The Dissolution of Tunisia's High Judicial Council Threatens the Rule of Law
By: Ahmed Fathi
On Tuesday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet asked Tunisia's President Kais Saied to restore the High Judicial Council, warning that its dissolution would significantly damage the country's rule of law, separation of powers, and judiciary independence.
President Saied announced his decision to disband the High Judicial Council on Sunday, a group tasked with ensuring the effective functioning of justice and the independence of the judicial authorities, as well as assigning the majority of judicial positions in the country. Its formation in 2016 was praised as a significant step forward in Tunisia's consolidation of the rule of law, separation of powers, and judiciary independence.
"Much remains to be done to bring justice sector legislation, procedures and practices in line with applicable international standards – but this has been a big step in the wrong direction," Bachelet added. "The dissolution of the High Judicial Council is in clear violation of Tunisia's obligations under international human rights law."
Internal Security Forces have blocked off the High Judicial Council's office buildings, and members and staff have been barred from entering. There have also been internet hate campaigns and threats directed at members of the Council. The High Commissioner emphasized that all required precautions must be taken to ensure the safety of Council members and personnel.
This is the most recent step in a disturbing trend in the country. The President suspended Parliament and assumed all executive responsibilities on July 25, 2021. Since then, there have been increased efforts to crush criticism, including intimidation of civil society actors.