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Tunisia: Authorities must end Attacks on Judges and Prosecutors

Tunisia: Authorities must end Attacks on Judges and Prosecutors

In a briefing paper published today, the ICJ called on the Tunisian authorities to immediately end their attacks on independent judges and prosecutors, drop any criminal charges against them, and reinstate all those arbitrarily dismissed.

التقرير بالغة العربية

On 1 June 2022, President Kais Saied granted himself, via decree, absolute power to fire judges and prosecutors summarily, and [on the same day] promptly dismissed 57 of them. The President had earlier pledged to “cleanse” the judiciary on spurious accusations of widespread political bias and corruption.

The ICJ analysis of the cases of 18 dismissed judges and prosecutors, as well of another judge subjected to disciplinary and criminal proceedings, establishes a pattern of arbitrary disciplinary and criminal processes effectively aimed at purging the judiciary of those who asserted their independence and challenged the dismantling of the institutional independence of the judiciary.

“The ongoing arbitrary criminal prosecutions against independent judges and prosecutors for the legitimate exercise of their professional functions or of their right to freedom of expression is an affront to the rule of law and judicial independence in Tunisia,” said Said Benarbia, ICJ MENA director. “The authorities must immediately end such prosecutions and reinstate all judges and prosecutors who have been dismissed without legitimate grounds or due process”  

In the aftermath of his speech on 25 July 2021 announcing exceptional measures, the President promised to “cleanse” and “purify” the judiciary, which he accused of complicity with political parties in power before July 2021, as well as of inefficiency, corruption and political bias. He also targeted the High Judicial Council and its members, limiting certain of their financial benefits. Since then, the President has followed up on his rhetoric with successive decisions and measures aimed directly at dismantling the judiciary’s institutional independence.

The ICJ’s analysis examines the process of arbitrarily dismissing and prosecuting judges and prosecutors in Tunisia since the adoption of these measures in light of the country’s obligations under international human rights law.

The ICJ’s analysis is primarily based on: (i) a review of 20 criminal cases opened by the authorities against 18 dismissed magistrates and of the case of Anas Hmedi, the President of the Association of Tunisian Magistrates (AMT), which is directly linked to his support of the dismissed judges and proseuctors; (ii) 15 interviews with judges, prosecutors and their lawyers; (iii) an analysis of the First President of the Administrative Court’s decisions to suspend the dismissal of 49 magistrates and to dismiss the request for suspension of seven others; and (iv) an analysis of decisions and reports by the General Inspection Service, the High Judicial Council and the Temporary High Judicial Council.

The ICJ considers that the conduct of the dismissed judges and prosecutors, on the basis of which they have apparently been subject to criminal proceedings, did not amount to recognizably criminal offences under general principles of criminal law and international human rights law and standards.

On the contrary, the ICJ’s analysis of these cases establishes that these judges and prosecutors were arbitrarily dismissed and then subject to criminal proceedings in relation to serious offences solely for three types of conduct, none of which is a legitimate basis for criminal prosecution:

  • for the exercise of their prosecutorial and judicial functions in compliance with the law and ethical standards, and
  • for the exercise of human rights protected by international human rights law, including the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association
  • for private conduct, unrelated to their performance of their duties, which, in any event, was not criminal in nature.

Contact

Said Benarbia, Director, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +41-22-979-3800; e: said.benarbia(a)icj.org

 Download:

Download ICJ briefing on Attacks on Judges and Prosecutors in Tunisia in English: Here

Download ICJ briefing on Attacks on Judges and Prosecutors in Tunisia in Arabic: Here Continue Reading Tunisia: Authorities must end Attacks on Judges and Prosecutors

Lithuania: ICJ and partners intervene in a European Court of Human Rights case on immigration detention

Lithuania: ICJ and partners intervene in a European Court of Human Rights case on immigration detention

Today, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the AIRE Centre (Advice on Individual Rights in Europe), the Dutch Council for Refugees (DCR), and the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), submitted a third-party intervention to the European Court of Human Rights in the case S.M.H. v Lithuania, concerning the deprivation of liberty of an asylum seeker.

S.M.H., an Iraqi citizen, who entered Lithuania irregularly and sought asylum, was subsequently arrested and detained in various centres. The applicant claimed that his detention was not justified, lacking both  individualised assessment and effective legal assistance.

In its intervention, the ICJ and its partners focus on Article 5.1 and Article 5.4 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). In particular, the interveners analyse the requirements for lawful deprivation of liberty, the right to have the lawfulness of detention promptly examined by a Court, and the right to have effective legal assistance. The intervention considers both the EU and international law and standards related to deprivation of liberty and the right to an effective remedy against unlawful detention and material conditions of detention.

The key points of the intervention are as follows:

  • The interveners submit that under Article 5.1 detention must not be arbitrary, and be prescribed by law both substantively and procedurally. The intervention highlights that detention must be a measure of last resort, it should follow an individualised and exhaustive examination, and it may be imposed only when less strict measures cannot be effectively applied.
  • Regarding Article 5.4, the interveners clarify that an effective judicial review of detention prescribed by law and accessible in practice constitutes a safeguard against arbitrary detention. Legal aid and competent legal representation are essential elements in ensuring the accessibility and effectiveness of judicial review of the lawfulness of detention.
  • Finally, the interveners stress that lack of access to clear information, lack of access to a lawyer, and lack of access to an effective remedy contravene the guarantees under Articles 3 and 13 ECHR, rendering them ineffective, theoretical, and illusory.

 

Read the full intervention here.

  Continue Reading Lithuania: ICJ and partners intervene in a European Court of Human Rights case on immigration detention

Tunisia: End Judicial Harassment of the President of the Tunisian Judges’ Association

Tunisia: End Judicial Harassment of the President of the Tunisian Judges’ Association

البيان باللغة العربية على هذا الرابط

On August 21, Judge Anas Hmedi, President of the Tunisian Judges’ Association (Association des Magistrats Tunisiens, AMT), is set to appear before an investigating judge at the Kef Court of First Instance, facing charges of “inciting to cease work” arising from a judicial strike in 2022, seven human rights groups said today.

The undersigned human rights organizations call on the Tunisian authorities to drop the charges against Anas Hmedi and end all forms of harassment against judges exercising their rights to peaceful freedom of expression, assembly, and association.

Continue Reading Tunisia: End Judicial Harassment of the President of the Tunisian Judges’ Association

Belarus: lawyer Yuliya Yurgilevich and journalist Pavel Mazheika unjustly sentenced to six years in prison

Belarus: lawyer Yuliya Yurgilevich and journalist Pavel Mazheika unjustly sentenced to six years in prison

Today, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has condemned the unjust conviction and sentencing of prominent Belarus lawyer, Yuliya Yurgilevich, and journalist, Pavel Mazheika, to six years’ imprisonment on trumped up charges.

Yurgilevich, who has practised law for almost 18 years and has a record of defending human rights activists, was accused of publicizing her disbarment and providing Mazheika with information on political prisoners in Belarus, notably on dissident artist Ales Pushkin, who was recognized as a political prisoner by a number of leading human rights groups, and who died in a Belarusian prison of an unknown cause earlier this month.

Continue Reading Belarus: lawyer Yuliya Yurgilevich and journalist Pavel Mazheika unjustly sentenced to six years in prison

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