Source: US Global Legal Monitor
On June 19, 2022, members of the Tunisian Judges’ Association, which represents four judges’ unions in Tunisia, unanimously decided to extend for a third week the strike they had initiated on June 5, 2022, to protest Presidential Order No. 516 of June 1, 2022, which suspended the service of 57 judges across the nation. Among the suspended judges is the chief judge of the Court of Cassation, Taieb Rached, and the former head of the Supreme Judicial Council, Youssef Bouzaker.
A week before issuing Order No. 516 of 2022, President Kais Saied, during a cabinet meeting, had strongly criticized what he claimed was the corruption, shortcomings, and negligence of some members of the judiciary. Additionally, he accused some judges of covering up for corrupt individuals, obstructing justice, and being influenced by the agenda of political parties.
Decree No. 35 of 2022 Amending Decree No. 11 of 2022
In Decree No. 35 of June 1, 2022, Saied gave himself the power to suspend the service of judges. Article 1 of the decree provides that the president of the republic has the authority to issue a presidential order ending the service of any judge who damages the reputation of the judiciary, its independence, or its proper functioning.
Reaction of the Judges’ Association
In response to Order No. 516 of 2022, the Council of the Tunisian Judges’ Association in an emergency meeting decided to suspend work in all courts across Tunisia for one week beginning June 1, 2022, as well as engage in sit-ins in the headquarters of all the judges’ unions and not replace the judges suspended by Presidential Order No. 516 of 2022. Anas Al-Hammadi, the head of the Judges’ Association, stated that the strike would cover all judicial institutions and could be extended.
Former Minister of Justice Noureddine Bhiri, fired by President Saied, reacted to the issuance of Order No. 516 of 2022 by stating to news agencies that Saied had turned against constitutional law and wanted to establish himself as absolute ruler for life.
Likewise, Ghazi Al-Chaouachi, the general secretary of the Democratic Trend, a Tunisian political movement, condemned the issuance of Order No. 516 of 2022, declaring that judges were suspended by this order simply for refusing to follow the instructions of the executive branch and minister of justice and for maintaining the independence of the judiciary.
Furthermore, former Tunisian Minister of Education Mohammed Al-Hammadi denounced suspending judges without a trial, arguing that the actual purpose of Presidential Order No. 516 of 2022 was to intimidate judges and force them to follow the orders of the executive branch.