In 2018, Tunisia became the first country in the Middle East and North Africa to pass a law that criminalizes racial discrimination. In a society that has long denied the existence of racism, the law—popularly known as Loi 50 or Law 50—has been applauded by local activists and international human rights organizations as a historic step.
‘Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a designated “high-value detainee” in US government parlance, is on trial in the Guantánamo Bay military commissions. The 49-year old Saudi Arabian is accused of directing the October 2000 al-Qaeda suicide boat bombing of the USS Cole off the coast of Aden, Yemen, which killed 17 sailors and injured 40 more, and a failed plan to bomb the USS Sullivans. Five other high-value detainees, including alleged “mastermind” Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, are being tried together for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. All six could face the death penalty if convicted.
The US government wanted to kill Anwar al-Awlaqi long before a CIA-JSOC drone strike actually succeeded in doing so on September 30, 2011. Before and after that deadly strike, al-Awlaqi’s kill-ability has been a bone of contention because he was a US citizen. The cleric, who had become radicalized as the “war on terror” wore on, moved to Yemen, his ancestral homeland, in late 2004.
On June 14, 123 people — including a military judge, teams of civilian and military defense lawyers and prosecutors, eight courtroom observers, and 15 journalists — flew on a C-17 from Andrews Air Force Base to Guantánamo Bay for military commission proceedings. It is my fifth trip to Guantánamo, and the second to cover the pre-trial hearings related to the September 11, 2001 attacks. (I went three times in 2010 to cover the last hearings in the case of Omar Khadr, the Canadian “child soldier” who pled guilty and was convicted in October 2010.
Little more than a decade ago, in a brief interlude of heady optimism about the prospects of regional peace, the Israeli Supreme Court issued two landmark rulings that, it was widely assumed, heralded the advent of a new, post-Zionist era for Israel. But with two more watershed judgments handed down over the winter of 2011-2012 the same court has decisively reversed the tide.
Egyptian courts have increasingly become a site of political struggle between Islamists and secularists. In a state that restricts political parties and open political debate, courts are now one of the main venues for political expression for groups such as the Muslim Brothers. In the last few years, their lawyers have filed dozens of cases against what they perceive as “un-Islamic” writings by secular intellectuals or “un-Islamic” government decisions. They use the ambiguity inherent in the Egyptian legal system, which seems torn between mainly secular codified positive laws and the rules and regulations of the shari‘a, as interpreted by Islamic law scholars.
Usama Halabi, a lawyer, works with the East Jerusalem Quaker Legal Aid Program and is the author of The Druze in Israel: From Sect to Nation (Jerusalem: Golan Academic Association, 1989) [Arabic]. Barbara Harlow interviewed him in Jerusalem in December 1994.
In November, the Israeli military court in Jenin issued a death sentence for a Hamas leader, the first time such a sentence has been issued by a military court in the Occupied Territories. Does this signal a change in policy?
Laurence Michalak and Jeswald W. Salacuse, eds., Social Legislation in the Contemporary Middle East (Berkeley, CA: IIS, 1986).
Raja Shehadeh, Occupier’s Law: Israel and the West Bank (Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1985).
Enid Hill, Mahkama! Studies in the Egyptian Legal System (London: Ithaca Press, 1980).
Enid Hill has produced an unusual and important contribution to understanding the political economy of modern Egypt. Her book, clear and easy to follow, adopts an anthropological approach to the study of the Egyptian legal system. She shows how the poor, the lower middle class, and the rich get what they can out of this structure. Hill treats “the legal system of Egypt as a modern system in its own right,” what she calls the law of a periphery capitalist formation, following the earlier work of Hossam Issa and others dealing more generally with Egypt and the world market.