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Politics 2012-01-12

Tunisia, Libya show progress in human rights

By Monia Ghanmi for Magharebia in Tunis – 12/01/12

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Libya and Tunisia have an "unprecedented opportunity" to promote human rights, Amnesty International's said in its "Year of Rebellion" report released on Monday (January 9th).

The international human rights watchdog group praised both countries for taking steps to redress past abuses but also noted significant room for improvement.

"We sensed that there are reforms and a desire for progress, but they remain inefficient, inadequate and below expectations," Lotfi Azzouz, director of Amnesty International Tunisia, said Monday in Tunis.

In Tunisia, Amnesty International said that a year after the revolution toppled Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the country witnessed some important improvements in human rights, including the ratification of international conventions on the issue. However, the group said that the pace of change has been slow, failing to achieve the transitional justice Tunisians wish for.

The security system, which Azzouz saw as the main cause of violations in Tunisia, has witnessed some cosmetic reforms as it continues to adopt the same policy of the past. He further explained that the judiciary has failed to adopt proper legislative reforms.

"Regrettably, no significant steps were taken by the new authorities to address the impunity for past human rights violations," the report said. "Neither the police nor the judiciary, two of the institutions that had been directly responsible for or complicit in serious abuses, were made subject to significant reforms."

However the rights group noted that the Directorate for State Security, otherwise known as the "political police", was dissolved.

Despite the limitations of these institutional reforms and a deficient tracking of human rights violations, Amnesty International expressed optimism regarding the transitional period in Tunisia.

"A year on from the 'jasmine revolution' there are good grounds for hope that the period of transition will bring a better future for all Tunisians," the report stated.

The organisation called on all Tunisians to make use of the favourable opportunity of drafting a new constitution, by demanding that the Constitution ensure the protection of human rights and accountability before the law.

In Libya, despite the pledges of the National Transitional Council (NTC) to respect all human rights, the report criticised the nascent government for failing to control anti-Kadhafi militias.

Mohamed Lotfi, a researcher at Amnesty International specialised in North African affairs, stressed that human rights violations in Libya are still ongoing at the hands of armed militias, pointing out that the report cited a UN study estimating there were 7,000 pro-Kadhafi detainees awaiting trial.

According to Lotfi, the NTC is not yet powerful enough to control militias and prevent a repeat of violations that prevailed under the old regime, nor is it able to impose order in Libya.

But the Amnesty report also found cause for optimism in Libya, noting that the uprising has led to a blossoming of free speech once unheard of under the old regime.

"After decades without independent organisations and political parties, Libya witnessed a mushrooming of civil society organisations, political groups and media outlets. Public criticism of some NTC members and decisions appeared to be tolerated," Amnesty International said.

"The new authorities now face enormous challenges as the country enters a period of transition, but they have an unprecedented opportunity to address and remedy the many wrongs of the past and to build effective safeguards against their repetition," the report concluded.

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    عمر العزيز 2012-1-15

    This message is addressed to Moncef Merzouki and not to the Excellency because these two are parallel lines which can never meet. Responsibility today is bigger. All eyes and attention are addressed to you. The world has followed Arab revolutions through Tunisia. The scene began from Tunisia. What I would like to say in this message is that during the rule of Ben Ali you were fighting for freedom and dignity. But today, you are the chief in Tunisia. So will you dignify Tunisians by seeking to restore their rights usurped during the rule of the fugitive or are things limited to the idea of bridge which will lead to Excellency?