Co-operation between the Council of Europe and the emerging democracies in the Arab world
Addendum to the report
| Doc. 12699 Add.
| 04 November 2011
- Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy
- Rapporteur :
- Mr Jean-Charles GARDETTO,
- Addendum approved by
the committee on 3 October 2011. 2011 - Fourth part-session
1. When adopting my report in June, the committee asked
me to prepare an addendum just before the debate scheduled for the
October part-session so as to include the latest developments in
2. The present document attempts to give an overview of the situation
mainly in three countries in the region: Egypt, a state already
in a post-revolutionary stage; Libya, a state where the revolution
is almost winning; Syria, where the revolution is still struggling
against the bloody violence of the regime.
3. The chapter on Egypt is of course somewhat more extensive,
as I had the opportunity to visit the country. I also took part
in the Assembly delegation that visited Tunis mid-September, under
the chairmanship of Mr Andreas Gross, to evaluate the electoral
campaign prior to the elections to Tunisia's National Constituent Assembly,
on 23 October 2011. The delegation noted with satisfaction that,
despite a number of technical difficulties, the Tunisian authorities
have swiftly devised a legal framework for organising pluralist
elections and are taking the necessary steps to guarantee the democratic
nature of the entire electoral process and to strengthen the confidence
of political players and citizens in the elections.
4. As the situation in Tunisia is being closely followed by Ms
Anne Brasseur, rapporteur, and Mr Andreas Gross, chair of the pre-electoral
and election observation mission, I will refrain from analysing
the situation in the country. I refer to the statement issued by
the pre-electoral delegation, which is appended to this addendum.
I wish simply to repeat that it is certainly no coincidence
if the first stage of the revolution at least seems to have been
successfully concluded in these two countries, Tunisia and Egypt.
In both cases, the role of the army as an arbitrator has been decisive.
In both cases, several players coexisted: the first, “the street”,
was the one that successfully mobilised the younger, the poorer
but also the middle class and the intellectuals – the youth launched
the movement but could not really take it further from there; political
parties and opposition leaders (well known internationally) came
second; finally, the army, distancing itself from the old regime, managed
to acquire renewed legitimacy in both cases.Note
6. Both Tunisia and Egypt will soon undergo the major test of
elections. It is not sufficient that elections are organised in
such a manner as to guarantee that they will be “free and fair”.
It is equally important that people go and vote. In Tunisia, we
heard much hesitation from ordinary citizens. In Egypt, where under
the previous regime participation was between 5% and 10% (!), we
were told that half of the electorate was expected to go and vote.
Everything must be done so as to create a climate of trust before
and during the forthcoming elections in these countries, so that
the population votes.
7. As regards the situation in Morocco, without entering into
details since this file is closely followed by Mr Luca Volontè,
rapporteur, I would simply like to refer to the fact that the new
Moroccan constitution was approved by referendum in July, and early
parliamentary elections (to the Chamber of Representatives) will take
place on 25 November 2011. Thousands of Moroccans demonstrated against
the government in Casablanca on 25 September 2011, threatening to
boycott the elections.
The Assembly should reiterate its expectation to be fully
accredited to observe these elections in line with the terms of Resolution 1818 (2011)
granting the status of partner for democracy to the
Parliament of Morocco on 21 June 2011, although the legislation
in force does not provide for election observation by international
9. I visited Egypt from 23 to 27 September 2011 in my
capacity as rapporteur on co-operation between the Council of Europe
and the emerging democracies in the Arab world. As decided by the
committee and the Bureau of the Assembly, I was accompanied by Mr
Konstantinos Vrettos, rapporteur on the overall situation in the
Middle East. It was already clear from my mandate that the purpose
of the visit was to establish first contacts and explore prospects
of co-operation between Egypt and the Assembly, but also in general
with the Council of Europe. Of course, my visit allowed me to obtain
an insight into the process of democratic transition in the country,
which I find useful to share with my colleagues.
2.1 Brief overview
of the process of democratic transition
10. Egypt seems to have progressed to a post-revolutionary
phase in which the struggle is no longer waged so much in the street
as at the political level.
11. After the passage, by about 77.8% of votes, of the constitutional
amendments put forward by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces
(SCAF), which has exercised power since former President Hosni Mubarak
stood down, pending the reinstatement of a civil government, and
the proclamation of new constitutional provisions, an election schedule
has been announced although the dates envisaged for the ballots
were not clearly fixed.
12. The mass movements drawing a million persons or more to Tahrir
Square and into the streets of the principal towns of the country
seem to have given way to sporadic demonstrations of a trade union
or class type demanding a better economic and social situation for
a given socio-occupational category. The population is apparently
affected by a certain “revolutionary fatigue”, making it less vehement
in its demands. Moreover, several forces that were active in the
early days of the revolution among the young people appear to be
tending towards political action in one of the political parties.
The essential aim of many revolutionaries was Mubarak’s relinquishment
of power, and this has been achieved.Note
At this stage, the democratic
or anti-corruption causes no longer appear to rally the crowds as
much as before. It should also be noted that many old regime politicians
(particularly the members of the National Democratic Party – NDP)
have switched to new political formations created after the revolution
and, given the notoriety attaching to their names, are likely to
carry some weight with sympathisers of the old regime in the forthcoming
14. The political parties band together in alliances, which may
be surprising at first sight considering the markedly divergent
tendencies of their components. For example, the secular liberal-nationalist
party Al-Wafd turns up in the National Democratic Alliance dominated
by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, in which
some 37 political parties participate.
15. The Muslim Brotherhood is undoubtedly the largest and best
organised political group in Egypt, a country in which religion
(whether Muslim or Christian) plays an important role. On launching
its new party, the Muslim Brotherhood confirmed that it did not
object to women or Copts in a ministerial position (cabinet). One
of the vice-presidents of the new party is a Copt. They do however
deem “unsuitable” for the presidency both women and Copts.
16. Our interlocutors credited the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom
and Justice Party overall with a score ranging from 25% to 33%,
making it in all probability the country’s leading political force,
though without it attaining the absolute majority that would allow
it to govern on its own. The Brotherhood appears not to want really
to exercise power, no doubt for fear that the measures that will
need to be proclaimed just after the elections might make its backers
unpopular, thus losing part of the revolutionary people’s support.
So it would only put up candidates in half the constituencies.
However, according to analysts, the primary role the Brotherhood
is called upon to perform seems to stem not only from the strong
religious sensibility of the Egyptian people but also from the social
context of the vote and the deep-seated clientelism prevalent in
Egypt. The Islamist vote is perceived as having the advantage of
giving meaning and significance to public action because it sustains
A party like Al-Wafd
seems to want to benefit from the pull towards power exerted by
the Brotherhood so as to participate in government and effectively
exercise power in “harmony” with the Brotherhood, and by proxy.
Its representatives underlined that they mainly wanted to avoid
any split of the population between the Islamist forces and the
others (which is what actually happened during the constitutional
referendum of March 2011). It is worth noting that Al-Wafd won all
the elections between 1919 and 1952. It joined the revolution on
25 January 2011.
18. The Egyptian block is another electoral alliance in Egypt,
formed, inter alia by several
liberal, social democratic and leftist political parties and movements,
including Al-Masreyeen Al-Ahrar (Free Egyptians Party), led by the
Copt millionaire Naguib Sawiris, the Democratic Front Party, the
Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Egyptian Socialist Party,
the Egyptian Communist Party, the National Association for Change
and the Farmers' Syndicate. The block was formed mainly for the
purpose of preventing the Muslim Brotherhood, and its affiliated
Freedom and Justice Party, from winning the forthcoming parliamentary
elections. The groups that compose this alliance share a common
vision of Egypt as a “civil democratic state”. Former members of Al-Wafd
have left to join this block.
19. The multiplication of social protests from 2006, particularly
by the “Kefaya” movement (meaning “Enough!”), has also rivalled
the discourse of Islamic protest.
20. The representatives of the liberal Al-Ghad (Party of Tomorrow),
for their part, told us that they did not want to form any electoral
alliances and preferred to run alone as a party, being open of course
to post-electoral alliances. They also oppose the Islamists, are
for separation between religion and politics and advocate a “civil democratic
state”. They have developed important educational programmes geared
towards both children and young people.
21. Many of the young people have formed various (probably too
many) political parties gathered together in a not so homogeneous
Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution. Others joined more traditional
parties, including Islamist ones.
22. It seems that, for the youth who “made the revolution”, it
is now more difficult to “do politics” because they lack the necessary
experience. Most of our interlocutors insisted that what we see
now should not be perceived as the “confiscation of the revolution”
but as a normal process of transition, whereby traditional political
parties may be eventually called on to implement the goals of the
revolution that the youth initiated. What is of utmost importance
is whether those who come to power will eventually meet the goals
of the revolution calling for democracy, transparency and justice.
This question cannot be answered at this stage.
It should also be noted that in reality the nature of the
Egyptian revolution seems to be less political, in the strict sense,
than civil. By overthrowing President Mubarak, for the first time
in their history Egyptians have had practical experience of popular
sovereignty, and on that account their revolution is truly political. Nonetheless,
those who conducted it have no political and ideological leadership.
It is a revolution without an attempt by the revolutionaries to
take over power. The social movements seek “neither to take nor
to wield power; they seek to influence official policies and decisions”.Note
Thus, the Egyptian revolution seems to be chiefly a revolution
of the country’s civil society carried out by a people acting as
watchdog, veto wielder and judge to complement or rectify its electoral
of the major impacts may be mass participation in the public realm,
formerly confined to the cultured elites in the capital, close to
power. This participation will be effected by speech, street demonstration
and social impetus and will have bearing on the big questions of
Egypt’s future. “If this prognosis is borne out, the impact of the Egyptian
revolution will have been civil society’s emergence as a kind of
remedy to the disenchantments of electoral democracy.”Note
That would ensure its success.
25. The SCAF signifies its wish to hand over power to the civilians.
But the originally foreseen term of six months is now past, and
the process of transition may not be completed before the beginning
In particular, because the judiciary obtained sole authority
to supervise the elections (the High Elections Commission being
exclusively composed of judges)Note
enjoys a good reputation for independence in the country, the organisation
of the forthcoming elections in Egypt could not be contemplated
without the participation of the magistrates as a supervisory body.
However, the country does not have enough judges to cover all the
polling stations at once. The elections to the People’s Assembly
will therefore be conducted in stages, beginning with voting in
a third of the constituencies, then in the next third, then in the
last third, on each occasion at an interval of some weeks. Furthermore,
there will be two rounds per zone.
27. Elections to the People’s Assembly should start at the end
of November 2011 (the date of 28 November has been announced) and
should be completed by January 2012. Elections to the Shura (upper
house) should start as of the end of January and are due to be completed
in March 2012.
28. The two houses of parliament will then have up to six months
to elect a Constituent Assembly, composed of 100 members, not necessarily
parliamentarians. It is to be hoped that they will do so in a much
shorter period of time. In any event, the Constituent Assembly,
once elected, has up to six months to draft the new constitution,
which will then have to be approved by national referendum.
29. Presidential elections would normally be held after the new
constitution is approved since the latter should, inter alia decide on the new presidential
powers and the overall division of power.
30. The main declared candidates are Mohamed ElBaradei, Amr Moussa,
Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, Mohammad Salim Al-Awa and Ayman Nour.
Major-General Morad Mowafy, head (with ministerial rank) of the Intelligence
Directorate, negotiator of the Camp David Accords and reconciler
of Hamas with Fatah, stated that SCAF did not intend to put up an
army candidate for the national presidency. The Muslim Brotherhood
does not propose a candidate either and has expelled its youth leader,
Aboul Fotouh, from the party precisely because he declared his candidacy
against its recommendation.
31. Although we heard several possible dates for the organisation
of the presidential elections, taking into account the above-mentioned
considerations, it is difficult to imagine that they could be held
before autumn 2012 or more likely the beginning of 2013.
32. The electoral system has been an issue of controversy between
the SCAF and the political parties and was also raised in our discussions
with representatives of political parties. Initially, draft amendments
to the law on parliamentary elections proposed by the SCAF provided
for half of the seats in the parliament to be awarded by a vote
on party lists and half by a vote on a single-candidate list. Representatives
of all political parties we met stressed their preference for elections
on the basis solely of party lists because they feared that single-candidate
lists would privilege former members of Mubarak’s National Democratic
33. We were in Cairo on the very day, Sunday, 25 September, that
Egypt's cabinet, in a meeting headed by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf,
approved the amendments to the law on elections. The amendments
finally provide that two thirds of the parliament will be elected
through (closed) party lists, while one third will be elected through
a single-candidate list. Members of parliament are to be elected
through a general vote, with half of the members being either farmers
or workers. The amendments also require that each list include at least
one female candidate.
34. The new law divides Egypt into 129 constituencies: 46 where
members will be elected using the party-list voting system and 83
where members will be elected using a single-candidate-list voting
system. It has reduced parliamentary seats from 504 to 498.
35. Even if the amendments as approved are an improvement compared
to the previous proposal, all political parties have reacted strongly
against the cabinet’s decision, calling for a change to the relevant provisions
so that all seats in parliament would be filled by a vote on party
lists. Some parties actually went on to threaten to boycott the
elections should the law remain unchanged.
36. Another demand that seems to be shared by all political parties
is the one relating to the proposed ban on former members of the
NDP from standing for election for the next 10 years. The scope
of the ban seems to vary according to the parties, with some calling
for a more extensive ban covering all officials involved in the misuse
of power under former President Mubarak. In any event, no such ban
has been decided so far.
37. As regards media coverage of the campaign, political party
representatives seem to be satisfied that measures have been taken
to ensure equal broadcasting time on national television channels
for all parties.
38. The elections, both for parliament and for president, as well
as the preparation of a new constitution, which would lead to the
smooth transition of power to a civilian government, are among the
major challenges Egypt is facing today.
39. Other challenges our interlocutors mentioned include security
concerns, the status of the army and the balance of powers in the
future constitution, the choice between a religious or a secular
state, the status and role of women and the status of Copts.
40. It is to be recalled that both women and Copts played an important
role during the revolution. At present, interlocutors defending
women’ rights told us that the role of women is diminishing. A quota
of 64 seats for women provided in the previous election law has
been removed. The new amendments simply provide for one woman candidate
in each party list.
41. Regarding security concerns, some of our interlocutors told
us that increasing criminality on the streets is one of the main
problems Egypt is facing at present; others told us that there has
been some exaggeration of security concerns to justify the extension
of the emergency law, announced by the SCAF following clashes between
demonstrators and security forces at the Israeli Embassy on 9 September.
The emergency law, previously limited to terrorism and drug-related
crimes, can now be applied to offences such as disturbing traffic,
blocking roads, broadcasting rumours, possessing and trading in
weapons, etc. We were also told that some 12 000 civilians have
been brought to military courts under the military law in the past
42. That said, the SCAF still seems to enjoy legitimacy and support
among the population as the guarantor of state order. The decision
of the military to try former President Mubarak and his sons, including
on charges of “premeditated murder” of some protesters, as well
as his close collaborators on misappropriation of public funds and
related charges, is seen as a major test by the population. A few
days ago, the former information minister was sentenced to seven
years' imprisonment. The former president and his two sons are in
prison pending completion of their trial.
43. With respect to the attack on the Israeli Embassy, I would
recall that, in my June report, I welcomed the fact that the Arab
spring revolutions “were nationwide and, generally speaking, the
populations turned to Europe and the United States for help, not
to criticize”. I might have added that nowhere were the protesters seen
burning Israeli flags or uttering anti-Semitic slogans, which was
a positive assessment of the revolts: they were for something, not
against something. The attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo on
9 September, although not related to the revolution, is of course
regrettable, and the authorities should indeed ensure that a recurrence
of such acts is prevented.
44. Issues of foreign policy were briefly raised in my discussions
with political party representatives as well as with Major-General
Mowafy. The latter confirmed, in particular, that Egypt wanted to
stay on good terms with Israel and the United States. It is worth
noting that, immediately after the removal of President Mubarak,
the SCAF renewed Egypt’s commitment to all its international and
regional treaties, including the peace treaty with Israel. After
the episode of 9 September, both Israel and Egypt reaffirmed their
commitment to the peace treaty. Major-General Mowafy did, however,
tell me that Israel should apologise for the killing of Egyptian
soldiers during night operations along the Israeli-Egyptian border
45. Inevitably, the Palestinian bid for statehood in the United
Nations Security Council was also raised in almost all meetings
I had in Cairo. It is worth recalling that it was in Cairo that
the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas was signed
on 4 May 2011, with the active involvement of then Foreign Minister Nabil
El Araby – now the Secretary General of the Arab League – and Major-General
2.2 Prospects of co-operation
between Egypt and the Council of Europe
46. As indicated earlier, the purpose of my visit to
Egypt was to establish first contacts and explore the prospects
of co-operation between Egypt and the Parliamentary Assembly, but
also in general with the Council of Europe. I insisted that we were
not imposing any assistance but simply offering to share with our
Egyptian partners experiences and best practices.
47. More specifically, we discussed prospects of co-operation
with representatives of political parties, the media and human rights
and women’ rights organisations, as well as representatives of the
ministries of foreign affairs and justice and Major-General Mowafy.
In all meetings, we presented the opportunities offered by
the partner for democracy status recently created by the Parliamentary
Assembly for the parliaments in the neighbouring regions, a status
that would be available to the Egyptian parliament after elections
upon request. We also spoke of the opportunities for co-operation
offered by Council of Europe bodies open to non-member states, such
as the European
Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice CommissionNote
), the Council of Europe’s advisory
body on constitutional and electoral matters, which could be of
particular relevance in the context of preparation of a new constitution. We
underlined the fact that Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria were already
full members of the Venice Commission. In particular, we proposed
that a conference could be organised in Cairo after the parliamentary elections,
with the participation of members of our Assembly and of the Venice
Commission, to exchange views and share experiences and best practices
in the context of preparation of the new constitution. Such a conference
could be hosted by the new parliament or a research centre, such
as the well-known Al-Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies.
We also referred to the work of other Council of Europe bodies
or partial agreements open to non- member states, such as the European
Centre for Global Interdependence and Solidarity (North-South Centre)Note
, the Pompidou
, the Group of States against Corruption
, as well as parliamentary and intergovernmental
co-operation programmes, particularly as part of the new, demand-driven
“policy of the Council of Europe towards neighbouring regions”.Note
50. The representatives of all political parties we met were enthusiastic
about prospects of future co-operation with the Parliamentary Assembly
and in particular about the partners for democracy status, as well as
with the Council of Europe in general. Although US President Barack
Obama’s speech earlier this year had created great expectations
in the region, the American position on the issue of the Palestinian
bid for statehood has generated a strong disillusion and a lack
of confidence in the Americans. We were told that the Egyptians were
now looking towards Europe more than ever in the past. The politicians
we met also seemed to be positive about the fact that we were not
seeking to teach lessons or impose anything but to share experiences
and best practices.
51. Because the procedure for partner for democracy status can
only be initiated after the elections, we felt that Egyptian politicians
might like to begin a dialogue with us even before then. It was
thus only natural that we invited them to follow the debates during
the fourth part-session of our Assembly, including the debate on my
report but also the debate on the request for partner for democracy
status by the Palestinian National Council, as well as the address
by President Mahmoud Abbas. I am pleased to see that, despite the
extremely short notice, representatives of political parties from
Egypt are coming, and we should be able to have an exchange of views
with them this week.
52. I think that Egypt at this crucial moment in its history needs
support more than ever. If initiating a dialogue with politicians
from the country can contribute even a little to supporting to the
democratic transition of the country, it is worth doing.
3 Recent developments
in other Arab countries
53. Not having had the opportunity to visit Libya thus
far, I will limit myself to a short overview of developments since
June 2011, in the hope that a separate report on this country can
be prepared once security conditions make such a visit possible.
54. After six months of armed conflict, National Transitional
Council (NTC) troops finally took control of Tripoli at the end
of August, while the former dictator fled, leaving behind extensive
evidence of human rights violations. He has not yet been found.
The NTC now controls the whole country with the exception of small pockets
of resistance in Bani Walid and Sirte.
55. On 23 August, Catherine Ashton, European Union High Representative
for Foreign Affairs, identified four areas of support: medical supplies
and fuel; security and the functioning of police forces, while bringing under
control the weapons now in the hands of civilians; economy, with
the release of assets and the removal of sanctions; and democracy.
56. The British prime minister and the French president visited
Tripoli and Benghazi on 15 September, where they met with members
of the NTC.
57. On 16 September, the United Nations Security Council unanimously
adopted Resolution 2009 aiming at assisting Libyan national efforts
to restore public security, promote the rule of law, foster inclusive
political dialogue and national reconciliation and embark on constitution-making
and electoral processes.
58. Human Rights Watch has expressed concern about the possible
misappropriation of weapons from the vast arsenal assembled by Colonel
Gaddafi. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton referred to the possibility
that the missing weapons could be sold to terrorists on the black
market, and other observers fear a civil war in Libya. Some of our
interlocutors in Cairo mentioned that some of those weapons, including
surface-to-air missiles, had found their way into Egypt.
59. In his first speech in Tripoli after Gaddafi’s flight, Mustafa
Abdul Jalil, head of the NTC, outlined his plans for a modern and
democratic state based on moderate Islam.
Amnesty International has called on the NTC to take steps
to prevent human rights abuses by anti-Gaddafi forces. In its latest
report, the NGO says that, whilst the bulk of violations were carried
out by loyalist forces, anti-Gaddafi fighters have also been involved
in torture and revenge killings.Note
61. In a statement on 13 September, the NTC condemned all abuses
committed during the war, and said it “will move quickly to act
on Amnesty International’s findings to make sure similar abuses
are avoided in areas of continued conflict such as Bani Walid and
62. On 20 September, the National Transitional Council was recognised
by the African Union as the country’s de
facto government. On the same day, Mustafa Abdul Jalil
took the floor for the first time at the United Nations, speaking
at a meeting attended by US President Obama, French President Nicolas
Sarkozy and other world leaders.
63. Several political parties have been created in the past few
months, from Islamists to liberals, including the Libyan National
Democratic Alliance, chaired by Ms Souhila Sherif, but no electoral
calendar has yet been agreed. It is feared that internal divisions
in the NTC, in particular those pitting the secular against the
Islamists, might delay the formation of a transitional government.
There seems indeed to be a real confrontation between liberals and
conservatives. For their part, women demonstrate every Friday to
have their place recognised in society.
Libyans are known to be a religious people but belong to the
Malikite school, which is a moderate branch of Islam. At the same
time, certain “katibas” (brigades) fighting the troops of Gaddafi
are reportedly led by former members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting
Group, a clandestine Islamic movement battled by Gaddafi and recently
reborn under a different name. General Abdel Fattah Younes, the
chief of the NTC army, wanted to unify all the katibas under his
authority. He was assassinated. The investigation has not yet been
completed, and the persons responsible for his death have not yet
been officially identified.Note
65. A meeting of more than 300 Libyan lawyers was announced for
3 October in Misrata to discuss the future constitution.
Since June, the Syrian authorities have intensified
their bloody repression. According to the International Federation
for Human Rights,Note
Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies received, on a quasi-daily basis,
numerous reliable reports of grave human rights violations committed
against civilians in Syria. These crimes included extra-judicial
killings and the increasingly systematic use of violence by governmental
forces; mass arrests, abductions, enforced disappearances and detention
of civilians; acts of torture; degrading or inhuman treatment; repression
of the freedom of peaceful assembly and violations of the freedom
of information, notably targeting the media and human rights defenders;
military operations and actions undertaken to besiege cities; and
practices amounting to collective punishment and the deprivation
of food, water and medical supplies, as well as the restriction
or denial of access to hospitals.
As of 24 September 2011, more than 2 830 individuals have
of arrests run into the tens of thousands. Some 20 000 have fled
the country, most of them to Turkey.
68. On 22 August, the United Nations Human Rights Council decided
to send to Syria an independent international Commission of Inquiry
to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights
law since March 2011 in the Syrian Arab Republic. On 12 September,
the president of the Human Rights Council announced the appointment
of three high-level experts as members of the Commission of Inquiry.
69. On 14 September, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister,
declared that he no longer believed in Syrian President Bashar Al Assad
and warned against the possibility of a civil war erupting in Syria.
On 14 September, the European Union stepped up considerably
its sanctions on Syria. The European Union had already targeted
more than 50 Syrian individuals and around a dozen Syrian companies.Note
71. Notwithstanding the United Nations Security Council’s condemnation
of Syria (on 3 August) for widespread violations of human rights
and the use of force against civilians in its crackdown on protesters,
the Syrian foreign affairs minister took the floor at the United
Nations General Assembly on 26 September, blaming the demonstrations
as “foreign intervention”.
72. A draft resolution against Syria is being discussed by the
United Nations Security Council, but its members are divided over
sanctions: the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Portugal and the
United States would be in favour, but Russia, China, Brazil, India
and South Africa have come out against them. The word “sanctions”
might be replaced by the word “targeted measures” to overcome the
opposition of Russia and the other countries.
73. In the meantime, Syrian opposition personalities announced
in Istanbul, on 13 August, the setting up of a Syrian National Council
(SNC) to co-ordinate the various components of the opposition to
the Assad regime. On 1 October, the SNC carried out, in camera,
negotiations with other Syrian regime opponents in Istanbul with a
view to convincing them to join the SNC. Discussions have been going
on for several days with Burhan Ghalioun, a university professor
in Paris and long-standing opponent, as well as with Kurds and representatives
of tribes. The final composition of the SNC should be announced
within the next couple of days.
74. According to diplomatic sources in Damascus, the rise in power
of the SNC could be the result of an agreement between Americans,
Turks and Muslim Brothers on the basis of three main tendencies:
nationalists, liberals and Islamists.
75. At the same time, religious minorities in Syria – particularly
the Christians – fear an unknown, post-Assad future.
3.3 Other recent developments
in the region
76. In Yemen, during the summer, security forces continued
to fire on anti-government protesters in the capital. On 25 September,
it was reported that around 100 persons had been killed during the
77. A United Nations panel warned that Yemen was close to civil
war, and the Security Council has urged all parties to stop the
violence and to allow more access to humanitarian aid.
78. The president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who spent three months
in Saudi Arabia after being hurt in an attack on his presidential
palace, returned to Yemen on 23 September. In his first speech,
Mr Saleh called for dialogue and early polls. Since then, he has
clearly stated that he will not step down.
79. In Jordan, a panel appointed in April 2011 to draw up reforms
presented 42 proposals to King Abdullah in mid-August. The king
welcomed the proposals, but activists complain that they do not
go far enough.
80. On 28 September, a court in Bahrain sentenced 20 doctors and
other medical personnel who had treated protesters in the spring
to 5 to 15 years of imprisonment, after convicting them of incitement
to overthrow the regime.
81. On 25 September, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia promised to
protect women's rights and said women would be allowed to participate
in municipal elections in 2015. He also promised to appoint women
to the all-male Shura Council advisory body.
4 The Council of
Europe policy towards its immediate neighbourhood
In my June report, I referred to the proposals made
by the Secretary General of the Organisation at the Ministerial
session in Istanbul in May 2011 for a new Council of Europe policy
towards its immediate neighbourhood. Following the Ministers’ decision,
which took note of the Secretary General’s proposals and invited
him to develop action plans for the implementation of this policy,
with a view to their approval by the Committee of Ministers, contacts
have been pursued by the Secretariat with the authorities of a number
of countries in order to identify areas of co-operation where the
Council of Europe can provide meaningful assistance. It is worth
noting that the partner for democracy status, proposed by our Assembly
to parliaments in neighbouring regions, is one of the main elements
of this new Council of Europe policy and one that seems to interest
greatly the European Union, especially in view of the benchmark-setting
and follow-up mechanism it implies.Note
A “progress report on the implementation of the Council of
Europe policy towards its immediate neighbourhood” was discussed
in the Deputies’ Rapporteur Group on External Affairs (GR-EXT) on 29 September,
It contains a status report in terms
of political dialogue between the Council of Europe and the countries
in question as well as preparations for future actions for demand-driven
co-operation. According to this document, the immediate priority
is to finalise agreements on targeted co-operation with Morocco
and Tunisia in the framework of a “joint facility” with the European
Union for the southern Mediterranean.
84. The Secretary General of the Assembly participated in the
discussions at the GR-EXT meeting during which the idea of developing
further synergies between the intergovernmental sector and the Assembly
in pursuing a Council of Europe policy towards neighbouring countries
or regions has been welcomed by several delegations. There has therefore
been an agreement in principle to invite Assembly rapporteurs on
matters related to this policy to one of the next meetings of GR-EXT.
I think that, from our side, we could also extend an invitation
to the chair of GR-EXT for an exchange of views on the Council of
Europe policy towards its immediate neighbourhood at one of our
next meetings. Other important stakeholders, such as the President
of the Venice Commission, could also, for instance, participate
in such an exchange of views so as to ensure the best possible synergy
and dialogue and so that a single message is sent by the Organisation
to the countries concerned.
5 Concluding remarks
and proposed amendments
85. This is not meant to be an exhaustive report on the
“Arab spring” or on the situation in all of the Arab countries but
a report on possible co-operation between the Council of Europe
and the emerging democracies in the Arab world. The possibilities
vary, of course, from one country to the other: we have established
good links with Tunisia and with Morocco; we have started contacts
with Egypt and with Algeria; and we hope to start them very soon
with Libya. Others have not yet advanced far enough on the path
to democracy. We are of course open to co-operation with all of
them, if they so wish.
86. In its approach, the Council of Europe does not try to impose
a model or to teach lessons; its aim is to make available its accumulated
experience and relevant mechanisms in order to assist the new democracies in
establishing democratic institutions, in protecting human rights
and in ensuring the rule of law. It was in this same manner that
we approached the new democracies in southern Europe in the 1970s
and the new democracies in central and eastern Europe in the 1990s.
87. The same approach was used when the Assembly set up the status
of partner for democracy in 2009, just before the beginning of the
In order to update the draft resolution we adopted in June
2011, I propose the following amendments:
In paragraph 1, replace the last sentence with the following
“Referring also to its Resolutions 1791 (2011) and 1819
(2011) on the situation in Tunisia, the Assembly welcomes, in
particular, the encouraging developments in Tunisia and Egypt and
fully supports the process of democratic transition in these countries.”
After paragraph 2, add the following new paragraph:
“The Assembly welcomes the success
of the pro-democratic forces in Libya. It supports United Nations Security
Council Resolution 2009 aimed at assisting the transitional authorities
in Libya and is ready to assist the authorities if they so wish.
It calls on the National Transitional Council to do its utmost to prevent
human rights abuses by the forces under its control and to bring
to account those responsible for alleged abuses.”
In paragraph 3, first line, delete the words: “Libya and”
In paragraph 7, replace sub-paragraph 7.4 by the following:
“to review and, if necessary, reform
national laws, including family law, so that they comply with international
law on gender equality guaranteeing that women have equal rights
and opportunities, and ensure that women are able to exercise these
rights and to participate fully and equally in social and political
life, particularly in the democratic processes of transition, in
voting and standing for elections and in the setting up of businesses.”
In paragraph 9, replace the end of the paragraph as from the
words “21 June 2011” with the following text:
“… and expects to be fully accredited to observe the parliamentary
elections to be held in Morocco on 25 November 2011 in accordance
with the terms of this resolution. It also notes that the Palestinian National
Council was granted the status of partner for democracy on 4 October
After paragraph 10, add the following new paragraph:
“The Assembly calls on the authorities
of Tunisia and Egypt to create a climate of trust before and during the
forthcoming elections in these countries, so that the population
go and vote, and to take all adequate measures to ensure that these
elections are free and fair in order to give appropriate legitimacy
to the new institutions.”
At the end of paragraph 12, add the following new sub-paragraph:
“to establish contacts with the
League of Arab States and explore the possibilities to share the experience
of the Council of Europe with Arab countries in the fields of democracy,
human rights and the rule of law.”
After paragraph 15, add the following new paragraph:
“It is also imperative to create de facto solidarity between the
two shores of the Mediterranean and to meet the need of young people
of the south to communicate with the outside and to belong to the community
by facilitating a greater number of exchanges between young people
from the north and the south, as well as mobility, through the granting
of visas and facilitating the acquisition of experience by students
who will have demonstrated their skills; turn to good account the
diaspora networks of the countries of the southern shore of the
Mediterranean that have been successful abroad, enabling young people
from the south to look to them for support; allow the youth of the
south to benefit from the European institutions and programmes and
help them realise projects; build connections between universities
and between NGOs on both sides of the Mediterranean; develop networks
of entrepreneurs; assist the civil society; facilitate access to
information, in particular through opening access to Internet and
giving journalists and bloggers the opportunity to be heard.”
Appendix -Tunisia: Statement
by the pre-electoral delegation of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly
Strasbourg, 16.09.2011 – A delegation from
the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has made
a pre-electoral visit to Tunis to evaluate the electoral campaign
prior to elections to Tunisia's National Constituent Assembly on
23 October 2011. The delegation met Mouldi Kefi, Minister of Foreign
Affairs, Ridha Bellhadj, Minister Delegate to the Prime Minister,
Yadh Ben Achour, President of the Higher Political Reform Commission,
the leaders of the main political parties taking part in the elections,
the Secretary General of the Higher Independent Body for Elections,
as well as representatives of the international community and non-governmental
The pre-electoral delegation notes with satisfaction that
the Tunisian authorities have swiftly devised a legal framework
for organising pluralist elections and, in this respect, it encourages
them to step up co-operation with the Council of Europe's Venice
Commission. The effective and transparent functioning of electoral administration
is a decisive factor in guaranteeing the democratic nature of the
entire electoral process and strengthening the confidence of political
players and citizens in the elections.
Democratic elections mean more than the proper running of
the ballot itself. The delegation has been informed of the delay
in drawing up voter lists, concerns over the organisation of voting
for Tunisian citizens living abroad and the possible risk of tensions
during the electoral campaign. In this connection, the Parliamentary
Assembly delegation calls on the country's political leaders to
refrain from any aggressive rhetoric, pressure or actions contrary
to European standards for fair and democratic elections and to comply
with the Code of good practice in the field of political parties.
The pre-electoral delegation welcomes the diversity of media
in the country and hopes that coverage of the election campaign
will be balanced and detached from political leanings. Concerning
the funding of political parties, the delegation considers that
current legislation must be applied in good faith.
The pre-electoral delegation welcomes the willingness of the
Tunisian authorities to allow a large number of national and international
observers to monitor the National Constituent Assembly elections.
It considers that the role of international observers is to make
the international community's experience available to Tunisian society
and monitor the proper running of the elections, but in no circumstances
to interfere in the electoral process or lecture on how elections
should be held.
The elections of 23 October will be the first free elections
since Tunisia's independence in 1956. In this connection, the pre-electoral
delegation wishes to underline the crucial importance of democratically
electing a National Constituent Assembly to ensure the legitimacy
of its power. That legitimacy is absolutely vital for forming the
institutions of a democratic and functional State so that the efforts
of the public authorities may then focus on resolving the urgent
problems facing the citizens of Tunisia.
The pre-electoral delegation praises the considerable efforts
made by the Commission chaired by Mr Yadh Ben Achour and the agreement
signed on 15 September by the leaders of 11 political parties with
a view to guaranteeing a democratic transition of power after the
elections of 23 October 2011.
The Parliamentary Assembly will send a 20-member delegation
to observe the elections to the National Constituent Assembly on
23 October 2011.
Pre-electoral delegation members:
Andreas Gross (Switzerland, SOC), Head of delegation
Jean-Charles Gardetto (Monaco, EPP/CD)
Christopher Chope (United Kingdom, EDG)
Anne Brasseur (Luxembourg, ALDE)
Jean-Paul Lecocq (France, UEL)