Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tunisians protest as Saied extends hold over judiciary

Tunisians protest as Saied extends hold over judiciary

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A man holds up a sign reading in Arabic ‘activists against the coup d’etat’ during a protest called for by Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party against President Kais Saied’s recent decrees, outside the Tunis Opera House in the centre of the capital Tunis on Sunday. AFP

Tunisians protest as Saied extends hold over judiciary

Tunisian President Kais Saied gave himself sweeping powers over the judiciary on February 13, prompting thousands to protest in central Tunis against what they said was another blow to their democracy.

A decree published in the early hours officially replaced a judicial watchdog he had vowed to dissolve and gave Saied powers to block judicial appointments and sack judges, who are now banned from going on strike.

Hours later, more than 2,000 protesters gathered in the capital, many waving large national flags and chanting slogans against the president.

“The people want what you don’t want,” went one chant, echoing a slogan of the country’s revolt against the regime of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali over a decade ago: “The people want the regime to fall.”

Some protesters carried signs reading “save our democracy!” and “don’t touch the judiciary!”

Saied’s decree came a week after he said he would dissolve the High Judicial Council (CSM), prompting a nationwide strike by judges saying the move would infringe on their independence.

Sunday’s ruling establishes a new “Temporary Supreme Judicial Council” with 21 members, who must swear “by God almighty to preserve the independence of the judiciary”.

Nine are directly appointed by the president.

The rest, all judges who serve on the council by virtue of their current positions, are indirectly under his control, as he now has powers to dismiss “any judge failing to do his professional duties”.

Moreover, the decree forbids “judges of all ranks to go on strike or hold any organised collective action that could disturb or delay the normal working of the courts”.

Saied last July sacked the government, suspended parliament and seized a range of powers before moving to rule by decree, sparking fears for what had been seen as the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings.

His moves had initially been welcomed by many Tunisians tired of political parties seen as corrupt and self-serving, but his critics accuse him of moving the country back towards autocracy.

Ezzeddine Hazgui of the Citizens Against the Coup movement pointed to the size of the demonstration and said resistance to the president was growing.

“On July 25, [Saied] had lots of people behind him, now he’s on his own,” he said.

Saied, who has put battling corruption at the centre of his agenda, has insisted he has no intention of interfering with the judiciary, but rights groups and world powers have criticised his move.

Tunisia’s Union of Administrative Judges said Sunday’s decree “represents a flagrant violation of the separation of powers”.

“Exceptional measures do not justify interfering in the constitutional framework of the judiciary,” it said, urging judges to boycott the new council.

Said Benarbia, the regional director of the International Commission of Jurists, said that the decree “enshrines the subordination of the judiciary to the executive”.

“If implemented, it would effectively end judicial independence and the separation of powers in Tunisia, and, with it, the democratic experiment in the country,” he said.


  • Siem Reap drain canal now ‘mangrove’ promenade

    A more than half a kilometre long stretch of canal in Siem Reap has been covered and turned into a promenade to attract visitors, said Ly Rasmey, secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, on September 16. The new pedestrianised

  • Final verdicts for Khmer Rouge leaders ‘vital’ for next generation

    Nearly a decade after the commencement of Case 002/02 against Khieu Samphan back in 2014, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) is now set to deliver its final verdict for the former Khmer Rouge head of state. The Supreme Court Chamber of the ECCC,

  • Angkor wildlife, aquarium park still to open October

    The Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium complex about 30km southeast of Siem Reap town with initial total investment of more than $70 million is reportedly still on track for an end-October opening. The park is located on a 100ha plot along National Road 6 in Kbon village, Khchas

  • Defence minister reaffirms Kingdom’s staunch support for One-China policy

    Minister of National Defence General Tea Banh has reaffirmed Cambodia’s unwavering support for the One-China policy. Tea Banh was speaking at the September 20 ceremonial handover of 117 vehicles and other military equipment donated by China’s defence ministry, held at Phnom Chumreay International Military Training

  • Deaths due to ‘lifestyle’ diseases rise in Kingdom

    The Ministry of Health has called on people to pay closer attention to their health to protect themselves from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which it said have caused high rates of deaths in the country. Ministry secretary of state York Sambath made the call at a

  • Textile industry minimum wage now $200

    The official minimum wage for workers in textile-related sectors including garment, footwear, and travel goods for 2023 was pegged at $198, with Prime Minister Hun Sen stepping in to add $2 to the total, making it $200 per month. The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training made the announcement