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Monday, 26th September 2022
12:05:16pm

North Africa

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Amnesty International on Wednesday accused the Egyptian authorities of "continuing to stifle freedoms", six weeks before the opening of the UN World Climate Conference (COP27) in Egypt.

In September 2021, President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi launched a national strategy for human rights, in which he insists that education, health, and electricity are more necessary rights than, for example, the right to assemble, which is almost forbidden in Egypt.

Agnes Callamard, secretary general of London-based Amnesty International, accused the authorities of using this strategy "to cover up their continuing human rights violations, thinking they can fool the world before COP27. 

The international community must "put pressure on the Egyptian authorities" to "put an end to abuses and impunity, starting with the release of thousands of critics and opponents arbitrarily detained in Egyptian prisons," the human rights organization added.

For human rights defenders, the awarding of the COP27 to Egypt is seen as a "reward to a repressive power".

Since he came to power in 2013, Mr. Sissi is accused by these activists of having gradually muzzled the population.

Egypt has more than 60,000 prisoners of conscience, including peaceful activists, lawyers, academics, and journalists, according to Amnesty.

-Africa News

Tunisia’s 81-year-old opposition leader Rached Ghannouchi appeared Tuesday before an anti-terror unit.

 After hours in the waiting Monday and a postponement of his questioning, he was eventually questioned over alleged involvement in sending jihadist militants to Syria and Iraq.

The supporters of the Ennahdha chief chanted "freedom" and slogans as they gathered in a show of solidarity. The party spokesperson denounced "a willingness to ill-treat" Ghannouchi throughout the interrogation process: 

"He is a citizen [Rached Ghannouchi] who came willingly. He came freely, not under arrest. They [his lawyers] asked that the interrogation be postponed to today because the conditions for the interrogation hadn't been fulfilled yesterday [the previous day].
What surprised us was that there was a willingness to ill-treat Rached Ghannouchi, and to subject him to these conditions, despite his age, Imed Khemiri lamented. We think this is a form of torture, and it undermines the transparency of the questioning."

"Without evidence"

One of the deputies of the party Ali was also questioned and was held at the headquarters of the anti-terror unit late Monday. In a statement released overnight, Ennahdha denounced the interrogation as "a flagrant violation of human rights".

Citing one of his lawyers, the Reuters agency reported Laarayedh will appear before a judge on Wednesday. "We are shocked..the file is completely empty and without any evidence", Samir Dilou, another lawyer told Reuters. 

After the 2011 overthrow of long-time president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, thousands of Tunisians joined the ranks of jihadist organizations -- most notably the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, but also in neighboring Libya.

Ennahdha played a central role in Tunisia's post-Ben Ali politics until president Kais Saied began his power grab in July last year, followed by a controversial referendum that granted unchecked powers to his office.

Ennahdha had on Sunday decried attempts "to use the judiciary to tarnish the opposition's image" and implicate its leaders in "fabricated affairs".

-Africa News

Egypt, the host of this year's upcoming U.N.-led climate conference, is rejecting reports by a rights group saying that authorities in the Middle East country are stifling environmental activism as part of a broader crackdown on dissent.

According to the report by Human Rights Watch, the Egyptian government's restrictions amount to a violation of basic human rights and throw into question its ability to meet basic climate commitments.

The report was based on interviews with more than a dozen academics, scientists, and activists. The global COP27 summit will take place in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh in November. 

Egypt's foreign ministry said late Monday that the report was misleading and that its publishing was "counterproductive." 

The statement did not address allegations of intimidation and obstruction faced by environment workers and other activists. Rather, it responded to accounts that some local groups have faced difficulty in registering their non-governmental organizations due to strict laws on how NGOs should be established and registered.

Only groups registered with the government can apply for accreditation to participate in the COP27 summit.

Egypt's government has engaged in a widespread crackdown on dissent in recent years, detaining thousands, many without trial, according to rights groups. Under President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, authorities have also intimidated activists. New laws have practically barred many civil society organizations from operating.

"It is unfortunate to find such allegations and inaccuracies in the latest HRW report on the participation of environmental groups in COP27. The report is based on the testimonies of unknown sources, and unidentified groups claiming potential impediments to their participation in the conference," said Ahmed Abu Zeid, the ministry's spokesman.

-Africa News

Tunisia’s government and the country’s main labour union (UGTT) struck a pay deal Thursday in the capital. The agreement involves a five percent annual hike to public sector wages every year until 2025. 

The breakthrough comes after arduous negotiations and a general strike observed in June. The purchasing power of Tunisians had eroded since the beginning of the year amid rising prices, high unemployment and widespread poverty.

"Despite the delicate economic and financial situation, the government was keen to open negotiations on wage increases, Najla Bouden, Head of Government said. And to consolidate trust with the social partner in order to achieve the common objective of establishing social peace and supporting civil servants." 

Noureddine Taboubi, the head of the UGTT stressed on the importance of peace: "Our objective through this agreement is to establish social peace and to ease the tense social climate, in view of the very difficult social situation and the deterioration of purchasing power."

The Tunisian General Labour Union leader confirmed the first hike would take effect next month. The state-run news agency TAP also reported the deal included a rise in the minimum wage.

The government continues to negotiate with the International Monetary Fund over a $2 billion bailout.

-Africa News

The death toll from a migrant shipwreck off Tunisia last week has risen to 12, Tunisia’s ministry of interior said on Monday.

A total of 37 migrants, all of Tunisian nationality, were involved in this attempt to illegally reach the Italian coast from the region of Sfax (central-east), according to a security official.

Their makeshift boat capsized during the night of 6 to 7 September off Mahdia, a coastal town in central-eastern Tunisia. 

The six new bodies, recovered on Sunday according to the Ministry of Interior, are in addition to six others already found on Thursday. 

Fourteen other migrants were rescued, according to authorities.

The Tunisian authorities have intercepted or rescued some 500 illegal migrants in several operations carried out in a few days, according to official figures.

Tunisia is going through a serious political and economic crisis and now has four million poor people out of a population of nearly 12 million.

In spring and summer, with the help of milder weather, attempts to emigrate illegally from Tunisia to Europe tend to increase. 

Italy, whose coastline is only 200 km from the Tunisian coastline, is one of the main entry points for migrants from North Africa.

According to the European agency Frontex, the central Mediterranean route was used by more than 42,500 migrants from January to July, an increase of 44% compared to the first seven months of 2021.

-Africa News

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