Tag: <span>AWC</span>

Syria Appeals

Syria: The Start of a Long Night of Sorrow.

Featured Image: Photo by Ahmed akacha: https://www.pexels.com/es-es/foto/gente-demostracion-rally-protesta-7183546/

By Rene Wadlow.

On 13 March 2011 in Derra, in the south of Syria, 15 teenage boys were arrested by Syrian security police for having written hostile graffiti against President Bashar Al-Assad on a school wall. The arrests led to non-violent protests in Derra and by 15 March the protests had spread to other Syrian cities.

Bashar_al-Assad

Picture of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad with the Syrian flag next to him. By Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Arab Spring.

There were social, economic and ecological conditions in the country  which set the stage for such protests. Corruption, unemployment, high population growth, limited resources and a hugh budget for oversized security and military forces; were main obstacles for economic reforms. There was also the spirit of the “Arab Spring”; which had started earlier with the January 2011 end of the government of Ben Ali in Tunisia.

Unlike earlier protest movements in Syria; which were based on religious or ethnic; especially Kurdish identity, the early 2011 movement stressed the unity of all the people and their demand to have recognized their dignity. Women participated actively. Social media via the INTERNET was widely used.

Ben Ali

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, President of Tunisia. By Presidencia de la Nación Argentina, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Police and Military Violence.

Fairly quickly the protesters stated to structure themselves in cities and larger towns. Protesters started to form local councils and to take up local administrative tasks. In 2011; Syria was a police state but under administrated concerning services of education, health and other public services. Rural areas were even less administrated. There was a strong rural to urban migration, especially to larger towns. Social service needs were not met.

The government responded to these demonstrations with police and military violence. By mid-April; a peaceful demonstration in Homs was repressed with a good number of demonstrators killed or wounded. Arrests, often followed by torture, became widespread.

Silence Any Opposition.

There were 12 different branches of the security forces and prisons were overcrowded. While there were local leaders of protests, there were no nation-wide leaders. With no identifiable leaders to arrest, the security forces arrested anyone who looked like a potential troublemaker. Due to the regime’s determination to silence any opposition, Syria’s political culture regressed into fear with an end to independent periodicals and intellectual forums.

By the end of 2011, the government increasingly called upon the regular military to replace the specialized security forces which were too few to deal with the spreading protests. Protesters started to carry weapons. Some of the regular military  who were of the same background as the protesters started to desert and to take their weapons with them.

A Non-Violent Civil Protest to a Violent Civil War.

Thus; the Syrian conflict was transformed from a non-violent civil protest to a violent civil war, leading to a large number of persons displaced within the country and a large number of refugees, especially to neighboring countries – Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon but also to Western Europe.

However, as the conflict grew several regional and international actors involved themselves: Russia and the USA, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, Lebanon with Hezbollah as well as the Jihadist Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

However, efforts at mediation have been carried out nearly from the start by the Arab League, U.N.-appointed mediators, and broader U.N.-sponsored meetings in Geneva. While the mediators have made detailed proposals none have been acted upon.

Therefore; there have also been a few non-governmental efforts at mediation or at least efforts to keep avenues of communication open or to widen the persons involved, especially by increasing the role of women. On behalf of the Association of World Citizens, I have been involved in some of these non-governmental efforts but I have seen few advances. The long night of sorrow continues but we must watch closely for a possible dawn.

Arab League

Euler Diagram for the Arab League, and also any regional organizations with members all belonging the Arab League. By OIC-Diagram.svg:Nuvola_Bahraini_flag.svg: AntigoniNuvola_Iraqi_flag.svg: AntigoniNuvola_Jordan_flag.svg: *Nuvola_Palestinian_flag.svg: User:OrzettoNuvola_Kuwaiti_flag.svg: AntigoniNuvola_Lebanese_flag.svg: OrzettoNuvola_Oman_flag.svg: *Flag_of_Oman.svg: Open Clip Art websiteNuvola_Palestinian_flag.svg: OrzettoNuvola_Qatari_flag.svg: AntigoniNuvola_Saudi_flag.svg: OrzettoNuvola_Sudanese_flag.svg: AntigoniNuvola_Syria_flag.svg: ZarikNuvola_Tunisian_flag.svg: AntigoniNuvola_UAE_flag.svg: AntigoniNuvola_Yemeni_flag.svg: OrzettoNuvola_Algerian_flag.svg: AntigoniNuvola_Djiboutian_flag.svg: AntigoniNuvola_Egyptian_flag.svg: AntigoniNuvola_Libya_flag.svg: OrzettoNuvola_Mauritanian_flag.svg: AntigoniNuvola_Moroccan_flag.svg: AntigoniNuvola_Somalian_flag.svg: Antigoniderivative work: Aris Katsarisderivative work: Aris Katsaris, LGPL <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/lgpl.html>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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Yemen Appeals

Yemen: Positive Action Still Needed.

Featured Image: The UK hosted the Friends of Yemen meeting on 27 September 2012 in New York alongside co-hosts the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Yemen. The meeting was attended by 38 States and International Organisations. Foreign Secretary William Hague with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, President Hadi and Vice Foreign Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Dr. Torki Bin Mohammed Bin Saud Al-Kabir. By English: Foreign and Commonwealth Office, OGL v1.0OGL v1.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Picture by Carl G. Friedrich

25 March is the anniversary date of the start of 28 days on continued bombing of Yemen in 2015 by the Saudi-Arabia-led coalition (Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Sudan, United Arab Emirates helped by arms and “intelligence” by the U.S.A. and the U.K.). The aggression by the Saudi coalition turned what had been an internal struggle for power going on from the “Arab Spring” of 2011 into a war with regional dimensions which brought Iran into the picture. The role of Iran has been exaggerated both by the Iranian government itself and by those hostile to Iran. Nevertheless, the Iranian role is real.

Arab Spring

Arab spring participants (2020). By Paulinabial, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

Since the Association of World Citizens (AWC) had been following possible constitutional developments in Yemen after the 2011 change of government, a couple of days after the 25 March 2015 bombing, the Association of World Citizens sent to government Missions to the United Nations an AWC Appeal for:

Four steps of conflict resolution and negotiations in good faith:

  1.  An immediate ceasefire ending all foreign military attacks.
  2. Humanitarian assistance, especially important for hard-to-reach zones.
  3. A broad national dialogue.
  4. Through this dialogue, the establishment of an inclusive unity government open to constitutional changes to facilitate better the wide geographic- tribal structure of the State.

Six-Region Federation as the Political Structure for Yemen.

While the constitutional form of the State structures depends on the will of the people of Yemen ( if they were able to express themselves freely) the Association of World Citizens proposes consideration of con-federal forms of government which maintain cooperation within a decentralized framework. In 2014, a committee appointed by the then President, Abdu Rabbu Mansur Hadi, had proposed a six-region federation as the political structure for Yemen.

Until 1990, Yemen was two separate States: the People’s Democratic of Yemen in the south with Aden as the capital, and the Yemen Arab Republic in the north with Sana’a as capital. In 1990, the two united to become the Republic of Yemen. The people in the south hoped that the union would bring the economic development which had been promised.

Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi

Sitting down for a meeting, Yemen President Abd Rabuh Mansur Hadi listens as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel welcomes him to the Pentagon July 30, 2013. By U.S Defense Department, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

South Arabia.

Since, even before the Saudi-led war began, there had been very little economic and social development in the south, there started to grow strong “separatist” attitudes in the south. People of all political persuasions hoped to develop prosperity by ending unification and creating what some have started calling “South Arabia” Today, these separatist attitudes are very strong, but there is no agreement on what areas are to be included in a new southern state, and the is no unified separatist political leadership.

Very quickly after 25 March 2015, many governments saw the dangers of the conflict and the possible regional destabilization. Thus there were U.N.-sponsored negotiations held in Geneva in June 2015. The Association of World Citizens worked with other NGOs so that women should be directly involved in such negotiations.

However women have not been added to any of the negotiations and are largely absent from any leadership role in the many political factions of the country. There have been U.N. mediators active in trying to get ceasefires and then negotiations. There have been some temporary ceasefires, but no progress on real negotiations.

Saudi Arabia and Iran under the sponsorship of the People’s Republic of China.

Today, the war continues with the country’s fragmentation, continued internal fighting and impoverishment leading to a disastrous humanitarian crisis. There is a glimmer of possible conflict resolution efforts due to the recent mutual recognition of Saudi Arabia and Iran under the sponsorship of the People’s Republic of China. However, creating a national society of individuals willing to cooperate will not be easy. Regional divisions will not be easy to bridge. There have already been divisions within the Saudi-led Coalition. Thus, positive action is still needed. Non-governmental organizations should seek to have their voices heard.

 

René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

 

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Odessa Blockade Appeals

Lifting the Odessa Blockade.

Photo by Dimitry Anikin on Unsplash.

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) urges action to lift the blockade on Odessa and other Black Sea ports; so that grain and other food resources can resume to flow. Ukraine has a vast agricultural base producing 46 percent of the world’s sunflower exports; and 10 percent of the world’s wheat exports. The Middle East and Africa are Ukraine’s food export market. Odessa has a large grain terminal; in which vast quantities of food exports are now stuck. It is not physically possible to transport large quantities of grain; by rail and road.

In part due to this blockade; food prices for grain have risen some 20 percent; hitting especially the poor. In some parts of Africa; due to climate conditions and armed conflict; there are near famine conditions. New food supplies are urgent.

 

Odessa Blockade

Odessa, Ukraine Port.

Russian authorities have said that they were ready to provide a humanitarian corridor for ships carrying food; but only in return for the lifting of U. S. and Western European sanctions. However; the Western sanctions have a multitude of sources. The lifting of the Odessa blockade and renewed grain shipments must be treated as a single issue; although it is obviously colored by the whole armed conflict.

There are diplomatic efforts underway; led by the African Union and the United Nations. It is urgent that speedy progress be made. Nongovernmental organizations may be able to play a creative role; as many NGOs are already involved in ecologically-sound development projects in areas under agricultural and food stress. The AWC; concerned with the resolution of armed conflicts through negotiations in good faith; appeals for creative diplomatic measures; so that the blockade is ended as soon as possible.

 

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

 

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Ethiopia Appeals

Urgent Appeal for Ceasefire in Ethiopia Armed Conflict.

Featured Image: Church, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Photo by Mesfin Tesfaye on Unsplash.
The Association of World Citizens (AWC) reiterates its urgent Appeal for an immediate ceasefire and the start of negotiations in good faith in the Tigray conflict which has spread to other areas of Ethiopia and is impacting neighboring countries.
 
   When in November 2020, Ethiopian  federal troops entered Tigray Province, the Association of World Citizens, knowing the fragile nature of the Ethiopian  federation foresaw the dangers and called for a ceasefire and the start of negotiations. Ethiopia is a federal republic structured on the basis of 10 provinces. The provinces have the name of the major ethnic group within the province. 
 
Tigray
Administrative Zones of Tigray. By USAID, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Second Class Citizens.

 
However, no province is populated exclusively by one ethnic group.  Through history and economic development people have moved to areas beyond their original “homeland”.  People from a “foreign” ethnic group can be made to feel as “second class citizens”, and there may be violence used against them in times of acute tension or  violence.
 
   The Association of World Citizens has been concerned to detect the roots and dynamics of intra-state conflicts and to propose appropriate structures of government, often based on con-federalism, decentralization, and trans-frontier cooperation. Unfortunately in the nearly one year of armed conflict no such negotiations on the structures of the Ethiopian Federation have taken place.
 

The Armed Conflict.

 
   The AWC has also stressed the need for effective mediation to establish good communications between conflicting parties.  Today, many intra-state conflicts are secession-related.  Many states are the result of past conquests involving diverse ethnic groups. Thus, there is ample potential for lines of fracture especially when there are leaders who can use identity issues coupled with a sense of injustice as a base for mobilization.  Thus far all offers of mediation have been refused.
 
   The armed conflict has led to the destruction of the largely rural economy of Tigray. There are United Nations estimates that some 400,000 persons are in famine conditions.  Many persons are displaced, and there are refugee flows to neighboring countries.  Recently, U.N. humanitarian staff have been expelled from Ethiopia.  It is difficult to measure the extent of human needs, but they are great.
 
   Only dialogue can resolve the core issues of the structure of the Ethiopian state. Thus the Association of World Citizens reiterates its Appeal for an immediate ceasefire and the start of negotiations in good faith, helped if requested by international mediators.

USAID workers aiding displaced people from Tigray (15 March 2021). By USAID, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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Najet Laabidi Appeals-Français

Condamnée pour avoir défendu ses clients : Maître Najet…

Par Bernard J. Henry.

Najet Laabidi; il est des années qui marquent l’histoire d’un pays;  mais aussi celle d’une association. L’année 1961 est, pour l’Allemagne, celle de la construction du Mur de Berlin; qui allait devenir le symbole le plus douloureux de la Guerre Froide; de même qu’elle est l’année de la création, au Royaume-Uni, d’Amnesty International. Cinquante ans plus tard, pour la Tunisie 2011;  est l’année d’une révolution victorieuse du peuple contre la dictature; la première de son genre dans le monde arabe.

Douglas Mattern.

Pour l’Association of World Citizens (AWC);  c’est l’année de la disparition de son Président-fondateur;  Douglas Mattern, emporté par un cancer dans la banlieue de San Francisco.

 

Mais c’est aussi l’année où nous avons commencé à suivre un cas individuel; sur lequel  au début de la décennie nouvelle; et au milieu de la tragédie mondiale sur laquelle elle s’ouvre;  nous travaillons toujours. L’un des volets de ce cas vient de connaître son dénouement en justice; un dénouement qui;  pour n’être pas des plus sévères, ne peut pourtant nous satisfaire. Car lui aussi est porteur d’un symbole, lourd, trop lourd et menaçant.

Civile jugée par des militaires, avocate punie pour avoir défendu.

Ce cas, c’est celui de Najet Laabidi; avocate, Défenseure des Droits Humains (DDH). Comme nous l’écrivions le 27 mai 2017 dans notre article;  «Najet Laabidi, avocate engagée pour l’Etat de droit en Tunisie» :

«Le 8 novembre 2011, choisie et contactée pour représenter des victimes de mauvais traitements dans l’affaire Barakat Essahel, l’avocate subit un déluge d’insultes et de menaces de la part de proches d’anciens officiels de l’Etat poursuivis en justice pour avoir torturé des prisonniers politiques sous Ben Ali. D’abord par téléphone avant le procès, puis le jour venu, en pleine salle d’audience.

La police militaire évacue les auteurs des injures et menaces, mais ne lève pas le petit doigt pour protéger l’avocate. Il lui est ordonné de ne pas quitter le prétoire jusqu’à ce que tout le monde soit sorti. Elle décline une proposition de la raccompagner en voiture. Le ton est donné de ce que seront les années qui suivent pour Najet Laabidi.

Quatre ans plus tard, deuxième round. Le 26 novembre 2015, elle plaide lors d’une audience d’opposition contre Ezzedine Jenayeh, ancien Directeur de la Sûreté nationale sous Ben Ali, condamné par contumace pour délit de violences dans l’affaire Baraket Essahel et qui conteste le jugement. D’entrée, la procédure consacre l’arbitraire.

Najet Laabidi avait accusé Leila Hammami.

[Devant le Tribunal militaire, Najet Laabidi avait accusé Leila Hammami, juge du Tribunal militaire de Première instance,] de partialité, les propos de Najet Laabidi ayant été filmés puis diffusés sur les réseaux sociaux. «Dans ma vidéo,» rappelle l’avocate, «j’ai évoqué les circonstances de l’impunité, j’ai souligné que le Tribunal militaire ne pouvait pas consacrer les principes d’un procès équitable car, dans ce corps d’Etat, il y a toujours la corruption». Nouvelle plainte de Leila Hammami le 21 décembre 2015, la magistrate versant au dossier un CD de l’enregistrement de Najet Laabidi lui disant ses quatre vérités.

Il n’en faut pas plus au Procureur général près la Cour d’appel de Tunis pour lancer des poursuites sur le fondement de l’Article 128 du Code pénal pour «outrage à un fonctionnaire public». Convoquée le 1er février 2016 devant le juge d’instruction du Tribunal de première instance de Tunis, Najet Laabidi refuse de comparaître. Le 12 octobre 2016, elle est condamnée par contumace à un an d’emprisonnement.

Informée de sa condamnation seulement le 24 avril dernier, l’avocate y fait opposition. A l’issue de son audience le 10 mai dernier, Najet Laabidi est condamnée à six mois de prison, décision dont elle interjette immédiatement appel. Mais qui n’aurait jamais dû intervenir en premier lieu, puisque ce qu’on lui reproche, outre peut-être son appartenance à un parti politique d’opposition, c’est d’avoir agi comme ce qu’elle est – une avocate.»

La Constitution Tunisienne.

Qu’importe que tant la Constitution tunisienne que le droit international des Droits Humains interdisent la comparution de civils devant les juridictions militaires; dont les justiciables sont par définition les seuls membres des forces armées. Najet Laabidi comparaît le 27 juin 2019;  devant le Tribunal militaire de Première instance de Tunis. A l’issue d’une délibération aux allures d’interminable, le 12 mars 2020; l’avocate est reconnue coupable; et condamnée à une amende symbolique de huit dinars tunisiens; soit 2,50 € ou $2,79.

 

L’ONG FrontLine Defenders annonce la condamnation de Maître Najet Laabidi

Mieux vaut une amende symbolique qu’une peine d’emprisonnement ferme; certes, comme celle qui lui aurait été à coup sûr infligée pour les mêmes faits sous Ben Ali. Mais cela reste trop; car justement, c’est un symbole.

Une Défenseure des Droits Humains humiliée.

Ce n’est un secret pour personne;  le droit tunisien est un héritier direct du droit français; qui l’a construit pendant; la période de protectorat de la France en Tunisie de 1881 à 1956. A cette exception près que la justice tunisienne ne dispose pas d’un instrument historique et juridique majeur comme; la Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen proclamée en France en 1789;  aujourd’hui partie intégrante de la Constitution de la République française. Les formes y sont;  mais jusqu’en cette année 2011, le fond;  les justiciables tunisiens avaient pris l’habitude de s’en passer. Sauf peut-être les opposants et DDH qui garnissaient régulièrement les cellules du régime. Et ce droit français recèle un intriguant symbole.

l’euro symbolique.

Que ce soit au civil ou en tant que partie civile dans un procès pénal ou criminel; il est possible de demander à son adversaire; qui sera au pénal le prévenu et l’accusé en cour d’assises; un «euro symbolique» de dommages et intérêts, descendant logique du «franc symbolique» qui servait la même fonction. Lorsqu’il ne s’agit pas de balayer les accusations du public d’opportunisme financier; surtout si l’adversaire est notoirement aisé; l’euro symbolique est une solution commode pour faire reconnaître du juge son préjudice d’estime sans avoir à demander une somme conséquente qui ne serait jamais accordée; tant il serait impossible de prouver un préjudice moral ou financier conséquent. Pour autant; l’euro symbolique n’en peut pas moins servir d’outil de vexation envers la partie condamnée; qui se voit ainsi refuser toute idée de puissance et réduire au dénuement moral.

Une Double Insulte.

Condamner Najet Laabidi à huit dinars symboliques;  comme elle aurait pu l’être à un «dinar symbolique»; c’est envers elle une double insulte. D’abord parce qu’elle n’a commis aucun acte qui eût pu lui valoir une comparution en justice;  ayant rempli ses charges d’avocate et aucun Etat se voulant un Etat de droit ne peut judiciariser quiconque pour cela ; voilà qui, à bon droit;  interroge sur l’Article 128 du Code pénal tunisien et son intitulé périlleusement vague d’ «outrage à un fonctionnaire public».

Ensuite; parce que c’est sa qualité de DDH elle-même qui s’en trouve niée;  ses juges lui accordant la faveur d’une peine clémente alors que la moindre conscience juridique aurait dû les amener à une seule et unique conclusion;  celle de l’iniquité de toute peine même symbolique envers elle; professionnelle du droit œuvrant pour la défense des valeurs mêmes qui avaient fait descendre les Tunisiens dans la rue et, in fine, amené la chute du régime Ben Ali puis l’avènement du système actuel;  ce système dont ces mêmes juges font partie.

Maître Najet Laabidi de nouveau visée par les autorités tunisiennes.

En ce sens-là, oui, l’amende infligée à Najet Laabidi a la valeur d’un symbole. Le symbole d’une Tunisie qui, depuis 2011;  avance vers l’Etat de droit mais bien souvent trébuche. Dans notre article du 18 mars 2018 intitulé «Maître Najet Laabidi de nouveau visée par les autorités tunisiennes»;  nous notions encore :

«Si l’on juge un pays sur la manière dont il traite les personnes handicapées, alors la Tunisie a besoin d’un bon avocat. Et si l’on juge un pays au respect que les pouvoirs publics accordent aux avocats, alors la terre du Jasmin semble en chute libre vers l’indéfendable».

Autant dire que Najet Laabidi a elle aussi, plus encore; la valeur d’un symbole. Le symbole des DDH de tous parcours de vie et milieux professionnels; même si les praticiens du droit sont par définition mieux armés pour défendre;  qui permettent tant soit peu à cette Tunisie en chute libre de se raccrocher aux branches. La valeur d’un symbole à défendre; car de là dépend la réalité de demain de l’Etat de droit en Tunisie. Et partout ailleurs; parce qu’un symbole de liberté n’a pas de frontières.

Bernard J. Henry est Officier des Relations Extérieures de l’Association of World Citizens.