First Published: 2017-09-13

Protests in Tunisia over law granting amnesty to corrupt officials
Opposition, activists chant ‘this law will not pass’ as parliament debates contested ‘Economic Reconciliation’ bill granting amnesty to officials accused of graft under former leader Ben Ali.
Middle East Online

Government officials say the law helps to turn the page on the past

TUNIS - Tunisia's parliament on Wednesday began debating a contested bill granting amnesty to officials accused of corruption during the rule of autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, triggering angry protests from the opposition and activists outside.

Opposition lawmakers sang the national anthem and shouted slogans before the session was temporarily suspended. Outside, dozens of demonstrators protested, chanting "This law will not pass" and "Whitewash corruption".

After months of protests, the bill was amended from an original draft which would have also granted amnesty to corrupt businessmen. As it stands, they will be liable to prosecution for crimes committed during Ben Ali's 24-year rule.

Critics of the so-called "Economic Reconciliation" bill say it is a step back from the spirit of Tunisia's 2011 revolution to oust Ben Ali, who fled after weeks of protests against corruption and inequality.

"This law is an advanced stage of counter-revolution," opposition lawmaker Ammar Amroussia said.

But government officials say the law helps to turn the page on the past, improves the climate for investment and gives confidence to the administration and officials.

"The time has come to stop the isolation of those officials who could contribute to the building of the new Tunisia," said Mohamed Souf of the governing Nidaa Tounes party. "We must reconcile, as happened in South Africa and Rwanda." The bill was proposed by President Beji Caid Essebsi, himself a former Ben Ali official, and sent to parliament in 2015. But debate was postponed after criticism that the original bill benefited business elites tied to the government.

At Wednesday's session, tensions flared between the ruling coalition and the opposition lawmakers, who said the Supreme Judicial Council had not yet given its answer after being consulted by the parliament on the legality of the bill.

Despite the consensus between secular and Islamist parties that helped the country's transition towards democracy, the bill has divided Tunisians between those who want to draw a line under the past and those who say they cannot tolerate corruption.

Since the 2011 uprising, Tunisia has been held up by Western partners as a model of democracy for the region. Economic progress has lagged, though, and corruption remains a major problem in the North African state.

 

Iraq launches operation to clear last IS holdouts from desert

Divided Syria opposition meets in Riyadh

Lebanon’s Hariri suspends resignation

Revolt in US State Department over child soldier law

Outrage in Iraq over 'child marriage' bill

Hezbollah hails PM's suspension of resignation

Syrian opposition aims for unity at talks in Riyadh

Egypt police kill 3 Islamists in shootout

Turkey unsure if Assad to be part of Syria political transition

Migrant arrivals from Libya down since EU deal

Palestinian factions leave Cairo talks with little progress

Sudan’s Bashir looks to Putin for ‘protection’ from US aggression

China, Djibouti forge 'strategic' ties

IS propaganda channels fall quiet in 'unprecedented' hiatus

Kremlin to create Syria congress despite Turkey ‘reservations’

Netanyahu berates deputy minister for 'offensive' remarks on US Jews

Egypt PM heads to Germany for medical treatment

Egypt destroys 10 SUVs carrying arms on Libya border

Saudi-led coalition to reopen Yemen airport, port to aid

Turkey court rules to keep Amnesty chief in jail

France calls for UN meeting on Libya slave-trading

Egypt detains 29 for allegedly spying for Turkey

WTO panel to hear Qatar’s complaint against UAE blockade

Three dead as diphtheria spreads in Yemen

Israel seizes explosive material at Gaza border

Activists call for release of UK journalist held by IS

Bahrain upholds jail sentence for activist

Iraq attacks at lowest since 2014

Turkey continues crackdown in post-coup probe

Hariri back in Lebanon

Putin to hold Syria peace talks with Erdogan, Rouhani

US carries out air strikes against IS in Libya

Lebanon's Hariri in Egypt ahead of return home

Rebels say Sanaa airport 'ready to run' after coalition bombing

Greece to amend historic sharia law for Muslim minority

Turkey to ask Germany to extradite top coup suspect

Car bomb in northern Iraq kills at least 24

Morocco bans bitcoin transactions

13 million Syrians need aid despite relative drop in violence

Sudan urged to improve plight of Darfur's displaced people

Brain drain means Syria can’t recover for a generation

Palestinians close communication lines with Americans

Anti-IS coalition strikes drop to lowest number

German police arrest six Syrians ‘planning terror attack’

Palestinian factions in Cairo for reconciliation talks