Tunisian President Kais Saied officially dissolved the Supreme Judicial Council on Feb. 6, sending police to seal the chamber where the body meets. The Council's head, Youssef Bouzakher, called the dissolution "illegal," and said it is aimed at bringing Tunisia's jurists under control of the executive. Established in 2016, the Council is a constitutional body entrusted with ensuring the independence of the judiciary, responsible for appointing judges and taking disciplinary action. Bouzakher said the Council intends to continue working in defiance of the president's announcement.
A coalition of 15 human rights and civil society organizations on Jan. 25 published a joint statement protesting the United Arab Emirates' new cybercrime law, saying it "severely threatens and unduly restricts the right to freedom of expression (both online and offline) and the rights to freedom of association and of peaceful assembly" in the country.
Tunisia's former president Moncef Marzouki was sentenced in absentia to four years in prison by the Tunis Court of First Instance on Dec. 21. Marzouki was convicted of "undermining the external security of the State," according to Tunisia's national press agency. Marzouki served as Tunisia's president from 2011 through 2014. Most recently, Marzouki has received attention for his criticism of Tunisia's current President Kaïs Saied.
An Egyptian court on Dec. 20 sentenced prominent activist Alaa Abd El Fattah to five years in prison after he was convicted on charges of "spreading false news undermining national security." Alongside Abd El Fattah, the New Cairo Emergency State Security Misdemeanour Court also sentenced human rights lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer and blogger Mohammed "Oxygen" Ibrahim to four years each in Case 1228/2021. All three defendants faced charges concerning their social media posts on human rights violations. Both Abd El Fattah and his lawyer El-Baqer had been held in pretrial detention for more than the legal limit of two years. Verdicts issued by the emergency court cannot be appealed. Human rights groups have criticized the use of "emergency trials," due process violations, and general repression of freedom of expression in Egypt under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's government.
Sudan's ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who had been placed under house arrest with last month's military coup, appeared on TV Nov. 21 to sign a new power-sharing agreement with putsch leader Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. But the deal officially restoring Hamdok as prime minister was immediately rejected by the pro-democracy movement in the streets. Just after the announcement, security forces in Khartoum fired tear-gas at protesters marching toward the presidential palace to demand the military's complete withdrawal from politics. "The future of the country will be determined by the young people on the ground," said Siddiq Abu-Fawwaz of the Forces for Freedom & Change coalition.
Anger over a regional garbage crisis in Tunisia exploded into street clashes Nov. 9 after a man died following exposure to tear-gas during protests against the reopening of a landfill site. Abderrazek Lacheheb, 35, died in the town of Aguereb in the coastal region of Sfax, punctuating weeks of demonstrations over a growing waste and public health crisis. The powerful UGTT trade union confederation announced a general strike for the day after his passing in Aguereb, condemning the "savage intervention by security forces."
Sudan's interim prime minister Abdalla Hamdok and several senior government officials were arrested as the military seized full power in a coup d'etat and imposed a state of emergency Oct. 25. The two principal pro-democracy formations, the Forces for Freedom & Change and Sudanese Professionals Association, have called for a popular mobilization to overturn the coup, and thousands have answered the call, filling the streets of Khartoum, Omdurman and other cities. Troops fired on protesters outside the army headquarters in Khartoum, killing at least three and injuring more than 80. The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) have also been mobilized to the streets. The military head of the now officially dissolved joint civilian-military Transitional Sovereignty Council, Lt Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, is apparently behind the coup and in control. The putsch follows days of rival demonstrations in Khartoum, with pro-democracy protesters demanding a full civilian government and pro-army counter-demonstrators demanding that the military take complete control. (Radio Dabanga, Middle East Online, NYT, AP, AP)
Five international rights groups are urging Algerian authorities to drop their effort to dissolve a prominent civil society group over alleged violation of the "law on associations." The five groups—Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies, the International Federation of Human Rights, and the MENA Rights Group—say the government's move "threatens freedom of association." On Sept. 29, a court in Algiers heard a petition to dissolve the Rassemblement Action Jeunesse (Youth Action Rally, or RAJ). The petition claimed that the group's political activities violated the purposes set forth in its own bylaws. Leaders of RAJ denied the charge and said that authorities targeted the association due to its support of the Hirak pro-democracy movement.