9 Jan 2012 - NPWJ News Digest on Middle East and North Africa Democracy


UN voices grave concern after dozens die in bomb blast in Syrian capital
UN News Center, 09 Jan 2012

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council voiced grave concern at the deteriorating situation inside Syria after an apparent suicide bomb attack in the capital, Damascus, left many people dead or injured.
Media reports indicate as many as 26 people were killed in the attack earlier today near a busy intersection in Damascus, with almost 50 others injured.

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More powers for parliament in Bahrain
Gulf Daily News, 09 Jan 2012

 Constitutional amendments granting more powers to parliament have been drawn up by the government.
The proposed changes were yesterday presented to the National Assembly, which consists of parliament and the Shura Council, for debate.
Under the proposed amendments, parliament would play a bigger role in questioning ministers, discussing public issues and setting terms for running in national elections, among other things.
The proposed amendments aim to create a more balanced relationship between executive and legislative authorities, according to a statement issued by the Cabinet following its meeting on the 8 of January.

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Arab League renews call to end violence in Syria
BBC News, 08 Jan 2012

 Ministers meeting in Cairo said the Arab League mission to Syria would continue, despite criticism that it has not managed to halt civilian deaths.But the ministers failed to take up a proposal to bolster the mission by including United Nations experts.
Activists said more than 20 new deaths were reported on Sunday, including 11 soldiers in southern Deraa province.

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No amnesty for gross human rights violations in Yemen, top UN official says
UN News Center, 06 Jan 2012

 Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned that there must be no amnesty for gross rights violations in Yemen, stressing that the victims of the worst abuses during the country’s protracted crisis must have recourse to justice. She issued a statement calling on Yemeni decision-makers to respect the prohibition under international law against amnesties for the worst violations.
An amnesty law may soon be presented to Yemen’s Parliament in the wake of the resolution of the conflict that killed an unknown number of people as pro-and anti-Government forces clashed last year as part of the Arab Spring uprising that gripped the wider Middle East and North Africa.
The High Commissioner underlined the importance of a victim-centred approach to justice in countries such as Yemen that are emerging from violent conflict or crisis.



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Morocco govt to seek royal pardon for jailed activists
Reuters , 05 Jan 2012

 Morocco's new justice minister Mustafa Ramid,  said  he would seek royal pardons for critics of the establishment who rights activists say have been unfairly jailed, signalling a break with the past by the new Islamist-led government.
Mustafa Ramid, minister of justice and public freedoms, also said in an interview he planned to organise a national debate involving judges, the bar and civil society groups to help draft proposals for the reform of the judiciary.
He also promised a new press law that will not subject journalists to jail terms for their reporting - a promise also made by previous governments.

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Egypt: Calls for Minors to Be Kept Out of Political Clashes
Al Africa , 05 Jan 2012

 The involvement of children in violence during ongoing clashes between protesters and police in Egypt should be addressed because it is against international norms, say child rights activists
"I have seen hundreds of children leading the fight against military and civilian policemen in violent clashes across the nation over the past months," Mahmud al-Badawi, a lawyer and the chairman of local NGO Egyptian Association for the Assistance of Juveniles and Human Rights, told IRIN. "This is totally against local and international laws.
Children were caught up in deadly clashes between demonstrators and military policemen guarding the cabinet and parliament buildings in central Cairo on 17 December. Some were seen hurling stones at the police and setting public buildings on fire.

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Hundreds Tortured in Syria, Human Rights Group Say
By NY Times, Kareem Hafim, 05 Jan 2012

 The Syrian government said Thursday 5 January 2012 that it had released more than 500 prisoners who were not involved in “terrorist” acts. A human rights group said, meanwhile, that it had compiled evidence that thousands of other detainees were languishing in government prisons and secret detention centers where, the group said, torture was routine.
The group, Avaaz, also said that its researchers had gathered the names of at least 617 people who had died under torture in government installations since the beginning of the uprising against Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad.
On Thursday, in a statement, the Arab League announced a buttressing of the mission, saying that 110 observers would be added by the end of the week. The Arab League is set to discuss the first report by the leader of the observer mission, Lt. Gen. Muhammad Ahmed al-Dabi of Sudan, on Sunday.

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YEMEN: Yemen malnutrition data should "shock"
IRIN News, 27 Dec 2011

 Aid workers hope "shocking" new malnutrition figures from a survey conducted in western Yemen will help highlight the serious humanitarian situation in the country and prompt donors to act immediately. Until now, aid workers say some donors have been unconvinced of the extent of the problem because of a perceived lack of evidence.
Yemen’s Ministry of Public Health and Population, with the support of UNICEF, surveyed 3,104 households in Hudeidah Governorate in October and collected data on 4,668 children under five.

The survey found a global acute malnutrition (GAM) rate of 31.7 percent - meaning nearly one third of children surveyed suffered from either moderate or severe acute malnutrition - of which nearly 10 percent were severe cases. These figures are more than double the internationally recognized emergency threshold of 15 percent. The survey also found that nearly 60 percent of children were underweight and 54.5 percent stunted, meaning their height was too low for their age, a sign of longer-term malnutrition. 

These results are consistent with recent surveys conducted in other parts of the country. 

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