Discontent, disturbance and legal failures in Palestine, Tunisia and Turkey (Fitzgibbon)

Will Fitzgibbon writes at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism

It has been a big week for the NGO heavy-hitters. Three separate investigations in three different countries indicate an arc of discontent, disturbance and legal failures stretching from the Bosporus to the Gulf of Tunis.

On Wednesday, 6 June, Amnesty International released a report on the use of administrative detention in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Shortly after, the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) examined the persecution of human rights defenders in Turkey. Finally, the International Crisis Group (ICG) released a report on the fragile socio-economic reality of post-Arab Spring Tunisia.

These reports come one week after the United States of America released its annual report on the global human rights situation on 25 May 2011.

In its study drawing on years of research and recent developments, Amnesty International asserts that Israel’s use of administrative detention is a violation of human rights.

Under a legal framework left behind after British Mandate Palestine, over 300 Palestinian prisoners are currently held under what is known as an “administrative detention order”.  The law in question allows for individuals to be held without charge and without the guarantee of a trial. An administrative detention order may be issued, and renewed indefinitely, where the Minister of Defence has “reasonable grounds to presume that the security of the state or public security require the detention.”

According to Amnesty International, administrative detention is a tool of extra-judicial punishment.  The human rights organisation claims it “is used regularly by the Israeli authorities as a form of political detention, enabling the authorities to arbitrarily detain political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience”.

Amnesty highlights the well-reported mass hunger strike of an estimated 2,000 Palestinian prisoners and detainees who, in April 2012, stopped eating to protest against detention conditions, including the practice of administrative detention. The global human rights NGO notes that the hunger strikes have had little effect in improving Israel’s use of administrative detention.

The misuse of administrative and legal measures in what amounts to human rights violations is also the subject of The International Federation of Human Rights’ report on Turkey.

In the face of drifting EU membership hopes, writes the FIDH, Turkey’s legislative advances in the area of human rights “no longer seem to be a priority.”

Consequently, Turkey is seeing a trend towards “large-scale trials against organized groups viewed as ‘in opposition’ to the Government,” including the military and Kurdish groups.

Repressive administrative practices and ready application of vague criminal provisions in the Turkish Penal Code and the Anti-Terrorism Law are particular favourite tools of Turkish authorities with which to target human rights’ defenders, FIDH claims.

FIDH also chronicles the individual cases of NGO workers, lawyers, trade unionists, journalists and academics, who have been prosecuted under Turkey’s contested Anti-Terrorism Law.

105 journalists, 44 lawyers, 16 members of human rights organisations and 41 trade unionists were thought to be in detention at the beginning of 2012.

In an echo of Amnesty’s criticisms of Israel’s administrative detention, FIDH criticises Turkey’s use of “prolonged pre-trial detention,” which “may be seen as a form of punishment per se, independently of the outcome of the trial.”

The ICG, in its investigation on post-Arab Spring Tunisia, ends the weeks’ trio of regional reports on a more positive note, despite warning of the potential for future turbulence. The report, in French, highlights the challenges faced by Tunisia 18 months after the revolution that began the Arab Spring.

While the ICG gives a qualified positive assessment of a “democratically advancing” Tunisia, it maintains there are reasons for concern.

Acknowledging that a large scale return to civil strife is unlikely, the report highlights that the Government and its opponents are still at odds over the pace of social and economic reforms, with each blaming the other for obstruction. According to the ICG, the State is “limping along” under the new governmental structure, which is struggling to end corruption and clan-based violence.

“The revolution opened Pandora’s Box of social demands,” concludes the ICG, adding that a deteriorating employment environment, especially among young graduates, could be dangerous for the newly installed government of Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali.  “This could lead to new waves of violent dissatisfaction with the potential to destabilise the political situation,” it warns.

The Amnesty report on Israeli administrative detention is available here.

The FIDH report on Turkey is available here.

The ICG report on Tunisia is available here.

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Mirrored from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

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