Tunisia: President issues decree to create new judicial watchdog | News

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In a new decree, President Saied granted himself additional powers to rule over a reformed Supreme Judiciary Council.

Tunisia’s president has issued a decree establishing a provisional Supreme Judiciary Council, effectively replacing the body he abolished and granting himself additional powers to control the country’s top judicial organisation.

The decree, published on the official gazette on Sunday, says the president can relieve judges who violate their official duties and object to the promotion or nomination of judges.

It also forbids judges from going on strike, a form of dissent that had been adopted following President Kais Saied’s move to dissolve the top judicial watchdog on February 6.

Tunisia, often lauded as the only democracy to emerge from the 2011 Arab Spring revolts, has seen some of its gains reversed since Saied was elected president with almost 73 percent of the vote in a runoff election in October 2019.

Critics fear the president, a former law professor, is growing increasingly authoritarian.

Saied, who has put fighting corruption at the heart of his programme, said that removing the judicial council was necessary as Tunisians wanted the country “cleansed”.

On Thursday he had announced he would reform the Supreme Judicial Council instead of abolishing it.

Tunis-based journalist Elizia Volkmann told Al Jazeera that Saied’s decision could be a reaction to the international condemnation sparked by his earlier move.

The decree “seems to be consolidating the three main powers of state”, Volkmann said.

Provisions laid out in September had already granted the president executive and legislative powers.

The judiciary had firmly opposed Saied’s political manoeuvrings since July 25, when he sacked PM Hicham Mechichi and suspended parliament.

“This week everything has come to a head,” Volkmann said.

Tunisia’s Judges Association staged a two-day strike starting on Wednesday, calling for the reinstatement of the Supreme Judicial Council and denouncing the president’s move as a power grab.

The council filed a court case against the Ministry of Interior to demand the keys to its headquarters, which was locked by police a day after Saied announced the body was “a thing of the past.” A hearing was held on Friday but no verdict has yet been issued.

A protests is scheduled to take place on Sunday.

Volkmann said anger at the new decree might spark riots similar to the ones that broke out on January 14, the anniversary of the ousting of Tunisia’s President Ben Ali.



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