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Tunisian president dissolves Supreme Judicial Council

February 6, 2022

Kais Saied's decision raised fears about the independence of the judiciary and was sure to anger his opponents. Judicial Council head Youssef Bouzakher said the move was "illegal."

Tunisian President Kais Saied
Critics worry that Saied is consolidating his powerImage: Muhammad Hamed/REUTERS

Tunisian President Kais Saied dissolved the Supreme Judicial Council on Sunday.

He said the body that deals with judicial independence "has become a thing of the past."

Sunday's announcement caps months of his sharp criticism of the judges, saying the judiciary is just "a function of the state."

Last month, Saied revoked all financial privileges for council members.

"In this council, positions and appointments are sold according to loyalties. Their place is not the place where they sit now, but where the accused stand," he said.

Saied accused of 'power grab'

Tunisian Supreme Judicial Council head Youssef Bouzakher shot back, saying the president's decision to dissolve the body was "illegal" and an attempt to put the judiciary under presidential instruction.

"We continue to carry out our duties and we will defend the judicial council with all means at our disposal,'' Bouzakher said in a statement.

"The president's decision is illegal and a direct assimilation of the presidency," Bouzakher told the Reuters news agency by phone.

The Council itself also rejected Saied's decision, saying "it would continue carrying out its duties... refuse pressures against members of the council and judges."

Tunisia's Young Magistrates Association spoke out against the president's move, warning that it was part of a political purge of the judiciary.

Ghazi Chaouachi, the leader of the opposition Democratic Party, said the president's efforts to dissolve the judiciary council was part of a "power grab."

"By getting his hands on the judiciary, after he captured the executive and the legislative branches, his control is almost total," Ghaouachi said.

Saied promises to change the political system

The disintegration of the Supreme Judicial Council is just the latest move by Saied to tighten his grip on power.

Tunisia analyst Mariam Salehi speaks to DW

Last July, he plunged Tunisia into a constitutional crisis when he suspended the country's parliament, dismissed the sitting prime minister and granted himself executive powers.

He insisted that the "exceptional measures" were intended to save Tunisia from collapse.

Critics have called the measures a coup.

Thousands of Tunisians have since taken to the streets in demonstrations, some to support the president and others to protest against him.

Saied has started an online public consultation on a new constitution that he says will be put to a referendum in July.

He has not brought major political or civil society players into the process.

jsi, lo/dj (Reuters, AP)