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UN calls on Tunisia to stop harassing judges

Tunisian judges shout slogans against the dissolution of the Supreme Judicial Council by the Tunisian president, during a protest in Tunis on February 10, 2022 [ANIS MILI/AFP via Getty Images]
Tunisian judges shout slogans against the dissolution of the Supreme Judicial Council by the Tunisian president, during a protest in Tunis on February 10, 2022 [ANIS MILI/AFP via Getty Images]

Two UN experts have called on Tunisian authorities to stop harassing judges who are exercising their right to peaceful assembly.

A joint statement issued by the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Diego Garcia-Sayan, and the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Clément Nyaletossi Voule, said: "We have received reports that the same social media pages have been harassing judges for several months."

The General Inspectorate of the Ministry of Justice summoned Judge Anas Al-Hammadi four times between July and August, the statement said, adding that on 17 August he was informed of "the prosecutor's intent to charge him with interference with and obstruction of the administration of justice."

"The charges relate to his alleged "incitement" to strike," they explained.

Al-Hammadi is the president of the Tunisian Judges Association and one of those who rejected decisions taken by President Kais Saied, including the dissolution of the Supreme Judicial Council in February.

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The statement also expressed concern about these measures, which "constitute reprisals against Judge Hmedi for exercising his rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association."

"In accordance with international human rights law, members of the judiciary are like other citizens entitled to freedom of expression, association and assembly," they added.

"These reported acts of harassment against members of the judiciary take place against the backdrop of an ongoing state of exception in the country proclaimed by the President in July 2021."

"We urge the Government to put an end to emergency and exceptional measures and halt all undue restrictions on the legitimate exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association."

The Tunisian authorities did not issue an immediate comment on the accusations, which they usually deny.

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 presidential decrees.

Tunisian forces consider these measures as a "coup against the constitution", while others see them as "a correction of the course of the 2011 revolution." Saied, who began a five-year presidential term in 2019, says he took the measures "under the provisions of the constitution to protect the state from an imminent danger."

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