Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Tunisian president takes control of the judiciary

Written by Eric Apim on Tuesday, February 15th 2022 à 10:45 | Read 386 times

TUNISIA. After having put an end, on February 5, 2022, to the functions of the members of the Superior Council of Magistracy, Kaïs Saïed promulgated, on Saturday February 12, 2022, the decree confirming the dissolution of this body. The Tunisian president announced the creation of a new "temporary" body to replace it. He continues to control all powers since he now also assumes the right to dismiss "any judge who fails in his professional duties" and prohibits any magistrate from going on strike or "holding any organised collective action that could disrupt or delay the normal functioning of the courts".

Depending on the source, between 200 and 2000 people protested on Sunday 13 February 2022 on the call of the Islamist party Ennahdah, activists of "Citizens against the coup" and a coordination of opposition parties called "Democratic Initiative". In downtown Tunis, they shouted "Freedom, freedom, the police state is over", "destruction of the rule of law", as well as "the people want what you don't want". This last slogan is a reference to the famous slogan adopted during the 2011 revolution that led to the flight and overthrow of Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.

The day before, the Association of Tunisian Magistrates (AMT) had asked Kaïs Saïed to reverse his decision. It denounced this direct interference by the state in the functioning of the judiciary and the abolition of the guarantees and mechanisms of judicial independence stipulated in the Constitution. The AMT calls on all judges to mobilise to affirm their non-submission to the executive power. For its part, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), a Geneva-based NGO, did not hesitate to write in a statement, "this reminds us of the dark days of Tunisia, when judges were dismissed from their functions according to the whims of the executive."

The now former CSM, for its part, refuses to be dissolved. "In the absence of a constitutional and legal mechanism authorising it", it claims to be "the only legitimate constitutional institution representing the judiciary" in the country. Its members have set up a "crisis cell to consult on the management of the next phase and to coordinate the next moves".

"A fair trial before a fair justice"

Kaïs Saïed received his head of government and his Minister of Justice to explain his decision (photo: Presidency of the Tunisian Republic)
Kaïs Saïed received his head of government and his Minister of Justice to explain his decision (photo: Presidency of the Tunisian Republic)
The independence of the judiciary is increasingly in question. Even if Kaïs Saëd defends it. On Saturday 12 February 2022 at the Palais de Carthage, during a meeting with Leila Jaffel, Minister of Justice, and Najla Bouden Ramadan, head of the Tunisian government since the end of September 2021, he reiterated "the need to purge the country of all causes of corruption", indicating that "this requires the establishment of a fair judicial system in which all are equal before the law.

In the communiqué issued after this meeting, the President of the Republic of Tunisia reaffirmed his respect for the independence of the judiciary, recalling that sovereignty belongs to the people and that the separation of functions aims to guarantee a balance between them. According to him, the country must be cleansed of all causes of corruption. He said that: "those who remain silent in the face of injustice become accomplices, which is why the CSM has been dissolved and will be replaced by a provisional council, to put an end to impunity". Among the reasons given for dissolving the CSM was the slowdown in the investigation into the murders of left-wing politicians Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi.
"A fair trial, before a fair justice system, is a sacred duty and one of the legitimate demands of Tunisians," Kaïs Saïed continued.

Since July 2021 with the suspension of the Assembly of People's Representatives (ARP) and the dismissal of the Prime Minister, the Tunisian president has multiplied episodes of concentration of power. He thus intends to limit the influence of Ennahdah in the spheres of the state.

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