Weekly newsletter

Weekly Bulletin June 20 June 26

Tunis

Regarding the governmental action, the Prime Minister made a speech during the plenary session devoted to conducting a dialogue on the first 100 days of governmental action. The Prime Minister reminded of the period when Tunisia faced the Corona pandemic and the results of the measures taken by the government. However, the most important point is the return of talk about the conflicts of interest issue. It has been established that the Prime Minister, in the exercise of his position, has shares in a company contracting with the state.During his speech, he announced that he voluntarily relinquished his share. He also cited arguments that, in his opinion, justify the absence of conflicts of interests, but what is noticeable is his statement that doubting him reached the level of doubting all the system of public deals. What can be observed is that the Tunisian public opinion did not accept these arguments, especially since it was supposed that he relinquishes his share in the aforementioned company since he took office to remove all ambiguities and deny every hypothesis of conflicts of interest. The practice of politicians remains far from the level of political discourse.

It is reported that the head of the National Anti-Corruption Commission, Chaouky al-Tabib, on Friday 19 June 2020, announced the existence of suspicions of conflicts of interests related to 3 members of the Elyes Al-Fakhfakh government, adding that the interests of the Department of Declaring the Benefits and Interests are in the process of verifying them once and for all. In a related context, Shaouky al-Tabib, confirmed the existence of a suspicion of conflicts of interest related to 7 parliamentarians, who received notification to settle their situation, indicating that some of them were heard while the commission received a response from other lawyers. Al-Tabib highlighted that if the legal deadlines for a period of one month have expired and their status has not been settled, then the files of these representatives will be referred to the judiciary.

The Prime Minister’s speech came under many pressures and demands for his resignation. The parliamentary session also witnessed great chaos, as many MPs took the initiative to leave after what they considered an accusation by the Prime Minister of defaming them.

The Heart of Tunisia Party and the Dignity Coalition led these movements, and they organized a joint press symposium, during which the representative for the “Heart of Tunisia”, Ayad Loumi, announced the start of forming a parliamentary committee, mostly from the opposition, to investigate the Prime Minister’s conflict of interest case. Representatives of the two parties also called for the resignation of Elyes Al-Fakhakh.

On another level, public opinion was preoccupied with the level of political discourse, which has become characterized by contention, conflict, and a weak discourse style. The Prime Minister used an expression which provoked the cynicism of Tunisian public opinion on social media “You will never see it happen.”

The Prime Minister is no different in terms of rhetoric from his opponents, as the prevailing feature is the tension that affects the level of speech and the phrases used. This reveals the extent of controversy and conflict between the political parties, while common visions about the crisis in the country and ways to get out of it are absent.

On the other hand, the ruling coalition parties adhered to the existing political situation, and their fear of the political vacuum appears clear, given that the balances themselves are unable to produce political stability.

The Tunisian public opinion was again exposed to the quality of a shaking political speech, as the journalists boycotted a press conference in the Parliament of the People’s Deputies, for the Heart of Tunisia and the Dignity Coalition, regarding the creation of a parliamentary commission of inquiry into suspicions of conflicts of interest related to the Prime Minister. The boycott came as a reaction to their discourse which was considered an incitement committed by the head of the Dignity Coalition bloc Saif Al-Din Makhlouf to reporters of Arab channels in Tunisia.

Tunisia's political discourse between vulgarism, populism, and incitement

Regarding parliamentary work, the election of the members of the Constitutional Court bagan. This comes with a record delay as the court was supposed to be founded during the year of the legislative elections on October 26, 2014. After nearly 6 years, you see the first steps in focusing a pivotal institution in the Tunisian legal and political system, but its future does not seem reassuring because of the continuous tension in the Tunisian political class. The following is a list of nominations of the parliamentary blocs to the Constitutional Court:

Nazih Souiï

Mohamed Adel Kaanich

Noureddine Ghazouani

Fadhel Hechmi

Ezzdine Arfaoui

Noureddine Ghazouani

Mohamed Adel Kaanich

Noureddine Ghazouani

Jalel Eddine Allouche

Mohamed Bouzghiba

Noureddine Ghazouani

Noureddine Ghazouani

Abdeljelil Bouraoui

Kamel Hedhili.

Following the session which took place on Monday, June 22, 2020, the electoral committee of the People’s Representatives Assembly announced that it rejected all candidacy files for membership in the Constitutional Court, which were submitted individually, i.e. which do not include a nomination issued by a parliamentary bloc of 10 nominations, due to the lack of the nomination application. This is to align to the provisions of Chapter 11 of the Basic Law No. 50 of 2015 of December 3, 2015 related to the Constitutional Court and the decision regarding the call for nominations for membership of the Constitutional Court. As for the nomination files issued by the parliamentary blocs, the Committee accepted two nomination files and rejected 9 nominations for the lack of the required documents, while 5 files deferred to a future session. It is worth noting that the period specified for the examination of  the parliamentary blocs nominations for membership of the Constitutional Court by the Electoral Commission is from 22 to 29 June 2020, according to the decision of the Parliament’s office dated June 11, 2020. It should be noted that the People’s Assembly had elected in the last parliamentary term a member of the Constitutional Court who is specialist in law. On this basis, the nominations were opened for two candidates who are law professionals and one candidate who is not.

corridors of Parliament. The chairperson of the General Legislation Committee of the People’s Assembly, Samia Abbou, announced the termination of the approval of the chapters of the final version of the draft “Law No. 25-2015 related to repression of offenses against the armed forces“, following improvements in the wording and ensuring the balance between respecting human rights and the physical protection of security, according to her opinion. Samia Abbou indicated that during the session of Thursday, 2 July 2020, the final report will be read and transmitted to the office of the People’s Assembly, to determine the date of a public session, and the bill will be finally approved. Therefore, this law must be pursued by civil society.

It is also worth mentioned that the final report of the Truth and Dignity Commission was published on June 24, 2020. The report revolves around a debate about how to actually contribute to its valuation in order to preserve the outcomes of the transitional justice course, especially since many parties, whether victims or politicians, address the report critically. This requires an objective assessment of the entire course and the report itself in order to build on the foregoing, instead of falling into scenarios that may harm the democratic transition in Tunisia.

What is considered exceptional this week is the strong resurgence of protests in central and southern Tunisia. On Friday, June 19, 2020, Hajeb El-Ayoun city entered a general strike, with all public institutions, commercial and private shops closing their doors to demand development and employment, at the invitation of the Regional Labor Union and at the request of civil society activists and with the support of national and human rights and civil societies. The city witnessed the beginning of the arrival of a large number of civil society activists, legal, and trade unionists from various sides, as well as the people of Hajeb El-Ayoun delegation to participate in the gathering in the public square and the march to be organized with raising slogans related to development and employment. It is noteworthy that the protests in the delegation of Hajeb El-Ayoun were launched more than three weeks ago to demand the activation of the announced government decisions during the year 2017 for the benefit of the delegation, such as the creation of the district court and a center for vocational training and the conversion of the local hospital to regional and the establishment of a center to clear the blood and bring investment and care for young people and send real development projects. The people of the delegation of Hajeb El-Ayoun organized many peaceful protest movements in the region, and they also marched in Tunis, the capital, and organised celebrations and artistic parties, with the support of the Regional Labor Union, the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights, the Subsidiary Authority of Kairouan Lawyers, and civil societies.

The Regional Union of Labor in Tataouine also decided to carry out a general strike in the governorate of Tataouine, on Monday 22 June 2020, in protest against the security intervention to break up the Kamour sit-in by force, which led to the suspension of a number of protesters and the assault of others. The trade union organization also protested what it considered an employment of the security apparatus and the judicial facility in dealing with social issues and compromising the operational organization’s credibility and aborting its role in linking communication channels between the sit-in and the government. 

 

It is noteworthy that Monday night, in the aforementioned date, witnessed a cautious calm after the confrontations between protesters and security units, which continued until the early hours of dawn and during which the security forces used tear gas to disperse them. It is noteworthy that the youth had protested due to the night security raids and the arrest of the official spokesman for the sit-in of Kamour, Tareq Al-Haddad. The Kamour’s sit-in coordination committee announced on its official Facebook page, Wednesday, 24 June 2020, that he had been released.

On the following day, the security reinforcements left the city of Tataouine, while the youth marched peacefully from the city center towards the first instance court, in addition to a protest during which they demanded the release of all detainees. It is noteworthy that the Kamour protests began since 2017 with a long sit-in, in which young Anwar Al-Sakrafi was killed, after he was run over by a security car. The protest stopped after the protesters’ demands were met, but it came back because the solutions are, as usual, partial, in light of the ongoing crisis across the country.

Here are some statistics about the protests and social movements in Tunisia within 100 days of the government’s work, according to what was presented by the Tunisian Observatory for Economic and Social Rights:

Egypt

One of the most important paradoxes regarding the pandemic’s outbreak in Egypt is the Egyptian scheduling policy messy organizing, scheduling and dealing with medical staffs policies. These policies has resulted in an increasing congestion between the Egyptian government and the Egyptian Medical Syndicate, as the later released a statement what the Egyptian Prime Minister stated earlier, that doctors lack of regularity of work, is one of the main causes of the increasing rates of deaths. The Syndicate criticized the Prime Minister’s statement, stating that it ignored the real causes as lack of capabilities and facilities, lack of required medical tools, the severe lack of intensive care “ICU” beds for patients. Moreover, doctors are facing many other difficulties especially “arbitrary administrative decisions and prevention of legal obligatory leave and day-offs, which the Syndicate have been calling for its amendment in several occasions and meetings with the Prime Minister” according to the statement.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian Prime Minister announced a series of governmental decisions and decrees which included ending the curfew, reopening restaurants and cafes starting Saturday, and allowing them to work at a capacity of 25 percent, banning hookahs “shisha” and they shall be required to be closed at ten PM.  While shops and malls will be required to close at nine PM instead of six PM.  He also announced that parks and beaches shall continue to be closed while public transportation will be allowed to be working till midnight. The five daily Prayers will be allowed to take place at mosques starting Saturday also, but main Friday prayers will continue to be banned.  Cinemas and theatres will also be allowed to reopen starting Saturday and will be allowed to work at a capacity of 25 percent.

The Minister of Justice also issued a decision allowing courts and Real Estate and Registration and Documentation offices to return to working normally, the decision included that whoever gets infected by the Corona Virus  and proves it, would be allowed a sick leave, or else he should be considered work absentee.

The first round of General Secondary (high school) exams has initiated for the current academic year 2019/2020 where 667 thousand and 315 students performed the Arabic language exam within 56 thousand and 591 subcommittees all over the country.  Dr. Mohamed Dahi, head of the General Authority for Health Insurance, said that during the first day of high school exams, 3 students were found to be infected with the Coronavirus. He stated that these students were isolated in their homes and were supposed to still at home until 27 June but they decided to go to exams despite their severe health conditions.

Unfortunately, the Egyptian government tends to lighten and eases current procedures despite the current deteriorating epidemic circumstances

In other news that is related to the Egyptian government’s performance, France, the current Head of UN’s Security Council set an open session, next Monday, to discuss the issue of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in response to Egypt’s request that was submitted to the Council on 19th June. During the last few days, the Security Council has witnessed intense discussions and Egyptian moves on more than one level to explain the current situation and Egypt’s position. This subject is considered extremely important to Egyptians on both the governmental and popular levels. It is considered important to Egypt as a State, Egypt that is witnessing an oppressive regime that is under siege of highly important issues of sensitive strategic value including Libya’s current situation.  

Meanwhile, Legal Cases verdicts against civil society activists and political opposition are continuously issued in Egypt.

On Sunday, 21 June 2020, Alexandria’s Economic Misdemeanor Appellate Court rejected the appeal that was submitted by the Egyptian Initiative lawyer on the ruling that was issued on 27 February 2020. The Court upheld the imprisonment of the activist and blogger Anas Hassan for a period of three years and a fine of 300 thousand pounds, for “Defamation of Religions and misusing social media websites”.

In fact, this kind of verdicts against freedom of expression and freedom of conscience are no longer considered strange or out of context, since the Public Prosecution has turned into a guardian or a watchdog over ethics, ideas and morals.  This is clearly reflected through the Public Prosecution’s repetitive released statements such as the one related to the imprisonment of Hanin Hossam and other cases.

Since the promulgation of Law no.175/2018 on Anti-Cyber and Information Technology Crimes, many bloggers and internet content writers have been tried, specially Article 25 of this law which penalizes whoever assaults the Egyptian family societal morals and ethics by using the internet with imprisonment and monetary fines.

Article 25 of this law

Pre-trial detention also continues to be used as a punishment, as the Criminal Fifth Circuit of Cairo Court “Terrorism “has renewed the detention of the groups known as “Hope Prisoners” for 45 days. By this added duration they have been imprisoned for one year waiting trial pending case no.930 for the year 2019 (State Security) and they are Zyad Al-Elaimy, Hossam Moanes, and Hesham Fouad

Zyad Al-Elaimy, Hossam Moanes, and Hesham Fouad

 : The Court also renewed detention for detainees of the following cases

Abd El-Nasser Ismail, Mohamed Ahmed Taha, El-Badry Arafa Mohamed

tate Security (Alaa Abd El-Fatah, Mohamed Al-Baker)

State Security (Sameh Seoudy)

 (Abd El-Rahman Awad Ismail, Mohamed Mosbah Gebril, Hesham Fouad)

: The State Security Prosecution Renewed the detention of

the Lawyer “Mohsen Bahnsy” in absentia, renewed detention for 15 days pending case No. 558/2020 State Security.

the Lawyer “Mohsen Bahnsy”

Dr. Laila Suief Decided to sit-in in front of Turra Prison to demand a correspondence from her son whom she couldn’t see for three months due to prison visits ban, and didn’t hear from since his last correspondence three weeks ago. During her sit-in, Dr. Laila Suief was harassed to force her to move away from the prison’s perimeter, and just after that, her two daughters joined her in sitting-in with only one demand “we need a correspondence from Alaa”. Alaa’s Family confirmed that their demand is in conformity with the Prison’s internal regulation. Mona Seif, Alaa’s sister, described the events as the following: “They sent a group women after us who assaulted us and robbed us, the only thing that was not robbed was my mobile phone as I left it in my car”. She continues, “All of us, me, Sanaa and My Mother were dragged along the street, and pulled from my hair, while security forces just stood by and watched. Sanaa was beaten up on her head and her back by wooden sticks. Sanaa took most of the beatings; I was dragged along the street while my mother was beaten up and pushed away”

One day following this events, Sanaa Abdul Fattah was abducted while waiting with her sister and mother in front of the General Public Prosecutor’s office to report the aforementioned assault incident that occurred while they were trying to get to know any details about Alaa’s current state in prison. Sanaa was abducted in front of the General Public Prosecutor’s office after checking her identity, and security forces officers who were wearing civilian outfits forced her into a small van “Microbus”. She then appeared before the State Security Prosecution, which decided to detain her for 15 days pending investigation on charges of spreading false news and joining a terrorist group.

On another level of freedom of expression and Internet freedoms violations, a group of Egyptian police forces stormed the headquarters of the website “Al-Manassa” and examined the journalists’ computers. they also narrested the editor-in-chief of the website (Nora Younis) and when the website’s lawyer went to Al-Maadi Police Station where the incident took place to ask about her, the police station denied at first her presence, then admitted after several hours and informed them that Noura would be referred early in the morning to the Public Prosecution. Later, on Thursday evening, 26 June 2020, the Public Prosecution released her on a bail of 10,000 pounds, pending investigations into case No. 9455 of 2020, after investigating with her in a set of ready-made accusations, as is the case with every Egyptian activist:

  • Creating an account on the Internet network that aims to commit and facilitate the commission of a crime that is punishable legally.
  • Possessing a program designed and developed without permission from the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.
  • Unjust use of internet network system or information technology means, telecommunications service, and one of the audio-visual services.

On the Economic level, the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics issued a detailed study on the impact of Corona virus on Egyptian families. Here are some statistics that were included in the study

0 %
of the families, the majority of them, their income had been decreased.
0 %
of families had their income fixed at a certain rate

According to the study, the crisis affected heavily consumption patterns, especially with regard to food commodities, as spending on meat, fish and chicken decreased, while spending on other food commodities such as rice, edible oils and legumes increased to make up for the shortage of more expensive commodities.

According to the data included in the study, the incomes of those who are illiterate declined to 85%, while the incomes of individuals who obtained university education scored 48% higher, and they were the lowest group that had a decline in their income due to this crisis.

In terms of labor rights, workers and employees of the Grand Nile Tower Hotel (previously Grand Hyatt) which is owned by the Egyptian Saudi Tourism Development Company entered an open sit-in inside the hotel in protest aganst the administration’s failure to pay their salaries for months of April and May, and in protest against the administration’s attempt to exploit the new Corona epidemic crisis to reduce Worker’s wages.

The management of “Setcore Spinning Company” in the Industrial City of Borg El Arab in Alexandria also continued its intransigence against the workers who continue their sit-in inside the company to demand their financial rights and to reopen the suspended company without reason.

Libya

Libya’s most prominent title this week is international interventions on the mechanism of the agreement to be concluded between the parties to the conflict, where everyone asks everyone not to interfere, while we note that everyone is interfering in the Libyan affairs in order to preserve their interests and ensure a role for the party that invests in Libya’s future and its upcoming political scene. The internal Libyan parties kept replying only as if they justify the intervention by their supporters and rejected others, in light of the catastrophic humanitarian and economic situation the country is going through.

The internationally recognized Libyan government has refused the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi,warnings that he might intervene militarily in Libya if the forces loyal to the National Accord government advance in the strategic city of Sirte, located 450 kilometers east of the capital Tripoli, leading to Cairo’s direct intervention

The maze of statements comes ahead of a presumed meeting of the Arab League foreign ministers regarding Libya, in which the National Accord government refused to participate. Sisi had given a speech to members of the Egyptian army Saturday, June 20, 2020, in which he said that one of the goals of any possible Egyptian intervention in the neighboring country would be to stop the civil war there. Concerning the Libyan state, the National Accord

government said, “Interfering in its internal affairs and assaulting its sovereignty, whether by declarations, such as the statements of the Egyptian president, or by the support of putschists, militias and mercenaries, is unacceptable.” The National Accord government demanded the international community “to assume its responsibilities, regarding this escalation” and said that it is open to “all impartial mediation, under the auspices of the United Nations,” but it rejected any “unilateral or extra-legal initiatives”.

President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi stressed in a speech broadcast on state television on Saturday, the need to protect the porous Egyptian border, saying that Sirte and Al-Jafra to the south of them represented a “red line”. Sisi said that if this line is crossed, the Egyptian forces will intervene directly in Libya. Also on Sunday, June 21, 2020, the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying that Amman supports Cairo “against any threat to its security and stability.”

On the ground, the guards of the oil installations and the thunderbolt special forces units of the General Command forces led by Khalifa Hifter began the process of “securing and protecting” the Crescent Petroleum through survey and insurance patrols.

Ibrahim, the media office responsible for the Guard of Oil Installations, said that “the military units were launched in mobile patrols from the Guard of the oil installations and the special forces stunning towards the Crescent Petroleum, fields and ports under the air cover of the Libyan Air Force fighters” and the official added that “the military patrols are implemented now. Its assigned tasks within the framework of establishing security in oil fields and installations to secure and protect it from any expected attacks by armed militias.

This came on the instructions of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar after an extended meeting at the headquarters of the Guard of petroleum facilities in the city of Brega to discuss a plan to secure oil fields and ports located in the Crescent Petroleum, according to Al-Faidi.

In the same context, Italian parliamentarians said that it is necessary to reach a cease-fire in Libya and resume dialogue for a political solution that guarantees the unity of the country and respect for its diversity, warning of a “dangerous regional war” that NATO and Russia might participate in.

Members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee from the Five Star Movement added that Italy’s strategic interests are “at stake”, in terms of “energy security, immigration pressure and the terrorist threat”, according to Italian news agency Aki. The parliamentarians indicated that the Italian Foreign Minister’s visit, Luigi de Mayo, to Tripoli on Wednesday 24 June 2020 “returns Rome to the center of international diplomatic efforts, also strongly supported by the United States, to stave off the worst.”

Di Maio added that discussed with Head of the Presidential Council of the Government of National Accord, Fayez Al-Sarraj the importance of returning to the political track to resolve the current situation, the irregular migration issue, the role of the European operation “Irini” in applying the United Nations’ resolutions related to arms supply ban. After the meeting, the Italian minister stated that Al-Sarraj “provided ample assurances that Italy shall remain a basic and irreplaceable partner, despite the Turkish presence in Libya.” Di Maio confirmed that “No military solution to Libya’s conflict” and stressed out “the only reliable path to end the ongoing conflict in Libya is comprehensive negotiations under the supervision of the United Nations”.

On the regional level, the African Union’s Peace and Security Commissioner, Ismail Sharqi, affirmed the African Union’s support of neighboring countries in leading any mediation in Libya by virtue of its proximity and its knowledge of local actors. He also pointed to the availability of “all elements of success for the Algerian initiative”, affirming Algeria’s preference for “participatory and complementary mediation”. Sharqi in a statement that was broadcasted by the Algerian News Agency, stated that he military escalation, the continued fighting, foreign interference, and the sending of mercenaries and weapons to Libya have become a major concern” for the African Union, the Union which he confirmed that it supports the “neighboring countries in leading any mediation in Libya.”

Nevertheless, the African Commissioner pointed out that «there is still hope after the general population has confirmed the impossibility of a military solution to the crisis, as the Libyan parties to the conflict should meet and negotiate to find a political solution to end the prolonged suffering of the Libyan people”

The Algerian diplomat explained that the African Union’s support to neighboring countries in leading any mediation efforts in Libya, is as a priority by virtue of Libya’s proximity and knowledge of local actors. And as for the Algerian initiative the African Union’s Peace and Security Commissioner believes that, Algeria, by virtue of its membership in the African Union’s high committee on Libya, and in its contact groups shall have all the elements required for success.

The African Commissioner said that Algeria prefers participatory and complementary mediation, which is what he touched through the statements of the President of the Republic, Abdel Majid Taboun, who emphasized that the Algerian mediation will be in cooperation with neighboring countries and without excluding any party and with the support of the United Nations and the African Union.

It shall be noted that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Agueila Saleh, visited Algeria, and after that, with in the past days, Head of Government of National Accord, Fayez Al-Sarraj also visited Algeria to arrange for the mediation between parties which Algeria shall host.

On Human rights level, The United Nations welcomed, in a statement, the success of the Libyan Bar Association in appointing its internal committees, considering that independent bar associations play an important role in promoting respect for the rule of law and an effective judicial system. The Statement also included that judges and lawyers should be able to perform their duties without Harassment and intimidation. The Mission called for the release of all arbitrarily detained lawyers and judges in Libya.

Meanwhile, forces affiliated with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar have detained at least six legal professionals in the areas he dominates, and the fate of some of them remains unknown.

: In relation to COVID-19 status in Tunisia , Libya and Egypt

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