North Africa Theater

Ethiopian forces committed genocide in Tigray: report

There is "credible" evidence that Ethiopian forces committed genocide during the two-year war in northern Tigray region, a new report has concluded. Ethiopia's National Defense Force and its allies—the paramilitary Amhara Special Forces and the Eritrean Defense Forces—are accused of committing "at least four acts" constituting genocide against Tigrayans, including: killing, causing serious bodily or mental harm, deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about their destruction, and imposing measures intended to prevent childbirth. The report by the New Lines Institute, a US-based foreign policy think-tank, called for Ethiopia to be referred to the UN's top court, the International Court of Justice.

Tunisia: lawyers strike amid crackdown on dissent

In an unprecedented move, striking lawyers from across Tunisia rallied in front of court buildings in Tunis on May 16, effectively bringing all proceedings to a halt. The unified action comes in response to what legal professionals are describing as a dangerous escalation by the government targeting their community. The Tunisia Lawyers Council called for a nationwide strike after police conducted a raid on the headquarters of Tunisia's bar association and arrested Sonia Dahmani, a prominent attorney and critic of the government. The Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT)  joined other civil society organizations in lending their support to the striking lawyers.

War crimes suits against Libya's Haftar dismissed

A US judge on April 12 dismissed a group of civil lawsuits accusing Libyan military leader Khalifa Haftar of war crimes. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said she had no jurisdiction to preside over a case concerning crimes committed in Libya—even though Haftar has US citizenship and lived for more than 20 years in the DC suburbs of northern Virginia. The ruling came as a reversal in the case; in 2022, Brinkema had entered a default judgment against Haftar after he refused to sit for scheduled depositions. Haftar subsequently sent lawyers to argue on his behalf, and the default judgment was put off. 

Shock, anger follow North Africa disasters

The death toll from catastrophic flooding in northeast Libya continues to climb, with reported numbers now ranging as high as 11,300—and thousands still unaccounted for. People across Libya have stepped up to help, sending convoys of aid across the politically divided country and opening their homes to strangers. Meanwhile, anger is spreading about why two dams in the port city of Derna—which collapsed under the weight of flooding, leading to the destruction of entire neighborhoods—were allowed to decay. There have also been accusations that authorities ignored warnings about the severity of the storm, contributing to the massive death toll. 

Algeria: ex-defense minister faces war crimes charges

Switzerland's Office of the Attorney General (OAG) announced Aug. 29 that it has formally charged former Algerian defense minister Khaled Nezzar in relation to war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during Algeria's civil war. In the indictment submitted to Switzerland's Federal Criminal Court, prosecutors said "Nezzar is accused of violating the laws of armed conflicts in accordance with the Geneva Conventions between 1992 and 1994 in connection with the civil war in Algeria and of committing crimes against humanity." The OAG alleges that Nezzar "condoned, coordinated or ordered" acts of torture committed by his subordinates.

Libya: new inter-factional clashes shake Tripoli

Months of relative peace in Libya's capital were shattered Aug. 14 as clashes erupted between two militia factions aligned with the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU). The fighting began when the Special Deterrence Force, which controls the city's airport, seized 444 Brigade commander Mahmoud Hamza as he attempted to fly out. Calm was restored two days later when the SDF turned Hamza over to a "neutral security party." By then, some 25 had been killed, over 100 injured, and hundreds of families displaced as fighting tore through their neighborhoods. The SDF is said to be a "former" Islamist militia now integrated into the GNU's "official" security forces. (Arab News, Libya Herald)

EU-Tunisia migration deal amid rights abuses

Amnesty International condemned a new migration agreement between the European Union and Tunisia on July 17, saying it makes the EU "complicit in the suffering that will inevitably result" from what represents a "dangerous expansion" of failed policies. The deal, signed the previous day, commits the EU to providing financial support to Tunisia to deter Europe-bound migration. The EU is to provide €105 million (around $120 million) in aid to combat irregular immigration, contingent on approval by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Abraham Accords' betrayal of Sahrawi consolidated

Israel announced July 17 that it has formally recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara. The US in 2021 became the first nation to recognize Morocco's claim to the territory—an open quid pro quo for Moroccan recognition of Israel as a part of the so-called Abraham Accords. Israeli recognition of Morocco's claim was promised at that time. However, much of the territory is controlled by the Polisario Front, independence movement of the Sahrawi Arab people. Some 45 countries around the world recognize Polisario's declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR); the US and Israel are alone in recognizing Rabat's rule over the territory.

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