One of the most debated news this month has been the reform of the Constitution in Morocco. On 17 June, King Mohamed VI addressed the Moroccan people and presented the draft for a new constitution. The draft, tested in a referendum on 1 July, introduced some changes in the managemenet of the country’s political affairs and put set some limits to the King’s power. Although the King’s move gained both great popular and international support, back home it also had to face the opposition of youth movements who consider that the amendments proposed by the King were not enough. In order to make clear its refusal of the new constitution, the Mouvement 20 Février organised demonstrations in several cities the two Sundays following the speech, 19 and 26 June, and distributed a video calling for the boycott of the referendum. But despite these efforts, an overwhelming majority, although the figures were not free from controversy, of 98.5% of the votes approved the draft in the 1 July referendum. Another country that has taken positive steps has been Tunisia. The trial in absentia of the ousted President Ben Ali and his wife began on 20 June. In this first trial, Ben Ali and Leila Trabelsi were both sentenced to 35 years in prison for embezzling state funds. Two weeks later, the former Tunisian President was again sentenced to other 15 years in prison for illegal possession of drugs and weapons. Also in June, the Tunisian interim government signed the Rome statute and joined the International Criminal Court, becoming the first North African country to join the institution. On a less positive tone, and ahead of October’s elections, Tunisia’s main Islamist party, Ennahda, decided in late June to withdraw from the electoral commission entrusted with preparing the elections because it did not agree with the way the commission was managing the process.
Trials against former Mubarak officials are also taking place in Egypt. Thus, in early June the former Minister of Finance, Youssef Boutros Ghali, was sentenced in absentia to 30 years in prison for profiteering. However, the delay in the judicial procedures and trials of former government and police officials together with some controversial sentences have generated increasing discontent among the Egyptian population. In late June the youth movements that brought about the 25 January Revolution started to call for more demonstrations to protest against the military government and to keep alive the revolution’s goals. Protests reached a climax on Friday 8 July, when Tahrir Square was retaken by a peaceful crowd demanding faster reforms. Furthermore, the demonstration resulted in sit-ins that became a platform for protesters to issue their demands to the Executive. So far, these actions have forced the PM, Essam Sharaf, to announce a large-scale cabinet reshuffle, still to be fully implemented. Bahrain is also involved in a round of ups and downs: on the negative side, eight activists were sentenced to life imprisonment last month, accused of plotting against the regime during the February upheaval; on the positive side, the international community has praised both the decision of King Hamid bin Isa al Khalifa to create an independent investigation commission to look into the revolts and the beginning of a National Dialogue. The latter, which began on 3 July, includes more than 300 organisations and is scheduled to debate four main topics: reform, dialogue, work processes and registration processes.
The most unstable scenarios are in Syria and Libya. In Syria, despite a general, although as yet intangible, condemnation by the international community, the regime continues its brutal repression of protesters. In a new attempt to appease the popular rage, Bashar al-Asad gave a speech at Damascus University and declared a second amnesty on 20 June. He also allowed around 200 opposition personalities to gather at a hotel in Damascus to discuss the country’s future, although the members of the Damascus Declaration, the main opposition group, were not allowed to join the meeting. In another move, the regime organised a consultative meeting ahead of a Comprehensive National Dialogue, whose final communiqué emphasises dialogue as the only instrument to achieve political stability. However, peaceful and pro-democratic demonstrations have continued to spread, reaching cities as important as Hama or even the capital, Damascus. Regarding Libya, no major changes have occurred at the front, although early June was marked by intense diplomatic activity from China and Russia aimed at negotiating the end of the conflict. In turn, traditional foreign players have also been very active this month. The Contact Group on Libya met first in Abu Dhabi (9 June) and more recently in Istanbul (15 July) with no significant changes in their agenda. Also in early June, the UN International Commission of Inquiry released its report denouncing human rights violations and war crimes, and the International Criminal Court issued the arrest warrants against Colonel Gaddafi, his son Saif al Islam, and his brother-in-law and chief of intelligence services, Abdullah as-Senussi. Finally, on the diplomatic side, the Libyan ambassadors to Spain and Turkey were both expelled, and Turkey even officially recognised the National Transition Council as the only legitimate representatives of the Libyan people.
Documents of interest
Abu Dhabi Gallup Center, Egypt: from Tahrir to Transition [online] EAU, June 2011.
Human Rights Watch, Prisoners of the Past, New York, HRW- Report 13, June 2011
Morocco’s State Bulletin Nº 5962 [online]- Draft Constitution, 17 junio 2011.
International Amnesty, Crackdown in Syria: Terror in Tel Kalakh [online] London: IA Publications, July 2011
International Crisis Group (2011), Popular Protest in North Africa and the Middle East (VII): The Syrian Regime’s Slow-motion Suicide, Middle East/North Africa Report N°109 [online], 13 julio 2011
International Crisis Group (2011), Popular Protest in North Africa and the Middle East (VI): The Syrian People’s Slow Motion Revolution, Middle East/North Africa Report N°108 [online], 6 July 2011
Dossier Nº 2 (June 2011)
Dossier Nº 1 (May 2011)