By World News Bureau
Transparency International called on the foreign ministers of European Union member states to keep in place EU’s sanctions imposed against the former leaders of Tunisia and Egypt, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, and to provide assistance to authorities in Tunisia and Egypt to investigate and prosecute the ousted leaders and their cronies.
Five years ago, people flooded the streets of Cairo, Tunis and many other Arab cities protesting the endemic corruption of their governments, injustices and poverty. Governments responded with violence, some made promises to reform and change.
Following these events, the EU imposed sanctions such as asset freezes and visa restrictions on named individuals on the basis of evidence that they had misappropriated public funds and abused their positions. The sanctions imposed on 48 individuals in Tunisia, including Ben Ali and his coterie, are set to expire on 31 January 2016.
The Transparency International chapters in the Middle East and North Africa called on the EU member states to do everything in their powers, consistent with the rule of law and the protection of individual rights, to demonstrate their solidarity with citizens from the Arab region in punishing corruption crimes and the corrupt.
“Despite early promises, post-revolution governments have made little to no progress as their efforts focus largely on regime survival rather than reform. As a result, corruption remains alive and thriving in some places,” said Ghada Zughayar, Director of the Middle East and North Africa regional department at Transparency International.
“Now is the time for EU foreign ministers to send a critical message to the region that corruption cannot be ignored and must be battled head on.”
European citizens can take action by visiting the website Unmaskthecorrupt.org and vote for most symbolic cases of grand corruption, including the cases of Ben Ali and Mubarak.
Transparency International asked the EU to continue to support citizens of Tunisia and Egypt and the broader MENA region to prevent corruption and the theft of public assets. The imposition of sanctions in 2011 was a powerful signal that corrupt leaders will face consequences for their actions. Lifting the sanctions now risks sending a message that these and other corrupt leaders in the region can ultimately remain unpunished and that the laundering of the proceeds of corruption can continue with impunity.
Ill-gotten assets worth billions of dollars were obtained by the ousted leaders who abused entrusted power and looted public resources in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen. That money remains locked up in overseas banks, many of which are in the European Union, instead of being used to build hospitals and schools, or fuelling economic growth in the MENA region.
The political landscape of the region has changed dramatically in the last five years; nation states have collapsed, chaos is rampant, well-resourced radical groups and militias exist, inter-communal conflicts have been sharply aggravated, and the suppression of minorities, opposition and public freedom prevails. Justice systems, the rule of law and good governance cannot prevail in this environment.