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 Kurds start voting in historic independence referendum

US-led strikes killed 84 civilians near Syria's Raqa

Iran shuts border with Iraqi Kurdistan

Yemen's Hadi says military solution 'most likely'

The Sahara Forest Project, Jordan’s innovative water scheme

Turkey to launch intervention into Syria — and maybe into Iraq

Egyptian ‘world’s heaviest woman’ dies in Abu Dhabi

Palestinian unity government remains unlikely

Emirati man fights his employer to serve in country’s army

Palestinian PM to visit Gaza next week

Saudi advisory body to tackle female driving ban

Turkey denies closing Iraqi border in response to Kurdish vote

US air strikes kill 17 Islamic State militants in Libya

The high cost of Syria’s destruction

Palestinian negotiator awaits lung transplant in US

Kurds ready for contentious vote in Iraq

A Kurdish state: Reality or utopia?

Saudi intercepts missile fired from Yemen

Saudi Arabia marks national day with fireworks, concerts

Iran defies US, tests missile

Turkey warns of 'security' steps in response to Iraqi Kurd vote

Barzani delays Kurdish independence vote announcement

Syria's war off the radar at UN assembly

For many Iraqis, tradition trumps police

Darfur clashes kill 3 as Bashir urges reconciliation

Saudi cleric banned for saying women have ‘quarter’ brain

Veteran Syrian activist, daughter assassinated in Istanbul

Tunisia drops forced anal exams for homosexuality

Bomb used in Saudi-led strike on Yemen children US-made

Syria Kurds vote to cement federal push

Police charge teenager over London Underground attack

Nigerian official to meet Turkish counterpart over illegal guns

Thousands feared trapped in Raqa as IS mounts last stand

Iraqi forces achieve first step in new offensive on IS

Migrant boat sinks off Turkish Black Sea coast leaving four dead, 20 missing

Trump praises 'friend' Erdogan

Yemen leader promises UN to open entire country to aid

Rouhani vows Iran will boost missiles despite US criticism

Russia clashes with EU over Syria

UN Security Council warns against holding Iraqi Kurd vote

UN sets up probe of IS war crimes in Iraq

US, Iranian top diplomats confront each other for first time

Air strikes kill 22 civilians in northwest Syria in 48 hours

Iranian supreme leader lashes out at Trump UN speech

Thousands of Huthi supporters mark 3 years since Sanaa takeover