News / Middle East

Experts Outline Steps to Democracy in Egypt, Tunisia

New governments can look to procedures that worked for Latin America and Eastern Europe

Protests in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt on Feb. 25, 2011.
Protests in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt on Feb. 25, 2011.
Mohamed Elshinnawi

Popular uprisings have overthrown the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia, but it’s still unclear whether either country will get the democratic government its people are demanding. Experts believe certain steps must be taken to make the transition from authoritarian regimes to democracy.  

When Latin America and Eastern Europe witnessed a wave of political changes in the late 1980s and early 1990s, governments in the emerging democracies wanted to do something about the crimes and abuses of the regimes they replaced. The new governments adopted various procedures that, over time, have come to be known as "transitional justice."

Hanny Megally, vice president of the International Center for Transitional Justice based in New York, has a list of procedures that were used in Latin America and Eastern Europe. Megally says they can also be used by the new governments in the Arab world.

These include: criminal justice and accountability for those who have been involved in perpetration of human rights violations, reparations for victims, processes of getting the truth about what actually happened during that period in the past, legal reforms and institutional reforms to ensure that the structures that may have actually helped the violations that were taking place are no longer the same.

However, these mechanisms of transitional justice often take years to implement. And, according to Megally, the governing groups in Egypt and Tunisia have not even begun to transform their security services from tools of repression to instruments of public service.

"If we look at experiences, whether it is in South Africa or other experiences in Latin America or Asia, these are incremental steps that will take a number of years to put in place," says Megally. "I think the lesson to be learned is that you can’t do it all within a period of six months or a year."

Whichever steps Egypt and Tunisia take first, Megally believes it is important that they bring the rest of the procedures of transitional justice into play over a period of time.  

Brian Grodsky, assistant professor of comparative politics at the University of Maryland and author of a new book entitled "The Costs of Justice," believes emerging governments in Egypt and Tunisia need to be decisive - especially given the history of human rights abuses in both countries. But first, their new leaders have to address the peoples’ demands.

"Voters started the revolutions for a reason, most of this because they did not want the corruption and the non-transparency of these non-democratic regimes," says Grodsky. "They wanted to see economic reforms. They wanted to have personal security, general improvement in their standard of living. So once these things begin to occur, the new political elites can once again go back and start digging into the past and reopen these issues."

It is important, Grodsky says, for the new leaders in Cairo and Tunis to prove to their people that the rule of law will prevail and that measures are being taken to protect human rights.  According to Grodsky, that process may already be underway.

"If you look at Egypt, you see corruption charges against the ex-interior minister. It is not that they are going after him for torture. What is most salient to a lot of people tends to be the economic and social changes. In Tunisia, what we have seen up until now seems to be a couple of commissions they set up to do some investigations, but again, the investigation has been focused mostly on the most recent crackdown in December and also again on corruption of the former leader."

Experts in transitional justice agree that whether in Egypt or Tunisia, or elsewhere in the region, the challenge will always be for new governments to promote accountability for past abuses without risking a smooth transition to democracy.  

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More