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

Multimedia Obama, Modi Break Nuclear Deal Deadlock

Impasse over liability issues had been stalling bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation; deal reached at start of US president's three-day visit to India More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track 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.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid