On February 5 late in the evening and from the Ministry of the Interior, President Kaïs Saïed announced the dissolution of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary (CSM).
On February 6, a few hundred police officers surrounded the Garden City and all the streets leading to the CSM headquarters, preventing its members from accessing it.
On February 13, the president issues a decree announcing the composition of a provisional CSM with new members.
Before all this, the president multiplied the statements hostile to the judges, who in his eyes are slow to react in relation to several cases.
In any country in the world, judges would have railed against what clearly and unequivocally looks like executive interference in the judiciary. There would have been strikes and a true struggle from which only one outcome would be possible: may justice prevail!
In Tunisia, there were some reactions from the media (Business News first) to condemn this interference, some reactions from politicians and some diplomatic reactions, especially the EU, which expressed its concerns about Saïed’s decision, and that was it.
The first interested parties, that is the judges, were curiously silent, with the exception of the president of the Association of Young Judges, Mourad Messoudi, who is one of the dismissed. The new members of the CSM took their position without flinching as if it were their right.
Youssef Bouzakher, former president of CSM, refused to make waves, almost avoided the media and spared himself any controversy. ” We do not like war, we are not like lawyers “, a judge confessed to Business News. ” They are afraid, they do not act like judges with full power, they act like civil servants », a lawyer tells us. Another gives us a different explanation: They are divided, several of them approve of what the president is doing because they believe that there are many corrupt people in the company and that cleaning is necessary “.
Whatever the reason for this approving silence in the face of the hostility and the President’s attacks, there was no rebellion on the part of the judges. The media may condemn the interference and speak of disgrace, but the first interested parties preferred to avoid war with Kaïs Saïed. In short, they had a choice between war and dishonor, they chose dishonor, they got war anyway (modified apocryphal quote from Churchill).
Wednesday 1eh June evening, the president announces the dismissal of 57 judges during a council of ministers. A detailed list of names was published the same day shortly before midnight in a decree published in the Official Journal of the European Union. Another decree published in the same official journal specifies that the judges have no possibility of appeal as long as there is no “ pronouncement of an irrevocable criminal sentence regarding the matters attributed to them “.
During the nocturnal council of ministers, the head of state explains the reasons for the dismissal of these judges and confirms that he has done everything to avoid any injustice. Stating the reasons, he says that there are judges caught in sexual acts (or adultery, the Arabic in which he speaks allows both translations), sexual harassment, corruption, belonging to a political party, hiding evidence, reports or court records. Others are “accused” of illegal enrichment or mere enrichment or of participating as an adviser in private companies for a bonus of five hundred dinars (€150) for each meeting. Some judges are accused of preventing police from searching suspects’ homes or obstructing their investigations.
In the wake of these decisions, described as historic by the president, there was no shortage of reactions. There are those who objected to this blatant interference in the judiciary and the blatant violation of the principle of separation of powers.
And there are those who applauded the president for doing so. In essence, it says that the president was right to try to clean up a company that has been slow to clean itself up, that there are many corrupt judges, and that it was necessary to put an end to that.
Several lawyers contacted by Business News this morning claim that several of the dismissed judges deserve what happens to them. They would be truly corrupt. But there are still others who have been condemned (for indeed it is a condemnation) simply because they would have refused to follow orders and to keep rank.
Crooked magistrates have always existed and will always exist. In the list of 57 there are a bunch of them and they are known to the public opinion. The most famous are undeniably Taïeb Rached and Béchir Akremi. The first, former president of the Court of Cassation, admitted to dealing in real estate, with a dubious enrichment in passing. The other, a former prosecutor close to the Islamists, hid some 6,268 terrorist files.
Nevertheless, the truth is more complex, and we cannot sanction an entire company under the pretext that there are crooked judges. The President of the Republic has not fallen into this trap and has clearly stated that he does not generalize and that the majority of judges are honest. Why then publish decrees affecting the entire corporation instead of submitting cases of crooked judges to the CSM whose members he has just named?
The President of the Republic does not like his self-contradiction and gives erroneous reasons in the justification he presents to the Council of Ministers. Whether a judge prevents the search of a home or obstructs the conduct of an investigation is entirely within his discretion. It is up to him, and up to him alone, to lead the investigations and it is up to him to ensure that the procedures which are often violated by the police are respected.
The president says that the information he relied on to dismiss the judges does not support any doubt and that there is no room for injustice.
It is simply not true, because you cannot judge a person on the basis of information from the police or the army. There was no judicial inquiry for and against before these judges were convicted. The right to defense and the presumption of innocence have been violated. These are immutable principles of justice which the President has overridden by simple decrees.
Who shall uphold these principles of justice? Media, NGOs, political parties or rather judges?
Alas, everyone protested strongly when the president dissolved the CSM, except the judges they first touched.
They said nothing when he repeatedly attacked them in his speeches, they said nothing when he dissolved the CSM, and they said nothing when he appointed new members in place of elected members.
Supported by this silence, yesterday Kaïs Saïed took a new step in the humiliation of judges by assuming privileges that no head of state in the world has, not even despots.
The president continues to humiliate the judges and beat them.
He can say that he will never interfere in their work, this is false, they are more than ever under his control. By the decree he published yesterday, no judge can oppose him under penalty of immediate dismissal without any opportunity to appeal.
The president broke one of the last bastions of the republic and the rule of law to the applause of a gullible people who prefer easy sentiment to complex truth and primal revenge to justice.
Raouf Ben Hedi