Tunisian judges, lawyers protest after President Kais Saied dissolves watchdog

Tunisian judges, lawyers protest after President Kais Saied dissolves watchdog
2 min read
10 February, 2022
Over 200 judges and lawyers protested against President Kais Saied's move to dissolve the Supreme Judicial Council.
Judges gathered to protest in black robes [Getty]

More than 200 judges and lawyers in black robes protested Thursday outside the main court in the Tunisian capital after President Kais Saied vowed to scrap a key judicial watchdog.

Judges have been on strike since Wednesday in the North African country, the birthplace of the 2011 Arab uprisings, in protest at Saied's weekend move to dissolve the Supreme Judicial Council (CSM) after a July power grab.

At the rally in central Tunis on Thursday, police looked on as protesters chanted "restore the CSM" and "the people want an independent judiciary".

Some held signs calling Saied's move "a violation of rights and freedoms" and saying "there is no democracy without an independent judiciary".

Saied had long accused the CSM of blocking politically sensitive investigations and being influenced by his nemesis, the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party.

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Announcing he would dissolve it, he said he had no intention of interfering with the judiciary, but rights groups and world powers have called it a step backwards in a country seen as the sole -- if dysfunctional -- democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings.

Saied, who late last year gave himself powers to issue legislation, said Thursday that he planned to issue orders in the coming days formally disbanding the CSM.

"Let me be clear: the council will be dissolved and replaced by another one, by decree," he said.

"Justice is a job, not a branch of government. All judges are answerable to the law."

Some lawyers who took part in the rally have publicly criticised Saied's policies in the past.

On Wednesday, a group of 45 civil society groups had issued a statement rejecting "any interference by the executive authority in the judiciary's work".

They said the CSM, despite its "shortcomings", was the only institution guaranteeing the judiciary's independence.

Saied's move on July 25 to sack the government and suspend parliament was welcomed by many Tunisians tired of rule by political parties seen as corrupt and self-serving.

But his critics have accused him of pushing Tunisia down a slippery slope back to autocracy.