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Tunisia: Judge resigns in support of colleagues, solidarity with striking judges

Judges and lawyers gather to protest President of Tunisia, Kais Saied's decision to dissolve the Supreme Judicial Council in front of Palais de Justice in Tunis, Tunisia on February 10, 2022. [Yassine Gaidi - Anadolu Agency]
Judges and lawyers gather to protest President of Tunisia, Kais Saied's decision to dissolve the Supreme Judicial Council in front of Palais de Justice in Tunis, Tunisia on February 10, 2022. [Yassine Gaidi - Anadolu Agency]

Member of the Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE) in Tunisia, Judge Habib Rebai, yesterday announced his resignation from the ISIE in support of his colleagues, the judges striking due to the dismissal of 57 judges by President Kais Saied.

Rebai's resignation is considered the first of the ISIE before a forthcoming referendum on a new constitution in Tunisia next month.

Rebai wrote in his resignation letter, which he posted on Facebook: "I submitted my resignation as a member of the ISIE in support of my fellow judges and to demand a basic law for judges compatible with international standards."

Anadolu Agency quoted Rebai: "I resigned in support of my colleagues who entered their second week of the strike. Ultimately, I have been a judge for 17 years; I support my colleagues and call for basic laws that comply with international standards that guarantee the rights of judges."

In early June, Saied sacked 57 judges, accusing them of "corruption and protecting terrorists", which sparked widespread anger and caused reactions from inside and outside the country.

In protest against Saied's decision, the judges in Tunisia launched a strike on 4 June, stressing that most of the dismissals were due to "political motives".

READ: Kais Saied and the forbidden love

On 25 July, the president called for a referendum on a "new constitution for the new republic", but excluded major parties from participation, such as the Ennahda Movement and the Free Destourian Party.

The influential Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) refused to participate in talks described as having "ready-made results", while experts and small parties are discussing the bill of a new constitution.

It is noteworthy that Rebai, an administrative judge, was appointed to the ISIE by a presidential decree on 9 May, after Saied replaced the ISIE's members, raising criticism and doubts about the credibility of elections.

The ISIE is a constitutional body that has supervised elections since October 2011. It was composed of nine members elected by Parliament with a two-thirds majority.

The ISIE Council now consists of seven members appointed by presidential order, according to a presidential decree.

Since 25 July, 2021, Tunisia has witnessed a severe political crisis when Saied imposed "exceptional measures", including dismissing the government and appointing a new one, dissolving Parliament and the Supreme Judicial Council and issuing legislation by judicial decrees.

Moreover, Saied decided to hold a popular referendum on a new constitution for the country on 25 July and set an early date for the parliamentary elections on 17 December.

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