appear to have very little impact. Strikes at universities attracted small numbers of protesters, and public transport in Cairo ran as normal.
The action aimed to pressure the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) to hand power to civilians.
The Scaf earlier said "plotters" were trying to undermine the Egyptian state.

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Russia supporting Syria to retain foothold in Middle East
By Mahmoud Shouri, 11 Feb 2012

The diplomatic row between the West and Russia over Syria at the United Nations Security Council is a clear indication of Syria’s strategic importance for Moscow. 
By protecting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the former superpower wants to prevent a repeat of the Libyan scenario. The fall of Tripoli was brought about by the relentless NATO onslaught, and with Moscow’s implicit consent, but it did not result in any great gains for Russia at the international level.  
Due to this, the Russians opposed the draft of the UN Security Council resolution against Syria. The redrafted version of the resolution was also not acceptable for Russia, even though the part calling for the resignation of the Syrian president was removed to placate Moscow.  

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Libya's Saadi Gaddafi threatens to lead uprising
BBC News, 11 Feb 2012

One of the sons of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has threatened to lead an uprising against the country's transitional government.
Saadi Gaddafi made the comments in a television interview from Niger, where he fled after his father was toppled.
He said he still had many followers in Libya, including within the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC).

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Libya: UN welcomes adoption of electoral laws
UN News Centre, 09 Feb 2012

The United Nations political mission in Libya today welcomed the North African country’s adoption of new electoral laws, calling the move “an important step in Libya’s transition to democracy.”
Media reports indicate that Libyan authorities yesterday finalized the laws, which set out details on the holding of elections later this year to choose a national assembly, which will have the task of drawing up a new constitution.
In a statement released in Tripoli, the capital, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) underlined that the electoral process, including the drafting of the new laws, is Libyan-led. The mission has provided technical assistance to the National Transitional Council (NTC) and is ready to assist the newly created Higher National Electoral Commission.

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Pardoned Moroccan clerics say they were tortured
By Paul Schemm, Associated Press, 09 Feb 2012

Three conservative clerics whose arrests nine years ago heralded the beginning of Morocco's crackdown on Islamists called on Thursday for a new investigation into their country's worst terrorist attack.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S., Moroccan authorities began targeting hardline Islamist clerics, especially those believed to be sympathetic to al-Qaida -- a crackdown that broadened after the May 2003 bombings in Casablanca that killed 45.

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