Executive control over judiciary persists in Tunisia

The ICJ deplores the unilateral decision of the Tunisian Minister of Justice to summarily dismiss over 70 judges.

The decision was taken without due legal process. Rather than establishing any evidentiary basis for the action for the dismissal through open and fair hearings, the decision appears to have been based on broad allegations of corruption and allegiance to the former regime. The dismissed judges can challenge the Minister’s decision before administrative courts.

The ICJ emphasizes that this decision perpetuates and extends the executive’s longstanding and improper influence and effective control over the judiciary in Tunisia.

“Instead of fulfilling the stated aim of eradicating corruption, the actions of the Minister of Justice undermine the independence of the judiciary in Tunisia and reinforce the previous practices of undue political interference in judicial matters”, said Said Benarbia, Middle East & North Africa Senior Legal Adviser at the ICJ. “The decision failed to provide the suspected judges with basic due process guarantees, including providing information about the grounds for the decision, evidence on which the decision was based and a fair procedure under which they could challenge both the decision and the evidence used against them.”

Under international standards, all disciplinary, suspension or removal proceedings against judges must be determined in accordance with well-established procedures that guarantee the rights of judges to a fair and transparent hearing and to an independent review. Only an independent body can ensure the fairness of these proceedings.

“The actions of the Minister of Justice highlights the urgent need for the establishment of an independent transitional body empowered to oversee judicial issues in the transitional period”, said Benarbia. “Until such an authority is established, the executive must refrain from any measures that undermine the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law in Tunisia”, Benarbia concluded.

For more information:

Saïd Benarbia, Middle East & North Africa Senior Legal Adviser, ICJ, t +41 22 979 3817; e-mail: said.benarbia(at)icj.org

Tunisia_PR_12_July-press releases-2012_FR (communiqué de presse en français)

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