Posts Tagged ‘international crisis group’

Discontent, disturbance and legal failures in Palestine, Tunisia and Turkey (Fitzgibbon)

June 9th, 2012 Comments off

Will Fitzgibbon writes at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism

It has been a big week for the NGO heavy-hitters. Three separate investigations in three different countries indicate an arc of discontent, disturbance and legal failures stretching from the Bosporus to the Gulf of Tunis.

On Wednesday, 6 June, Amnesty International released a report on the use of administrative detention in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Shortly after, the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) examined the persecution of human rights defenders in Turkey. Finally, the International Crisis Group (ICG) released a report on the fragile socio-economic reality of post-Arab Spring Tunisia.

These reports come one week after the United States of America released its annual report on the global human rights situation on 25 May 2011.

In its study drawing on years of research and recent developments, Amnesty International asserts that Israel’s use of administrative detention is a violation of human rights.

Under a legal framework left behind after British Mandate Palestine, over 300 Palestinian prisoners are currently held under what is known as an “administrative detention order”.  The law in question allows for individuals to be held without charge and without the guarantee of a trial. An administrative detention order may be issued, and renewed indefinitely, where the Minister of Defence has “reasonable grounds to presume that the security of the state or public security require the detention.”

According to Amnesty International, administrative detention is a tool of extra-judicial punishment.  The human rights organisation claims it “is used regularly by the Israeli authorities as a form of political detention, enabling the authorities to arbitrarily detain political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience”.

Amnesty highlights the well-reported mass hunger strike of an estimated 2,000 Palestinian prisoners and detainees who, in April 2012, stopped eating to protest against detention conditions, including the practice of administrative detention. The global human rights NGO notes that the hunger strikes have had little effect in improving Israel’s use of administrative detention.

The misuse of administrative and legal measures in what amounts to human rights violations is also the subject of The International Federation of Human Rights’ report on Turkey.

In the face of drifting EU membership hopes, writes the FIDH, Turkey’s legislative advances in the area of human rights “no longer seem to be a priority.”

Consequently, Turkey is seeing a trend towards “large-scale trials against organized groups viewed as ‘in opposition’ to the Government,” including the military and Kurdish groups.

Repressive administrative practices and ready application of vague criminal provisions in the Turkish Penal Code and the Anti-Terrorism Law are particular favourite tools of Turkish authorities with which to target human rights’ defenders, FIDH claims.

FIDH also chronicles the individual cases of NGO workers, lawyers, trade unionists, journalists and academics, who have been prosecuted under Turkey’s contested Anti-Terrorism Law.

105 journalists, 44 lawyers, 16 members of human rights organisations and 41 trade unionists were thought to be in detention at the beginning of 2012.

In an echo of Amnesty’s criticisms of Israel’s administrative detention, FIDH criticises Turkey’s use of “prolonged pre-trial detention,” which “may be seen as a form of punishment per se, independently of the outcome of the trial.”

The ICG, in its investigation on post-Arab Spring Tunisia, ends the weeks’ trio of regional reports on a more positive note, despite warning of the potential for future turbulence. The report, in French, highlights the challenges faced by Tunisia 18 months after the revolution that began the Arab Spring.

While the ICG gives a qualified positive assessment of a “democratically advancing” Tunisia, it maintains there are reasons for concern.

Acknowledging that a large scale return to civil strife is unlikely, the report highlights that the Government and its opponents are still at odds over the pace of social and economic reforms, with each blaming the other for obstruction. According to the ICG, the State is “limping along” under the new governmental structure, which is struggling to end corruption and clan-based violence.

“The revolution opened Pandora’s Box of social demands,” concludes the ICG, adding that a deteriorating employment environment, especially among young graduates, could be dangerous for the newly installed government of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali.  “This could lead to new waves of violent dissatisfaction with the potential to destabilise the political situation,” it warns.

The Amnesty report on Israeli administrative detention is available here.

The FIDH report on Turkey is available here.

The ICG report on Tunisia is available here.


Mirrored from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

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Links May 6-12 2012

May 13th, 2012 Comments off

My latest column for The National, on Egypt’s presidential race and its political context, is here. I’m on a trip, so there will be very little posting in the next few days.

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Links 24-25 April 2012

April 26th, 2012 Comments off


I’m off to Alexandria to eat some fish. And speak at Ecrire La Mediterranée, a literary festival.


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Libya’s militia problem revisited

April 16th, 2012 Comments off

Militia Checkpoint

IHS’ Richard Cochrane reports that despite some success the interim government has had ahead of the planned June 2012 national elections in bringing militias to heel — 8,000 militiamen are now “pledged” to become border guards — several obstacles remain to the NTC’s efforts to establish a secure state. A plan to distribute payments to militiamen and their families — essentially, a plan to secure legitimacy for the NTC in the fighters’ eyes — has been undermined by the NTC’s reliance on militias to manage the payments. The result of which, unfortunately but unsurprisingly, has been an uneven, unaccountable distribution of the money:

Names have been omitted from payment lists and others erroneously added, sparking angry protests, some of which have descended into violence. Local media has reported several incidences of militia groups plundering payment centres located in rival neighbourhoods, or in areas deemed to be insufficiently loyal to the spirit of the revolution.

This is the least of the government’s militia problems, though. Only in March did militia leaders agree to “turn over to the interim govenrment strategic sites, such as airports and border crossings,” to the NTC (the AFP’s correspondent for Libya, Dominique Soguel, hinted that given Libya’s size and limited infrastructure, official control of airports is a much—needed objective for the NTC to accomplish). While separatist stirrings in eastern Libya received substantial attention from the government — and a relatively swift political response that has somewhat dimmed the prospects of federal autonomy — ongoing fighting in southern Libya has reportedly left dozens dead in the past few months. Although the non-Arab minority population in the region supported the NTC, tribal rivalries — and, in the International Crisis Group’s view, a lack of a functioning judicial system or police force — have flared up. To the north, on Libya’s western coast, Berber and Arab militias continue to clash. In both the south and west, the NTC’s armed forces have had a difficult time imposing cease fires. One reason for this is that “even when government security forces are dispatched to resolve crises, there is no guarantee that they will be the strongest force in the area,” an IHS report noted, though the main hindrance is still the NTC’s difficulties in co—opting the new armed groups and the old state machinery.

Outside support to the NTC remains limited. The outcome of a trans—Saharan conference on border security is presumably up in the air following the coup in Mali. And the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) is “not a peacekeeping mission but was there to assist the Libyan authorities to help them create the necessary institutions to govern the country and ensure the respect of fundamental rights for all,” a spokesperson told Xinhua recently, also noting in a press conference that “the main responsibility of disarming and integrating the militias” falls to the NTC.

Of course this is the case: an externally imposed agreement would not be regarded as legitimate. But so far, the NTC has failed to do either on its own, as cannot expect a “third force” in the form of a peacekeeping mission — and it is not clear the NTC even desires such a mission. But it is one thing to subpoena oil majors like Eni SpA and Total SA over their past conduct in Libya, and quite another to do so over all these armed groups, especially those in Misrata who make incursions into refugee camps near Tripoli. Perhaps the trial of of Saif al—Islam Qadhafi, who will probably be tried Libya, instead of going to France or the ICC, will send a message — though the biggest problem now is not holding Qahdafi loyalists accountable, but gaining authority over the NTC’s ostensible followers. That message, though, is not being received well by human rights groups and the UN, which suspect the proceedings may amount to a kangaroo court since, as noted above, the NTC has not yet set up judiciary.

At this point, the NTC has to hope that in keeping its electoral schedule, that the militias do not engage in voter intimidation, though some militias are reportedly already looking to set up political arms to run in the Constituent Assembly elections. “If the leaders of local militias were to decide to intervene to influence the outcome of an election, there is no power or authority that could stop them,” North Africa watcher George Joffe told Agence France Presse. Libya may yet prove to be the exemplar of Obama’s foreign policy, but not in the way that advocates hoped last year when NATO intervened should the ongoing violence affect the electoral process, which is almost certainly going to be happen — the question is not “if?” but “to what extent?”

[Ed. note: an informative addition on what ordinary life is like in Libya these days can be found in this interview with friend of the blog Geoff Porter.]

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Links March 18 2012

March 18th, 2012 Comments off

I haven’t done a link-dump in ages, so these are some of the more recent ones… mostly from this month.

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Links 22-24 January 2012

January 25th, 2012 Comments off
Some handcrafted links I didn’t have time to bookmark properly:
And the usual that already went out on Twitter:

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"I don’t think the Syrian National Council has much leverage over the Free Syrian Army, & I don’t think the Free Syrian Army has much leverage itself over what is happening on the ground,"

January 5th, 2012 Comments off

“…Based across Syria’s northern border in Turkey, Asaad has been described by some observers as more of a figurehead than leader of the Free Syrian Army, which says it has over 15,000 military defectors in its ranks but whose true size, membership and capabilities remain cloaked in mystery.
“I’m not sure how much control the FSA has over militants in Syria,” said London-based analyst Julien Barnes-Dacey. “Most of these groups are operating on localized autonomous basis.”
On Tuesday Asaad said the rebel army would “take a decision which will surprise the regime and the whole world” within days. “What is most likely now is we will start a huge escalation of our operations,” he said.
Burhan Ghalioun, head of the main opposition Syrian National Council has urged army defectors and insurgents to limit their operations to defending peaceful protests, saying it was “fundamental for the success of our revolution to preserve its peaceful character”.
That tension between the armed and political wings (whoa, wings now?)of the uprising is matched by the gulf between an opposition in exile rallying international support and the protesters and rebels inside Syria who act largely independently, analysts say.
“I don’t think the Syrian National Council has much leverage over the Free Syrian Army, and I don’t think the Free Syrian Army has much leverage itself over what is happening on the ground,” said Peter Harling, an analyst with the International Crisis Group who has spent several years in Damascus.He said the FSA was more of an umbrella for disparate fighters than a real centre of command.
“People see a source of legitimacy in this (FSA) label, but what you have is groups emerging on a very local level, mostly composed of civilians, joined by defectors. But it’s local dynamics rather than national.”
The divisions are one reason why Western powers who rushed to support Libyan rebels seeking to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi have been more cautious with the opposition and the FSA.
Ghalioun said unless the rebels reined in their operations Syria could slip deeper into conflict “which pits a free army and an official army against each other”. But in recent weeks he has faced growing criticism, even from within the SNC, for not endorsing a more forceful policy against Assad.

A spokesman for the Free Syrian Army, Major Maher al-Naimi, said Ghalioun’s comments reflected his ignorance of “military basis of the (Syrian) regime”, and insisted the rebels would target anyone bearing arms against civilians…
FSA fighters say they are armed only with weapons they took with them when they defected, but authorities say they have seized shipments of weapons crossing into Syria from neighboring states.
The increasing violence has encouraged those protesters – a minority in the early months for the uprising – calling for foreign intervention against Assad.”There’s only a handful left in the SNC that don’t want to move toward armed intervention,” said one council member, who asked not to be named.”…I’m against arming the Free Syrian Army. I see them as more harm than good, but that’s it – it has become an armed revolution now.”

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Is U.S. Egyptian policy just an Israel policy in a ‘galabiya’?

December 12th, 2011 Comments off

“… nine times in that piece (NYTimes) , reporter Helene Cooper states what the American government cares about most, the treaty with Israel:

“… The Obama administration appears now to be openly hedging its bets, trying to position the United States in such a way that regardless of who comes out on top — the army or the protesters — it will still maintain some credibility, and ability, to influence the government and ensure a level of stability in Egypt, and to continue to uphold the Egyptian-Israeli peace deal, which the United States views as central to stability in the region as a whole….

For more than 30 years, the United States has viewed the Egyptian military as the safeguard of the Camp David peace accord …  When President Obama broke with Mr. Mubarak this year, administration officials at the same time sought assurances that the Egyptian military would guide the transition to democracy and continue to uphold the treaty…Of all of the countries undergoing tumult in the Middle East this year, there is none more central to American interests than Egypt. …
Egypt is different. “In terms of the weight of any single country, Egypt outweighs them all,” said Rob Malley, program director for the Middle East and North Africa with the International Crisis Group. “The reason why is because of its size, its population, the historical role its played in influencing Arab public opinion, and, of course, from the U.S. point of view, because of its peace agreement with Israel

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As Assad looks stronger, Turkey openly sponsors killers of Syria’s soldiers

October 28th, 2011 Comments off

On Wednesday, the group, living in a heavily guarded refugee camp in Turkey, claimed responsibility for killing nine Syrian soldiers, including one uniformed officer, in an attack in restive central Syria.… At the moment, the group is too small to pose any real challenge to Mr. Assad’s government….

“We will fight the regime until it falls and build a new period of stability and safety in Syria,” Colonel As’aad said in an interview arranged by the Turkish Foreign Ministry and conducted in the presence of a Foreign Ministry official. “We are the leaders of the Syrian people….”
The colonel wore a business suit that an official with the Turkish Foreign Ministry said he purchased for him that morning…
 Turkish officials predict that the Assad government may collapse within the next two years.
“This pushes Turkish policy further towards active intervention in Syria,” said Hugh Pope, an analyst with the International Crisis Group. He called Turkey’s apparent relationship with the Free Syrian Army “completely new territory.”
“It is clear Turkey feels under threat from what is happening in the Middle East, particularly Syria,” said Mr. Pope, who noted that in past speeches Mr. Erdogan “has spoken of what happens in Syria as an internal affair of Turkey.”
Turkish officials say that their government has not provided weapons or military support ….Still, Colonel As’aad, who thanked Turkey for its protection, made it clear that he was seeking better weapons, saying that his group could inflict damage on a Syrian leadership that has proven remarkably cohesive….
The words seemed more boast than threat, and with mass pro-government rallies and a crackdown that has, for now, stanched the momentum of antigovernment demonstrations, the Syrian government appears in a stronger position than it did this summer...”

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Podcast #10: Libya and its consequences

September 1st, 2011 Comments off

We delayed this week’s podcast to bring you two guests with expert knowledge of the Libyan war and its regional consequences: Steve Negus, who just returned from Tripoli and Benghazi, and Middle East correspondent for The Economist Max Rodenbeck. (Ashraf Khalil is off this week dealing with a looming book deadline.) We talk about why Tripoli fell so fast and how secure it is now, what might happen in Sirte and Sebha, the last Qadhafi strongholds, and what governance might look like in Libya for the foreseable future. We also discuss whether there is a Libyan model for humanitarian intervention, what it might mean for Syria, Qatar’s steroid diplomacy, and still more. Finally, we discuss Libyan novelist Hisham Matar’s novels and play a song from Libya’s reggae-influenced pop music.

Links for this week’s show:

As always, do write in to podcast [AT] with your comments.

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