Arab League Summit: the death penalty at the heart of the alternative summit organized by civil society


By Hédia Zaalouni, on 10 May 2019

Organized by the National Union of Tunisian Journalists and a dozen civil society organizations, including the Tunisian Coalition against the Death Penalty, this alternative summit provided an opportunity to debate, inform the general public and challenge the leaders of the Arab world on the defense of freedom of speech, respect for human rights and status of women. It was also an opportunity for the Tunisian coalition against the death penalty to draw up a situational analysis of the death penalty in the Arab world in general and in Egypt in particular.

Indeed, the question of the recent executions in Egypt, but also the unrest in Algeria and the situation in Palestine, have occupied a prominent place in the debates.

The actions carried out during this alternative summit

The alternative summit was rich in events and debates. In the run-up to the summit, recommendations concerning youth and the media were made by the Civil Society and Media Forum in the Middle East and North Africa.

The day of the 28th of March was devoted to the Algerian socio-political situation (which led to the drafting of an open letter), while the issue of human rights in Egypt was the focus of the day of Saturday the 30th.

In turns, several speakers were given the opportunity to alert the opinion on the general context of the human rights situation in Egypt (Mohamed Omran, human rights activist), on the high cost of defending human rights (Moataz al-Fajeri, secretary of the Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Support of Human Rights Defenders and regional coordinator of Front Line Defenders), on freedom of expression (Rubaqa Boualaki from Amnesty International’s regional office) and finally on the issue of the death penalty.

In this regard, the Tunisian coalition against the death penalty through Chokri Latif presented a precise overview of the death penalty in the regime of Abdel Fattah al-Sissi.

Recalling that Egypt has not ratified either the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment or the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, the Tunisian coalition against the death penalty has warned of the current political use of the death penalty in Egypt and the failure to respect fair procedures.

Raise awareness among the general public

Broadcasted live on the second Tunisian channel (while the official summit was broadcasted at the same time on the first), the 30th of March was therefore the occasion for the Tunisian coalition against the death penalty and ECPM (Ensemble contre la peine de mort) to call on States to put an end to the practice of capital punishment and to denounce the violations currently committed in Egypt.

It was also an opportunity to be able to inform the general public directly, in an official way, on a prime time channel.

Demonstration on Bourguiba Avenue

Sunday was devoted to human rights in the Arab world in general, and despite an impressive deployment of police forces, the summit ended with a peaceful demonstration on Avenue Bourguiba.

A thousand people, including representatives of political parties, NGOs, journalists and ordinary citizens, walked down Avenue Bourguiba, accompanied by the Clown Activist Brigade.

A moment of struggle and solidarity in a good-natured spirit that brought this alternative summit to a close. 

The next actions

The Tunisian coalition against the death penalty intends to continue its educational action to raise awareness by reaching out to Tunisian youth through meetings and debates organized in several cities across the country.

A study is also currently being conducted on the conditions of detention in Tunisian prisons for persons sentenced to death. It will thus make it possible to draw up a socio-economic portrait of the detainees, to testify about their conditions of detention, the management of their defense, etc.

This major study will be presented at the next World Day Against the Death Penalty, which will take place on 10 October 2019.



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