Egypt’s ‘beach of death’ claims its latest victim

A photo taken on September 9, 2017 shows a river boat sailing in the Nile past the Temple of Luxor in the eponymous southern Egyptian city. (AFP)
Updated 22 July 2018
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Egypt’s ‘beach of death’ claims its latest victim

  • About 1.5 million people visit the waterfront during the holiday seasons
  • The beach has 23 lifeguards, two supervisors and three jet-ski operators to cover a 1,850-meter stretch of beach

CAIRO: No one knows the reason for the high number of drowning cases in Palm Beach, Alexandria — a popular city waterfront that some have called the “beach of death.”
More than 20 people have drowned at the beach in recent months, with two deaths in the past week.
The latest victim, 27-year-old Ibrahim Saad Ahmed, was a worker from Egypt’s Dakahlia province.
Ahmed’s father said that his son was swept away by the strong current and drowned.
A student drowned at the same beach late last week, but his body has not been recovered.
Palm Beach, which was built by Egypt’s armed forces as a resort for its officers, “is one of Alexandria’s most beautiful beaches, but it is the most dangerous,” according to Salma Al-Jundi, a doctor who owns an apartment there.
Ahmed Essam, an engineering student and a member of the association that runs the beach, has called for an increase in the number of lifeguards as well as warning signs on suitable hours for swimming.
Some vacationers swim at times when swimming is prohibited, such as dawn and after sunset.
Essam believes that the large number of drowning cases can be explained by the fact that many beachgoers are not Alexandrians, and are less experienced swimmers.
Meanwhile, officials at the beach deny there is a problem. Brig. Mahmoud Abdel Hamid, a member of the board of directors of the October 6 Association, which runs Palm Beach, said that about 1.5 million people visit the waterfront during the holiday seasons.
The association is committed “to providing all means of safety,” he said.
The Palm Beach administration posted news of the recent drowning cases on its Facebook page, and urged people to swim only during allotted times.
The Alexandria governorate also issued a warning, with the governor, Sultan Sultan, saying he would consider closing the beach after the rise in the number of drownings.
The beach has 23 lifeguards, two supervisors and three jet-ski operators to cover a 1,850-meter stretch of beach. They work from 8 a.m. to sunset.


Tunisia’s ‘truth commission’ winds up four-year mission

Updated 12 December 2018
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Tunisia’s ‘truth commission’ winds up four-year mission

  • The commission, whose mandate was extended in the spring until the end of 2018
  • At the end of November, the commission drew up criteria for compensation that exclude those with post-2011 government

TUNIS: After four years working “under fire” and interviewing almost 50,000 witnesses, Tunisia’s commission tasked with serving justice to victims of half a century of dictatorship is poised to submit its recommendations.

Set up in 2014 following the 2011 revolution and in the wake of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s fall, the Truth and Dignity Institute has a mission to “reveal the truth about the human rights violations” in Tunisia between 1955 and 2013.

In its final act, the commission will submit its recommendations to Tunisia’s leadership.

The first version is to be delivered at a public event on Friday and Saturday, before the full report is submitted by Dec. 31.

The government, with the assistance of a parliamentary follow-up committee, will have one year to draw up an action plan based on the recommendations.

The commission’s task was to collect and disseminate testimonies, send some of those suspected of rape, murder, torture or corruption to specialised courts, and recommend measures to prevent any recurrence.

Operating in the only Arab Spring country which has kept to a democratic path since the 2011 revolt, its mandate has also been to seek national reconciliation through a revival of the North African state’s collective memory.

The commission, whose mandate was extended in the spring until the end of 2018, has been studying more than 60,000 complaints and has this year sent dozens of cases to the courts.

Over the past four years, the panel has heard harrowing testimony from victims of torture in jail, some of which has been aired to large television audiences.

“From the very start we’ve worked under fire and come up against difficulties, due to the absence of political will,” commission official Khaled Krichi told AFP.

He said demands for the handover of judicial cases involving corruption had been rejected, as well as for archive materials from the Interior Ministry on prisoners who had suffered torture.

A contested amnesty law passed in 2017 cleared some officials suspected of administrative corruption.

The commission also faced political resistance with the return of former regime leaders to power, internal disputes as well as the lack of cooperation by state institutions.

Thirteen specialized courts have been set up and started work at the end of May on dozens of cases submitted by the commission.

Twenty trials are underway, mostly of victims of the 2011 revolution and of radical and leftist opposition figures tortured under the rule of Ben Ali or his predecessor Habib Bourguiba.

Krichi said settlements have been reached in 10 cases of financial corruption involving former regime figures, including that of Slim Chiboub, a son-in-law of Ben Ali, who has agreed to pay back 307 million dinars ($113 million).

The state, however, faced with accusations of torture and sexual violence, has rejected 1,000 demands for “reconciliation” with the victims. A row has also broken out over compensation cases, with members of Parliament claiming the costs would bankrupt the state and that many claims were designed to benefit supporters of extremist movement Ennahdha.

At the end of November, the commission drew up criteria for compensation that exclude those with post-2011 government or parliamentary posts.

Around 25,000 people are eligible to compensation from the Al-Karama (Dignity) Fund established in 2014, according to Krichi.

It is being financed by donations, a percentage of the funds recovered through settlements and a one-time government grant of 10 million dinars ($3.7 million).