North Africa Theater
At least one is reported dead as angry protests have spread across Tunisia in response to an austerity package imposed by the government under pressure from the International Monetary Fund. The protester died due to tear-gas inhalation Jan. 8 in Tebourba, 40 kilometers west of Tunis, with demonstrations reported from several other cities and towns, including Sidi Bouzid, cradle of the country's 2011 revolution. Under the new budget, which took effect Jan. 1, fuel prices are hiked, and new taxes imposed on housing, cars, phone calls, Internet services, and several other items. Hamma Hammami, leader of the opposition Popular Front, pledged to keep up the pressure, telling reporters: "We will stay on the street and we will increase the pace of the protests until the unjust financial law is dropped."
Thousands have repeatedly filled the streets of Jerada, in northeastern Morocco, as a mounting protest movement demanding jobs and social development for the marginalized region was further fueled by a mining disaster that left two young brothers dead Dec. 22. The demonstrations started Dec. 12, with residents demanding lower electricity and water bills. But movement swelled after the deadly flood in a tunnel being dug by desperate locals at an abandoned coal pit in the mountains outside the town. The mine was for decades Jerada's economic lifeline, employing more than 9,000 people. After operations closed in the late 1990s many left the city. Those who stayed are struggling to survive—often by illegally taking coal from the abandoned pit, and selling it on the black market. Protesters accuse officials of turning a blind eye to the pirate mining despite the growing number of deaths in the improvised operations. They are demanding economic alternatives for the region, and government intervention to close "the mines of death."
European governments are knowingly "complicit" in the torture, abuse and exploitation of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants detained by the Libyan immigration authorities or criminal gangs in appalling conditions, said Amnesty International Dec. 12. In a new report, Libya's Dark Web of Collusion, Amnesty shows how European governments are actively supporting a system of abuse of refugees and migrants by the Libyan Coast Guard and detention authorities as well as smugglers operating in the country. Amnesty accused the EU of being unconcerned with the fate of thousands of vulnerable people while prioritizing the blocking of those risking their lives to reach European countries.
We've already noted the unseemly gloating over the chaos in Libya from many who opposed the NATO intervention of 2011. For them, the factional warfare and endemic lawlessness is only an opportunity for schadenfreude—taking glee in the misfortune of others. They were uninterested in loaning support to (or even recognizing the existence of) progressive elements during the Libyan revolution, and they continue to be thusly uninterested today. The Libyan human rights groups that are documenting war crimes by the profusion of militias and foreign powers, the women and ethnic minorities fighting for their rights—all safely invisible to stateside commentators of the left, right and center. For the schadenfreude crew, the Libyans are not actors in their own drama, but pawns to be exploited for propaganda against Obama and Hillary Clinton (tellingly hated by left and right alike). That many of these commentators consider themselves anti-imperialist is high irony, as they have completely internalized the imperial narcissism that makes the Libyans and their struggles and aspirations completely invisible, and turns them into objects for use in political contests within the imperial metropole. Perversely, this attitude even extends to the chilling emergence of a slave trade in abducted Black African migrants in Libya's remote desert south...
A jury in Washington DC on Nov. 28 acquitted the accused ringleader of the 2012 Benghazi attacks of murder but convicted him on terrorism charges. After five days of deliberations, the jury found Ahmed Abu Khatallah guilty of one count of conspiracy to provide material support or resources to terrorists, one count of providing material support or resources to terrorists, one count of placing lives in jeopardy within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, and one count of using and carrying a semiautomatic weapon during a crime of violence. He was acquitted of the remaining counts against him.
On Nov. 16, the head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Ghassan Salamé, suggested to the United Nations Security Council that a joint tribunal should be considered to try individuals suspected of war crimes in Libya. In the speech to the Security Council, the chief expressed his concern that Libya is in a state of lawlessness, with crimes being committed each day. Salamé stated, "If Libyans alone cannot combat impunity for war crimes, it is time for the international community to consider mechanisms that can help them do so; possibly including joint tribunals."
The Mauritanian Radio and Television Broadcast Authority on Oct. 17 ordered Mauritania's five privately owned news stations to shut down for "failing to fulfill their financial agreements." The move is the latest sign of a crackdown on the independent press following a controversial referendum called by President Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz in August. The vote, boycotted by the opposition, approved abolition of the country's Senate after it ruled against expanding presidential powers. At least one station was removed from air. After the letters were sent , agents of the tax authority went to the office of al-Mourabitoun TV—a channel generally supportive of the opposition Islamist parties. Employees were ordered to leave, and the doors to the building were locked. The agents told staff that the channel owed 2 million ouguiyas (US$5,600), in tax, according to local media reports. (Committee to Protect Journalists)
Human rights groups in Libya have accused the United Arab Emirates of committing war crimes in the country, including killing hundreds of civilians. The rights groups said on Sept. 26 that the UAE committed these crimes through direct air-strikes on Libya, and by backing the renegade general Khalifa Haftar. The findings were presented at a press conference on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. Libyan witnesses and survivors spoke of extrajudicial killings, forced hunger, and displacement that they or their kin experienced at the hands of Haftar in Derna and Ganfouda, provinces in Libya's east. Survivors affiliated with the organization Human Rights Solidarity also described alleged UAE air raids in the Libyan capital Tripoli in August 2014. (Al Jazeera)