Tunisia: seminar highlights the country’s independence of the judiciary crisis

On 20 May 2023, under the auspices of the Civil Committee for the Independence of Justice – a Tunisian civil society initiative created in 2022 to defend judicial independence – the International Commission of Jurists, jointly with Tunisian and international civil society organizations, held an international seminar to highlight the attacks on the independence of the judiciary in the country since President Kais Saied’s institutional power grab in July 2021.

More than 150 participants, including civil society representatives, diplomats, judges, lawyers, journalists, academics, law students and human rights defenders attended the seminar.

The first session, entitled “Chronicles of a politically instrumentalized justice”, saw Tunisian judges and lawyers – including members of the Defence Committee for the Dismissed Judges, the Defence Committee for Political Detainees and of the Civil Committee for the Independence of Justice – present an overview of the ongoing attacks against the institutional and individual independence of the judiciary in Tunisia.

The second session, entitled “Responses to the crisis: what alternatives for a judiciary in the service of the citizens?”, presented international standards on judicial independence and outlined recommendations to end the independence crisis currently besetting the Tunisian justice system. In addition to the Association of Tunisian Judges, several international experts intervened in the course of this session, including Margaret L. Satterthwaite, UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, José Igreja Matos, President of the International Association of Judges (Union Internationale des Magistrats, UIM), and Martin Pradel, member of the International Union of Lawyers.

In the course of his intervention, José Igreja Matos announced that the UIM had decided to grant Anas Hmedi, President of the Association of Tunisian Judges, this year’s prestigious prize for the independence of justice (prix des 1000 toges).

In a declaration adopted at the end of the seminar, civil society actors emphasized that an independent judiciary constitutes the ultimate safeguard against arbitrariness and an essential guarantee of the right to a fair trial, and called for the reinstatement of the dismissed judges and for an end to the interference of the executive in judicial affairs.

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