Ayman Nour, a former member of the Egyptian parliament and the founder of the Al-Ghad (Tomorrow) party, was arrested and imprisoned in January 2005 on charges of forging signatures in connection with the establishment of the party, charges that he strongly denied and that were widely regarded as spurious. Released in March 2005 and allowed to run for the presidency, Nour finished second in the September presidential elections with more than seven percent of the vote. In December 2005, however, he was sentenced to five years in prison. In June 2006, the letter below from Nour to Edward McMillan-Scott, vice-president of the European Parliament, was smuggled out of prison:
I address this very short letter to you and to all the honorable and free people in the world, to all the representatives of free people and those whose consciences refuse oppression, injustice, false accusations, and merciless murder.
My letter is very short due to the circumstances out of my control restricting my freedom and depriving me of my human rights, the foremost of which is the right to write, express, and reject the injustice and suffering I am subjected to!
The day my freedom was taken away in January 2005, your great efforts—after God and combined with the efforts of my supporters—played a crucial role in my release. The first faces I saw—an honor to me—were the faces of a delegation of European male and female parliament representatives. Your visit to me during my imprisonment was not only reason for breaking the doors of this prison and my temporary release, it also gave me the possibility of exercising my right in running for the first presidential election. I was imprisoned to prevent me from running for the election. With God’s grace and the enthusiasm of the reformists I was able to come in second to the president and be the only competitor to him and his son despite the rigging and all forms of injustice, [End Page 181] defamation, and [manipulation] of results. I also paid an extra price when my constituency’s election results were blatantly rigged, thus causing me to lose my permanent seat in the parliament. Some of you were in Cairo and witnessed a part of the tragedy.
Today I pay a new and high price as punishment for having run for the presidential election. I am also being prevented from continuing the democratic reform path in Egypt so that the current regime can strengthen its presence by claiming there is no alternative to it other than fundamentalism and terrorism, thus forcing people inside and outside Egypt to accept its presence.
Unfortunately, ladies and gentlemen, I do not pay this price alone. My children, family, party, my whole generation, and all the reformists in this country pay the price, too. I lost my freedom, my work as a lawyer, journalist, and chairman of the first and only civil political party to be established in a quarter of a century, the duration of Mubarak’s rule. I am threatened to remain in prison for five years and prevented from exercising my political rights for another five years to guarantee that Egypt is inherited by Mubarak’s son, as well as making me an example to anyone who thinks of breaking the power monopoly not only in Egypt but in the Arab world!
I call upon you to exert every effort to defend my fair case not for my sake, nor for the sake of my children or my party that is being destroyed, my human rights which are violated in this prison every morning, or my life at which illness, injustice, and oppression are eating away. I ask you to defend my fair case to keep hope alive for the coming generations, whom we do not want to lose hope. It is for these generations that I call upon you to exert every effort to defend my fair case and to visit me in prison to witness the truth which the Egyptian regime is very good at concealing and telling lies to prove the opposite. Free people of the world: I am dying alone for a principle, for my country, and for freedom. Please raise my voice before my spirit departs this world.
In April, widespread rioting, unrest, and violence erupted in Timor-Leste, eventually forcing Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri to step down from office. On July 10 José Ramos Horta, a founder of the Timorese independence movement and the 1996 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, was officially sworn in as the new prime minister. Excerpts from his acceptance speech appear below:
Today, 10 July 2006, in the year of Christ, we enter a new phase in the construction of our state for the quest for law and peace. The path has been long, difficult, dangerous, and has resulted in the shedding of tears and blood, with the loss of too many lives. Our journey to nationhood [End Page 182] has been a centuries-long journey, with those years now lost in time, when the beaches of our country were first stepped on by the Portuguese missionaries.
On 20 May 2002, our nation concluded that long journey and it was an occasion crowned with joy and festivities. We then had to initiate another immediate journey, that of the edification of our state and its institutions. We had also to initiate the painful process of examination of conscience, reflection, and national and international reconciliation. We have gone through generations of pain and mourning, of hate and treason. It was necessary to display a lot of courage and generosity to try to forget, but this is not always possible. It is, however, always possible to pardon. Pardoning is an act of courage and generosity and grandeur. Hate and revenge are feelings and expressions of weakness that lead to self-destruction, because such feelings can consume us, preventing us from living for the present and future but instead as prisoners of the past. The experiences of past and present generations have left deep wounds in the great Timorese family, causing collective trauma.
The crisis that imploded in our country on 28 April 2006, the crisis that continues to this day, admittedly now a lot more calm and secure, has reopened the wounds not yet fully healed and has opened new ones. . . .
What we inherited from UNTAET [the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor] in May 2002 was only a sketch of a state. After the violence and destruction in September 1999, the Security Council mandated the secretary-general to build a modern and democratic state in only two years. The late Sergio Vieira de Mello, whom our Lord has in his care, was tireless, intelligent, dedicated, and a friend, but it was not possible for him in two years to give birth from the ashes of the violence and destruction of 1999, to a modern and democratic, stable and fully functional state.
It is not possible to make a small business viable in two years, consolidate it and make it commercially sustainable in two years, yet we ask, “Is it possible to build a state in two years?” The answer is no, but the Security Council had other concerns and priorities. And we the Timorese, fueled by patriotism, we even thought that a transition of two years was excessively long.
In regard to the new United Nations Mission, I simply reiterate the view expressed in our letter of 11 June 2006. We trust that the Security Council will once again decide with wisdom on the needs of the Mission that is best needed for the people of Timor-Leste and that our request will be positively responded to. . . .
Our immediate task is to consolidate security in Dili and in all of Timor-Leste, and to enable to return to their houses the thousands of brothers and sisters who during these weeks have taken refuge in several centers and give them necessary support to rebuild their lives. [End Page 183]
Our people has suffered and many, who were poor before the crisis, now lost the little that they had, but they also lost faith in the state institutions and in the political leaders. The government action in the weeks and months ahead is to restore faith and hope, respect for our young democracy and for our young nation state.
Timor-Leste is cited in a study of the World Bank as one of the worst countries in the world to register a company. We are going to reverse that immediately. The country is not poor. We have money from our own resources and from the generosity of friends.
This government is not going to find excuses for inertia. This government will try to serve the best interests of the poor. This government is going to be the government for the poor. This government will be at the forefront in the fight against poverty. We are going to use existing money to dignify the human being, give them hope, give them food, clothing, and a roof.
Michelle Bachelet is the president of Chile, the first woman to hold the office. Elected in December 2005, she was inaugurated on 11 March 2006. Her election and the challenges that face her administration are discussed by Arturo Valenzuela and Lucía Dammert in this issue (pp. 65–79). Excerpts from her inaugural address appear below:
Over the past sixteen years of democracy, we have worked hard together to smooth over the sharp edges of a divided society, a society that separated “us” from “them.” Now is the time that we all feel part of a larger “us.”
Today, there is something different in the air. We have been able to build a new society, where the noble desire for a better future for all Chileans unites us. Everyone has a place in that future, with an inclusive homeland, where no diversity is left out, and no one feels like their destiny is left dangling in the breeze.
We have prepared ourselves for this great challenge. The twenty-first century will bring new tasks for us, some of which are unknown to us at this moment. Aside from the technological revolution unfolding before our eyes, I think that there is another revolution afoot in the way we relate to each other, the way we interact within our communities, and our manner of combating individualism, indifference, and hopelessness. The time has come for us to look one another in the eye, without resentments or suspicion. . . .
This will be a government of citizens, from the most neglected to the most entrepreneurial, an infinite range of colors, perceptions, and faces that imbue our society with so much richness. These citizens, you, have in me a president that will also speak the language of the truth. . . .
The government should be at the service of those who endure the [End Page 184] bitterness of feeling defenseless, as well as those who want to move ahead. No citizens will be forgotten in Chile. That is my commitment. We will be actively present in all regions of the country. There will be no town or village overlooked. . . .
I know full well that there are many needs that remain unmet. I know that every family has aspirations and hopes. I want to channel my experience, my sensibilities, and my efforts into the beautiful task of leading this country toward a better destiny. That is what I want for Chile, and I know that, together, we can achieve it.
Today, Chile has a new government, led by a woman, which is the expression of a new era. Now is the time for happiness, for men as well, for young people and children, for seniors, and, of course, women. Now is the time for everyone, in this, my dear homeland, the homeland of all Chilean women and men.
Thank you very much, my friends, because I want Chile to belong to everyone. I want Chile to be the great country that we all want it to be. We are going to work hard for that, to make our homeland a more just, humane, charitable, and egalitarian place. That is the dream of everyone here right now; that is the dream that runs through our entire country, from Arica to Antarctica.
On June 21, President George W. Bush met with leaders of the European Union in Vienna to discuss, among other things, concrete actions that the United States and the EU can take to promote freedom and democracy around the world. The leaders issued a summit declaration entitled “Promoting Peace, Human Rights and Democracy Worldwide,” which is excerpted below:
We recognize that the advance of democracy is a strategic priority of our age. We will intensify our efforts to promote peace, democracy, freedom, the rule of law, and respect for human rights in the world to make it more secure, safe, and prosperous for all mankind. Noting the need for tolerance of diverse cultures, beliefs, and religions and the importance of dialogue while emphasizing respect for universal human rights, we will sustain our efforts to advance democracy.
We will work with the United Nations and international and regional organizations, civil society, NGOs, and dedicated individuals committed to human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. We will work to ensure that the newly created Human Rights Council becomes an effective and efficient body committed to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all. We underline our shared commitment to UN Reform and we welcome the establishment of and give our backing to the Peacebuilding Commission and the UN Democracy Fund.