Offices of the Superior Council of the Judiciary of Tunisia. (Photo: list23.com)
The G7 group of countries has denounced the decision of the Tunisian government under President Kais Saied to dissolve the Superior Council of the Judiciary (CSM), an independent constitutional body tasked with maintaining and advancing judicial independence in the country.. The decision was announced on Sunday by President Saied. The G7 countries include some of the country’s largest international donors.
On Monday, Tunisian security forces prevented CSM employees from entering its headquarters with the building locked with chains. The CSM has important responsibilities for appointing judges, reviewing appointments and promotions, conducting disciplinary proceedings and holding judges accountable. It acts as a liaison body between the judiciary and the other branches of government.
The CSM has already rejected the government’s decision as illegal and unconstitutional. Several judges and other judicial bodies, as well as opposition political parties, denounced this decision. The CSM and other judicial organizations have announced that they will take appropriate measures to oppose this decision, including the possibility of an indefinite general strike by judges across the country and the holding of an extraordinary plenary session. . They vowed not to remain silent in the face of this dangerous assault on an important state institution. According to news reports, the judges’ association will suspend all work in the courts on Wednesday and Thursday. The judges will also hold a protest on Thursday.
Judicial organizations rejecting this decision are planning protest actions. These include the Tunisian Association of Young Judges, the Association of Tunisian Judges, and the Association of Young Magistrates, among others. CSM leader Youssef Bouzakher was quoted by the media as saying there was “no constitutional or legal basis” for the president to dissolve the council. Anas Al-Hamaydi, president of the Association of Tunisian Judges, speaking to a radio station, noted that judges across Tunisia feel threatened by the president’s “confrontational” attitude. He added that the judges have begun consultations to take the necessary steps to protect the judiciary and the sanctity of the courts.
Following Sunday’s announcement, G7 countries including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, as well as the European Union (EU) , issued a joint statement saying they are “deeply concerned” and “a transparent and independent organization”. and an effective judicial system and the separation of powers are essential for a functioning democracy that serves its people. Tunisia’s Ennahda party, the largest party in the currently suspended parliament, said on behalf of the legislature that it rejected the move and expressed solidarity with the judges. Three other political parties – Attayar, Joumhouri and Ettakatol – issued a joint statement rejecting this decision.
Despite such strong opposition, President Saied is likely to go ahead with the controversial decision. He has yet to officially issue the executive order that will implement the council’s dissolution. During a meeting with the Tunisian prime minister on Monday, he said the decree is “ready” and “it is necessary to take this step” to fight corruption and bias in the judiciary. The current Prime Minister, Najla Bouden Romdhane, was chosen by the president himself after overthrowing the government and suspending parliament in July last year.
Several commentators have claimed that the CSM is being targeted because it is the only independent body remaining in the government structure in Tunisia that is not controlled by the president. The president, in a series of highly controversial actions, assumed all executive and legislative powers of the country, which was widely condemned as unconstitutional and amounting to a “presidential coup”. He further tightened his grip on power by suspending parts of the constitution and said he could rule by issuing decrees. He also announced the formulation of a new constitution which will be preceded by a constitutional referendum on the issue. He announced legislative elections in accordance with the new constitution. These measures have been met with fierce opposition from all sections of Tunisian society, including political parties, trade unions, civil society groups and ordinary citizens.