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Tunisian President dissolves Supreme Judicial Council

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Tuesday, February 8th 2022 à 12:00 | Read 330 times

The Tunisian President had received in October 2021 Youssef Bouzakher, president of the CSM (photo: Presidency of the Tunisian Republic)
The Tunisian President had received in October 2021 Youssef Bouzakher, president of the CSM (photo: Presidency of the Tunisian Republic)
TUNISIA. After suspending the Assembly of People's Representatives (Assembly), sacking his Prime Minister (since replaced by Najla Bouden), and arrogating to himself very extensive powers, notably political and judicial, Kaïs Saïed decided, on Sunday 6 February 2022, to dissolve the Superior Council of the Judiciary (CSM). "The CSM belongs to the past," he declared in a video broadcast in the middle of the night.

The Tunisian president accuses the independent judicial oversight body of being in the grip of corruption and of having slowed down procedures, including investigations into the 2013 murders of secular left-wing activists (Chokri Belaïd and Mohamed Brahmi). In charge of appointing judges, the CSM was set up in 2016 and comprises forty-five magistrates, two-thirds of whom are elected by parliament and the other third by its members. "Positions and appointments are sold and made according to affiliations," denounces Kaïs Saïed.
The Head of State says he is preparing "a provisional decree" to reorganise this institution.

"A serious precedent for Tunisia

"The judges will not remain silent", reacts Youssef Bouzaker, president of the CSM. He had been received in October 2021 by Kaïs Saïed. The latter had told him that the fight against corruption requires above all the establishment of an impartial and independent judiciary. The President of the Republic complained about the presence of 'corrupt judges infiltrating the courts' and denounced the inaction of the public prosecutor against them. In a statement, the CSM rejected the President's decision "in the absence of a legal and constitutional framework authorising" the President to pronounce it. Its members spoke of an "attack on the Constitution and the guarantees of independence of the judiciary" and specified that they would "continue to sit".

In December 2021, demonstrations by supporters of Kaïs Saïed in Tunis demanded the dissolution of the CSM. And on 19 January 2022, the President of the Republic abolished a series of benefits in kind for members of this body, such as subsidised fuel and bonuses for housing and transport.

The Association of Tunisian Magistrates (AMT) also expressed, in a statement, its "firm rejection of all attempts by the President of the Republic to undermine the judiciary and the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, through mobilisation, threats and incitement to violence against magistrates, the Council and its members". The AMT describes this decision as "a dangerous and unprecedented step backwards in relation to constitutional gains and an attempt to subordinate the judiciary to the executive in a system where the President of the Republic holds all powers in his hands.

The Tunisian Association of Young Magistrates asserts that Kaïs Saiëd has "no legal basis, competence or legitimacy to dissolve the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, which is elected from among the magistrates". For the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), "any decree that would lead to a dissolution is illegal and unconstitutional (...) It would mean the end of the separation of powers in Tunisia."

According to Imed Khemiri, spokesman for the Islamist party Ennahdha, "this decision affects the independence of the judiciary (...) it is a serious precedent that Tunisia has never had to suffer, including during the dictatorship" of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

This new stage in the takeover of the entire control of Tunisia, which began on 25 July 2021, comes as the Head of State continues to make decisions by decree and prepares for a promised constitutional referendum before the legislative elections due in December 2022.

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