By Fakhri al-Arashi-NY
National Yemen, the fastest growing English newspaper, received an invitation to attend the conference Regional Dialogue on Democratic Transitions: Transitional Justice. Fakhri Al-Arashi, Chief Editor of National Yemen, said that he was excited to receive an invitation as it is an indicator of the international reputation of the paper.
National Yemen has been a strong player in English media since the paper’s birth last year on National Day, May 22nd. Since its inception, National Yemen’s local and expat team have continued to overcome obstacles, such as funding, to publish the paper on a weekly basis. Al-Arashi said that he wakes up every morning to meet any challenge that tries to keep him from publishing.
“It would be a nightmare if I were to suspend or hold the print for any duration of time. I think about this often and cannot sleep. As a result of the work he puts into the paper, he expects that will become nothing less than a worldwide media player.
Now, National Yemen is being requested to cover and attend the Transitional Justice Conference in Cairo during November 2-3.
The UNDP organized conference aims to define the concept of transitional justice and its challenges in the Arab world.
Background Information on the Conference
The conference aims to give full information to the participants from selected countries of the world about the concept of transitional justice in the Arab world. The Arab region is currently going through a critical moment of its history. What started as youth-led movements asking for freedom, justice and dignity, rapidly transformed into large movements affecting the entire Arab region, provoking transformation processes from an authoritarian order? In Egypt and Tunisia – where revolts turned into revolutions leading to the fall of dictatorships in place for several decades – the interim governments, the political forces and civil society are carefully trying to establish transitional mechanisms for nascent democratic governance.
The success of this transitional phase will depend on the capacity of all the various actors involved in the transition process to transform the demands for freedom and liberty into inclusive and accountable processes, institutions, and structures. But the challenge of appropriately dealing with the past while building the future is daunting. Managing the legacy of exactions and grave violations of human rights is, without a doubt, the most important challenge facing Arab countries in this transitional phase. Since the beginning of 2011, protesters and civil society activists have been consistently demanding the truth about human rights violations; they have also been demanding justice and reparation for the victims as well as trials for those responsible for grave abuses. There has been heightened public interest in TJ as an important part of the political debates and as an approach to dealing with the past, e.g. a commission investigating violations of human rights in Tunisia and an agency looking into possible reparations in Egypt. At the same time, in both countries there does not appear to be a deep understanding of TJ by the legal profession and civil Society, or the public at large. This has led to confusion and misunderstanding about what can be done, how it might be best approached, and what can realistically be achieved. Furthermore, ensuring the necessary will and long-term political commitment will be difficult given the participation of many in the previous regimes and their consequent lack of interest in seeking justice done.
The challenge of dealing with the past is one that may not be unique to Egypt and Tunisia; other countries in the region that are also undergoing social upheavals, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, will similarly have to deal with their legacies of human rights violations. It will be essential to ensure that in each country a TJ strategy is developed that is shaped to the particular characteristics of that country and based on comprehensive consultation with all stakeholders.
Concurrently, previous transitional justice experiences in other countries and regions around the world can be instructive, including from Latin America, Africa and the Arab region.3We are not aloneTJ processes and mechanisms have benefited from early experiences in Latin America. South Africa’s experience has also become a beacon of inspiration to others. Determinations about how to approach a TJ process in a given situation can benefit from various international experiences and lessons learnt. They must, however, take into consideration the specific situation of countries, and get the assent of the population, which can only be obtained through debate between the different actors of civil society, in particular the families of the victims. In the Arab region, Morocco started a process of TJ in 1990 which culminated in the Independent Arbitration Commission in 1999. In the wake of the revolution in late 2010, Tunisia established a Commission to Investigate Human Rights Violations. Iraq has established a parliamentary committee for reconciliation.