UN experts worried about the judges’ situation

Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, and Clément Nyaletossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, expressed on Wednesday, September 14, 2022, their deep concern in the face of excessive restrictions on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly assembly and association of judges peacefully protesting recent presidential decrees in Tunisia.

On June 13, several social media channels considered close to the president published a series of accusations against Anas Hmaidi, president of the Association of Tunisian Magistrates (AMT) and judge of the Monastir Court of Appeal, following his union activity in the association. .

“We have received reports that the same social media sites have been harassing judges for many months,” the experts said.

After broadcasting a series of defamatory remarks, these channels also announced that the General Inspectorate of the Ministry of Justice had opened an investigation against Judge Hmaidi, which could lead to his dismissal by the President.

Judge Hmaidi was summoned four times between July and August by the Ministry of Justice’s General Inspectorate. On August 17, he was notified by subpoena from the interim judiciary that the prosecutor intended to charge him with interference and obstruction of justice. According to the case, the charges relate to his alleged “incitement” to the strike by other judges at the court in Monastir. These allegations are linked to a general strike that Tunisian judges launched on June 6 earlier this year.

The council is to hold a disciplinary hearing on the case to decide whether or not to lift the legal immunity Judge Hmaidi currently enjoys.

Furthermore, after the June strike, which lasted almost a month, all the days on which the judges took part in the strike were deducted from their July salary.

“We fear that these actions constitute retaliation against Judge Hmaidi for exercising his right to peaceful assembly and freedom of association,” the experts said. “In accordance with international human rights law, members of the judiciary, like any citizen, enjoy freedom of expression, association and assembly”.

On June 26, the Hasdrubal news site again published a list of 42 judges who would soon be dismissed. The names of the honorary chairman of the AMT, the current chairman of the association, the chairman of the association of administrative judges are part of it.

García-Sayán previously expressed concern after President Kais Saied dissolved the Supreme Council of the Judiciary in February and dismissed 57 judges in June.

“I am deeply concerned about the negative impact of President Saied’s recent actions on the independence of the judiciary and the right to a fair trial and access to justice for all in Tunisia,” García-Sayán said.

“According to international standards, all disciplinary, suspension or dismissal cases against judges must be decided by an independent judicial body,” García-Sayán said. “Furthermore, judges are free to form and join associations of judges or other organizations to represent their interests, promote their professional training and protect their judicial independence”.

These reported acts of harassment against members of the judiciary are taking place against the backdrop of the state of emergency in the country declared by the President in July 2021.

“I have repeatedly expressed my concerns about the president’s extension of the state of emergency after the suspension of parliament and the dismissal of the prime minister. Such a state of emergency, especially in a context of political instability and concentration of power, could facilitate human rights violations, including in the form of arbitrary detentions and legal harassment,” Voule said.

“We urge the government to end emergency and extraordinary measures and all unnecessary restrictions on the lawful exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. We remain available for constructive dialogue on these critical issues,” the experts said.

The experts have been in contact with the Tunisian government regarding its concerns.

SH (with press release)

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