Anger is growing among political activists over an amendment to the Penal Law passed by the General National Congress (GNC) imposing a one-year jail term for anyone seen to insult Congress, the government, the judiciary, or any of their members. Insulting the flag and the state logo is also considered a crime. The Penal Law already made it an offense to deliberately publish false news that was hostile to the revolution. Leading political activist Farida Allaghi called upon the Supreme Council for Liberties to quickly condemn the amendment and to uphold the right to free expression. However, independent Congressman for Zawiya Said Jarjar said that the law was intended to protect rights and not to target individuals. Those who spread false and incorrect news should be jailed by the courts to protect the stability of the state, Jarjar said. [Libya Herald, 2/11/2014]



Cabinet reshuffle keeps Beblawy, replaces few ministers
Hazem al-Beblawy will remain prime minister in the upcoming cabinet reshuffle, as other figures have declined the post, while the ministers of higher education, social solidarity, justice and transitional justice and national reconciliation will be replaced, according to informed sources. Sources also said that Ahmed al-Zend, head of the Judges Club, declined the post of justice minister. Other figures also declined posts in the coming government on the pretext that it would only stay for a few months before parliament is elected to appoint a new one. [Egypt Independent, 2/11/2014]

Calls for the immediate investigation into the torture of detainees
The “savageness” of torture practices reported by detainees arrested during the third anniversary of the 2011 revolution surpass the practices of security apparatuses during the “worst dictatorial regimes” Egypt had witnessed, according to the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI). ANHRI condemned the alleged torture the “political” detainees are facing in a statement it released on Tuesday. The organisation said such practices destroyed the legal principle which considers suspects “innocent until proven guilty”. Among the 1,079 the Ministry of Interior reported to have arrested on 25 January, at least seventy-nine are being held at Abu Zaabal Prison. All have reported being subjected to torture, according to their lawyer Mahmoud Belal. [DNE, 2/12/2014]

World Bank expects Egypt’s GDP growth rate up 3.5 percent
The World Bank expects Egypt’s economy to grow by 3.5 percent by the end of the current fiscal year to end in June 2014. The Bank attributed the increase to the government’s announcement of two economic stimulus packages worth $8.7 billion. The packages aim at promoting economic activities on the short term through pumping more investments and lowering the budget deficit from 13.7 percent to 9.1 percent. [MENA, 2/12/2014]

US Embassy employee detained in Egypt
A US embassy official says Egyptian authorities have held a local employee for nearly three weeks without charges. Moufid Deak, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, says Ahmed Aleiba, an Egyptian citizen who works at the embassy, was arrested on January 25, the anniversary of the uprising that deposed former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. A security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, confirmed Aleiba’s arrest. The arrest has unnerved Western diplomats. Many were already wrestling with fears of retribution from the military-backed government if they continued to meet with Brotherhood officials. [AP, NYTimes, 2/12/2014]


Three blasts rock Libyan TV station in Tripoli
The Tripoli headquarters of Libya’s Alassema privately owned television channel was attacked early Wednesday. A source at the broadcaster said three rocket-propelled grenades were fired at the building, wounding a guard. Alassema is known for its anti-Islamist stance and came under attack nearly a year ago when gunmen ransacked the offices and took away the owner and several presenters before freeing them several hours later. The channel has been accused by Islamists of urging people to demonstrate against the General National Congress. Meanwhile, the father of a journalist who was kidnapped along with his brothers and two other reporters in Sebha says his search for them at detention centers has produced no leads yet. [AFP/Al Arabiya, 2/12/2014]

Libya oil, gas pipelines blocked in protest against expired interim parliament
Angry Libyan protesters closed oil and gas pipelines of Wafa oilfield in the south on Tuesday in protest against the General National Congress (GNC) after its mandate ended on February 7 but most legislators have refused to step down. Other oilfields could be blockaded in the coming days. On Saturday, major and small Libyan cities witness mass protests and declarations against the GNC accusing its members of corruption and failure to fulfill their responsibilities. An already chaotic situation in Libya could deepen or become violent if the GNC does not respond to popular demands to surrender power. [Tripoli Post, 2/12/2014]

Omar Mukhtar brigade to secure Sarir
The army’s 319 Brigade, known as the Omar Mukhtar Brigade, has left Benghazi to secure vital electricity and water facilities in the troubled Sarir oilfield area. According to the spokesman for the General Chief of Staff, Ali al-Shaikhi, the brigade will set up checkpoints on the Kufra-Ajdabiya road, securing the area against tribal clashes that have disrupted power and water supplies to other parts of the country.The arrival of the force had been agreed to by Tebu-manned Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG) from the 25 Brigade and Zwai tribesmen from the 427 Brigade one week ago following mediation by a government-led group of officials. The two brigades had been engaged in sporadic fighting in the area for over a month, forcing the closure of Sarir Power Station and resulting in power cuts in Tripoli and Benghazi. [Libya Herald, 2/12/2014]


Syrians killed at fastest rate of the war; 236 per day since peace talks began
While the government and rebels have been at peace talks in Geneva, Syrians have been killed at the fastest rate since the country slid into conflict in 2011, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday. At least 4,959 people died in the three-week period between January 22, when the first round of Geneva II peace talks began, and February 11, the pro-opposition monitoring group said. The head of the Observatory said an average of 236 people had died each day in that time period. The Observatory estimated that nearly a third of those killed were civilians—at least 515 of those were women and children killed in air raids and artillery strikes. [Daily Star, 2/12/2014]

Air force pounds rebel-held Yarbud near Damascus; Increased fighting near Lebanese border
Syria’s air force carried out fifteen air strikes against the strategic rebel-held Yabrud area near Damascus on Wednesday, as the army escalated a campaign there, activists and a monitor said. The army meanwhile advanced on Jarajir, a village near Yabrud and on the Lebanese border, a military source told Agence France Presse. Yabrud is the main town in the Qalamoun mountains, the border area important for rebel supply routes. The army last year launched a widescale operation to retake a string of towns in the area, seizing Qara, Deir Attiya, and Nabk along the highway between Damascus and central Homs. On the ground, an activist told AFP that “the [army’s] campaign to take Yabrud has started. The air strikes are accompanied by an attempted ground offensive.” Nearby, the army took control of Jarajir, a village near the Lebanese border, a military source said. But he denied any new offensive, and it was part of “routine” operations against rebels. [Reuters, AFP, 2/12/2014]

Fate of hundreds of men evacuated from Homs and detained in doubt
Hundreds of evacuees from this besieged city were detained by the regime as soon as they were rescued, said the top UN official here, who said the United Nations now has no control over their fate. About a third of the nearly 1,160 people evacuated from the besieged enclave between Friday and Monday were immediately detained by Syrian authorities. The UN spokesperson said about 400 men between the ages of fifteen and fifty-four were detained by Syrian authorities as presumed combatants as soon as they came out of the old quarter of Homs, which regime forces have bombarded for more than eighteen months. The governor of Homs, who represents the regime, put the number at 330. About one hundred of them were released on an amnesty on Tuesday and several hundred remain in custody in a school in a regime-controlled section of the city. Homs Governor Talal al Barazi said the military-age men who left the old quarter have effectively surrendered because they were fully informed before they were brought out by the United Nations what the procedures affecting them would be. [WSJ, 2/12/2014]

Regime open to discuss foreign fighters, opposition presents post-Assad plan
The government is willing to discuss at peace talks an opposition proposal to evict foreign fighters from the country, a deputy minister told reporters on Wednesday, signalling a rare sign of accord between the warring foes. The opposition called earlier for a transitional governing body to be set up that would oversee a total ceasefire under UN monitoring and be empowered to drive out foreign fighters deployed on both sides of the war. When asked if the government would negotiate on the proposal’s point regarding foreign fighters, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said: “Of course… We are not closed to discussing any issue. But we have to discuss them one by one.” Also on Wednesday, Anas al-Abdeh, a member of the opposition’s negotiating team in Geneva said they expect Russia—a key ally of Syria’s President Bashar Assad—to put pressure on the government delegation to show flexibility at the talks. [The Daily Star, NYT, 2/12/2014]


Two killed following protests outside police station
One police officer and one protester were killed on Monday in the central town of Jelma after protesters tried to storm a police station, demanding the release of an individual being held on drug charges. The protester who was killed was shot by police. It is unclear if the police officer was killed by friendly fire. Protesters severely damaged the police station, the hospital and the national guard station in Jelma. [Tunisia Live, 2/11/2014]

Refugees arrested outside of European Union Office
On Tuesday, police officers arrested twenty refugees from the Choucha refugee camp who were protesting outside of the European Union Office. The refugees arrived from Libya following the 2011 uprising and settled in the UN Choucha refugee camp. The Choucha camp housed thousands of Libyans and guest workers previously in Libya from Somalia, Sudan, and elsewhere, who all fled the violence that followed the 2011 uprising in Libya. In June 2013, the UN closed the camp and intended for the refugees to integrate into the local Tunisian society. Citing discrimination, many refused this option and demanded resettlement in European countries. While Article 26 of the new constitution ensures political asylum, Tunisia still does not have a legal framework for asylum seekers and refugees. [Tunisia Live, 2/12/2014]

NCA Bureau recommends expediting discussion of draft electoral law
Following a meeting on Tuesday, the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) Bureau recommended speeding up the discussion to draft electoral law in order to submit the draft electoral law to the plenary session. The Bureau also decided to dedicate the rest of the week to meetings with legislative commissions to continue the discussion over draft laws. Once the new electoral law is approved by the NCA, Independent Higher Authority for Elections will be able to set a date or dates and begin preparation for presidential and parliamentary elections, which are expected before the end of the year. [TAP, 2/11/2014]

Tunisia’s security victories on the rise but porous borders remain a significant threat
The main suspect in Chokri Belaid’s assassination was killed on February 3 and over the weekend, the main suspect in Mohamed Brahimi’s assassination, Ahmed Al-Melki, was arrested. In questioning following his arrest, it is reported that Al-Melki admitted to participating in several operations, including Brahmi’s murder, and claimed to have had close ties with Ansar al-Sharia leader Abou Iyadh. The widows of both politicians feel, however, that there were more parties than just the individuals involved that still need to be held responsible. Another challenge for Tunisia’s security is its borders where smuggling of goods across the Libyan and Algerian borders hurts the economy and the easy movement of drugs, weapons, and explosives hurts security. According to the World Bank, Tunisia lost 1.2 billion dinars due to illegal trade across the borders. On Tuesday, Defence Minister Ghazi Jribi met with US Ambassador Jacob Walles to reinforce bilateral security co-operation between Tunisia and the US. [All Africa, 2/11/2014]


Constitutional committee to be formed soon
The deputy secretary general of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) affirmed that the constitution drafting committee will be formed soon and will be charged with incorporating the NDC recommendations into the charter. He also responded to mounting criticism regarding the new federal regions, saying that the NDC agreed that a committee formed by President Hadi would make the final determination about the number of regions, and that the decision was legitimate. The deputy also affirmed that while it will be a new system for Yemen, it is the most appropriate model for the country. [Thawra News (Arabic), 2/12/2014]

EU congratulates Yemen, calls upon government to address NDC recommendations
The Council of the European Union has congratulated Yemen on the conclusion of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC). While the EU highlighted the important nature of the constitutional writing phase, it emphasized the need to prioritize humanitarian and economic concerns and implement recommendations pertaining to rights and freedoms. Finally, the EU statement reiterated the EU’s readiness to increase aid and support to Yemen during the transition. [Consilium Europa, 2/10/2014]

Draft resolution on sanctions to be put before the UNSC next week
A sanctions resolution against members of the former regime has been drafted by the British and will likely be put before the United Nations Security Council next week. The resolution would not impose sanctions on any one person, but would rather create a committee empowered to impose travel bans, freeze assets, and investigate whether any people impeding Yemen’s transition should be sanctioned, specifically former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and former vice president Ali Salem al-Beidh. During protests held yesterday to commemorate the anniversary of Yemen’s uprising, many demonstrators called for sanctions to be placed on Saleh. “Saleh is a war criminal and a spoiler [of the transition] and I call upon the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on him,” said 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakul Karman. [Al-Masdar (Arabic), 2/11/2014]

Saleh accuses Hadi of involvement in 2011 assassination attempt
A lawyer representing former President Ali Abdullah Saleh has accused current President Abdrabu Mansour Hadi of being involved in the June 2011 explosion at the presidential residence that targeted Saleh and his former aides. Saleh’s lawyer, who also represents other victims of the incident, has demanded that the attorney general investigate the claims. [Al-Masdar (Arabic), 2/12/2014]


Protests begin in Bahrain ahead of uprising anniversary
Bahrain opposition groups are calling for protests to commemorate the third anniversary of the uprising on February 14, 2011. Al-Wefaq, the oppositions largest party, has called for peaceful protests, including a strike on Thursday and a rally on Saturday. The party’s supporters and opposition allies have already begun holding protests in Manama’s periphery, calling for the reform of what they view as unfair electoral districts. In a statement, the group said, “The Bahraini people are calling for a parliament with full powers through fair elections where all votes are equal, they are calling for an impartial independent judiciary that provides security for all.” The February 14 Youth Coalition, associated with more violent protests, has called upon activists and protesters to retake Pearl Roundabout, the former site of 2011 protests that was razed and cordoned off by the government. [Express Tribune/AFP, 2/12/2014]

Lebanese army arrests jihadist commander
Najm Abbas, a commander of the Abdallah Azzam brigades, a group loyal to al-Qaeda, was arrested by the Lebanese Army. The group is responsible for the November twin suicide attacks outside of the Iranian embassy in Beirut that killed twenty-five people. Abdalla Azzam has been listed by the United States as a terrorist organization since 2009. Abbas’ detention follows the indictment of a Sunni Muslim sheikh, Omar Ibrahim al-Atrash, in connection with two suicide bombings that killed at least six people in southern Beirut, a Hezbollah stronghold. In recent months, Lebanon has seen a string of deadly attacks linked to Syria’s war, claimed by al-Qaeda-linked groups including the Abdallah Azzam brigades. [Al Arabiya, 2/12/2014]

Kuwait approves twelve billion dollar bids for clean fuels project
As part of Kuwait’s economic development plan, the government has approved more than twelve billion dollars in contracts to advance the country’s Clean Fuels Project, including major overhauls to two oil refineries. One contractor projects that the initiative will more than double Kuwait’s oil production. In addition to infrastructural renovations, Kuwait is planning to spend four billion dollars on a new refinery as it phases out an older one. [Reuters, 2/12/2014]