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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee 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.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid