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Sunday, January 29, 2023

    Tunisia: Rights Group Condemns Move against HJC

    Civil society and human rights organisations have called on Tunisia’s President, Kais Saied, to scrap the plan to dissolve the High Judicial Council (HJC) and cease all acts that may threaten judicial independence.

    The president announced plans to dissolve the HJC on 05 February, 2022, accusing it of corruption and political bias.

    The HJC was set up as an independent judicial oversight body to ensure independence of the judiciary and charged with appointing most judicial positions in the North African country.

    Its establishment in 2016 was hailed as a major advancement in the consolidation of the rule of law, separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary in Tunisia.

    The United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said the dissolution of the HJC would seriously undermine the rule of law, the separation of powers and independence of the judiciary in the country.

    ‘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 said in a statement.

    ‘The dissolution of the High Judicial Council is in clear violation of Tunisia’s obligations under international human rights law’.

    Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Tunisia has ratified, guarantees the independence of the judiciary from executive and other external influence.

    Amnesty International (AI), on its part, said that the shutting down of the HJC posed a serious threat to judicial independence and fair trial rights in the Maghreb country.

    The rights organisation said Tunisian authorities have increasingly circumvented judicial procedures to impose arbitrary travel bans, house arrests and detentions on Tunisians, including judges and political figures, in violation of the rights to liberty and freedom of movement.

    ‘President Kais Saied’s attack on the High Judicial Council represents a grave threat to fair trial rights in Tunisia’, AI’s Regional Director for North Africa, Heba Morayef, said in a statement.

    ‘If the President enacts a decree to dissolve or suspend the institution, it will sound the death knell for judicial independence in the country.

    ‘Since last July, President Saied has dismantled almost all institutional checks on his power. The HJC has stood as Tunisia’s last bastion of judicial impartiality’.

    Also, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) urged Saied to abandon the proposed dissolution of the HJC.

    ‘In deciding to dissolve the High Judicial Council, President Saied demonstrates his resolve to remove the last line of defence to his one-man-rule in Tunisia: the judiciary’, ICJ Director for North Africa, Said Benarbia, said in a statement.

    Under international law and standards, an independent judicial council is key to ensuring the institutional independence of the judiciary and the survival of democracy.

    Photo source: Reuters/Zoubeir Souissi

    Chinonso Kenneth
    Chinonso Kennethhttps://www.impacthouse.ltd
    Chinonso Kenneth Onwurah is a solution-focused journalist, policy analyst and research writer in the thematic areas of good governance, environmental sustainability and gender equality. He holds a master's degree in Political Economy and Development Studies.

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