Civil society mobilizes to support the independence of judges

The Civil Commission, which is to defend the independence of justice, held a press conference on 22 June 2022 on violations and legal and constitutional violations of Presidential Decree No. 516 of 2022 on the dismissal of 57 judges.

According to the Civil Commission to defend the independence of justice, the decree in question undermines the preamble to the 2014 Constitution, which calls for the separation of powers and their balance, the rule of law, respect for human freedoms and rights, and the independence of justice. The decree is also contrary to the provisions of Article 24 of the Constitution, which obliges the state to protect the privacy of citizens. The Civil Commission believed that the President of the Republic, Kaïs Saïed, violated this article by revealing details and personal information as grounds for dismissal. This opinion had been spread on social networks and in most national and international media. We can cite as an example the violation of a judge’s personal data in what appears to be a case of infidelity. Medical statements and reports had even been passed on by supporters of President Kaïs Saïed.

The Commission also reports infringements of Articles 27, 28 and 108 of the 2014 Constitution. These relate to:

– The presumption of innocence, the indictment after a fair trial gives him all the necessary guarantees for his defense.

– The principle of the personality of judges (the Commission recalled that the President of the Republic had cited a number of charges and accusations for which all the names on the list would be responsible and without separating them).

– The guarantee of the right to go to court and the right of defense. This includes the right to defense even in disciplinary matters.

With regard to the dismissal itself, the Commission recalled that Article 107 of the Constitution prohibited the transfer of a judge without his consent. ” He may not be dismissed, suspended or terminated, or subject to disciplinary action, except in the cases and in accordance with the guarantees provided by law and by reason of a reasoned decision of the Supreme Judicial Council. “, The article continues.

This article clearly states that disciplinary sanctions are part of the powers of the Supreme Judicial Council. This is, of course, in stark contrast to the dismissal of the 57 judges that the head of state has decided and executed by a presidential decree. The dismissal was decided by the executive and based on the work of an associated authority.

The Civil Commission for the Defense of Justice has also highlighted breaches of the provisions governing the entry into force of laws. She recalled that the President of the Republic had decided to dismiss the 57 judges by referring to Legislative Decree No. 2022-35, which supplemented Legislative Decree No. 2022-11. The latter allows the President of the Republic, in the event of an emergency or threat to public security or the higher interests of the country, and on the basis of a reasoned report from the competent authorities, to take a decision by:. presidential decree dismissing a judge.

The Commission explained that the revocation by presidential decree had been decided well in advance of the submission of Legislative Decree No. 2022-35 for approval by a Council of Ministers. Presidential Decree No. 516 on the dismissal of 57 judges had therefore been implemented within the framework of powers not yet vested in the Head of State. The Commission recalled that the President had announced the dismissal of the judges in a speech given at the Council of Ministers on 1 June 2022. However, this same Council had subsequently considered Legislative Decree No 2022-35, which gave the head of these powers. State.

The Commission also recalled that the entry into force of a Decree-Law should take place after its publication in the Official Journal of the Republic of Tunisia (Jort), in accordance with Law No 93-64 of 5 July 1993 concerning the publication of texts in Jort and their performance. The President of the Republic has clearly violated this law since the President’s decree of dismissal had been published in the same Jort as the one containing the decree of law which gave him this prerogative.

Finally, in defending the independence of the judiciary, the Civil Commission considered that, with this presidential decree, the executive interferes in the affairs of the judiciary, appropriates the powers of the latter and violates the legal immunity of judges. According to the presidential decree, the head of state took the decision to initiate public action against the dismissed judges.

The Commission also presented a statistical study of the list of 57 dismissed judges. She clarified that only two of them were part of the administrative judges. Seven of the judges mentioned are women. They have been the target of harassment and incitement campaigns. Two of them were victims of slander and invasion of privacy. The Committee recalled that discrimination based on gender affected all categories and all classes and that the political authorities used this discrimination against women, in particular through the speech of the President of the Republic, which undermined their physical integrity.

The Commission recalled that the head of state had announced the dismissal of judges by presidential decree due to lack of initiative to purge the judiciary. She revealed that the list of 57 dismissed judges included the names of individuals who were already subject to disciplinary decisions and investigations. She explained that three dismissed judges had been suspended from their duties. One of them had been arrested in August 2021 and the other two were attacked by court orders. Another judge had been fired as she had been subjected to a disciplinary sanction for the same reason. She was therefore punished twice for the same reason. Eight other judges are currently the subject of a disciplinary inquiry in the Interim Judicial Council.

On the other hand, the Commission estimated that thirty of the 57 judges on the list had been dismissed for passing judgments contrary to instructions issued by the present power. She also stated that five of the dismissed judges had accepted appointments in the period prior to July 25, 2021. She concluded that the head of state punished those who had been part of the Tunisian political scene before the monopolization of power. Other judges have been fired because of their political views.

The Civil Commission, which is to defend the independence of the judiciary, recalled that 29 of the 57 dismissed judges were representatives of the public prosecutor’s office or investigating judges. This shows, according to the same source, that the dismissal was not intended to purge the judiciary and the fight against corruption, but to punish and intimidate those who refused to submit to the authority of the President of the Republic. . She believed that the head of state had targeted the judicial judges.

Sofiene Ghoubantini

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