Tunisian president dismisses 57 judges for alleged corruption and protection of terrorism

Tunisian president takes decisive step to "purge the judiciary", as general strike is called for June 16
Kais Saied

AFP/KARIM JAAFAR  -   Tunisia's President Kais Saied

Tunisian President Kais Saied has dismissed 57 judges on serious charges of involvement in financial corruption, falsification of official documents, covering up for people involved in terrorism and protecting political and party officials from being held accountable, according to Tunisia's Official Tunisian Gazette.  

The Tunisian president's objective is the need to "purify" the judiciary. "Sacred duty motivates us to take this historic decision to preserve social peace and the state," Saied said during the last session of the Council of Ministers.  

The president's decision comes after several criticisms of the judiciary, especially because there are many confidential files that have been unprocessed for many years. This is why the Tunisian president, like many other judges, has seen the need to tackle corruption and hold judges linked to political parties accountable.  

Saied has also indicated that a decree will soon be published in which he will reveal the names of these judges implicated in corruption, after reviewing all the files. The president attributed this decision to his "responsibility to the people" and reiterated "that he has no intention of interfering in the work of the judiciary". 

However, these statements clash with his ongoing efforts to reform the judiciary. On 12 February, Saied signed a decree creating the Interim Supreme Judicial Council to replace the Supreme Judicial Council, which he accused of lacking independence. Through this decree published in the Official Gazette, Saied was given the power to dismiss any judge in case he compromises state security: "The president may, in case of guaranteeing or compromising public security or the supreme interest of the homeland, and based on a reasoned report from the competent authorities, issue a presidential decree to dismiss any judge who is linked to anything that may affect the reputation of the judiciary, its independence or its good conduct".

Protestas Túnez
PHOTO/REUTERS  -   Demonstration in Tunis

This is in addition to another draft decree related to the revision of the Elections and Referendum Law in preparation for 25 July. It envisages the drafting of a new constitution for a "new republic", which aims at the establishment of a presidential system without political parties. The Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) refused to participate in the drafting of the new Magna Carta, considering that "the results are known beforehand" and because it refuses to "only play the role of extras".  

Meanwhile, political opposition is growing, calling for a return to the "democratic path". The popular support that Saied received on 25 July 2021 is generating more and more mistrust due to the authoritarian drift that the mandate is taking, and they are calling for "a return to the transition of 2011". 

So much so that the trade union UGTT has called a general strike for 16 June in protest at the government's refusal to reform public enterprises, as the union itself has published in a statement. The general strike will cover 159 public institutions in the country. 

Tunisia is facing its worst political crisis since 25 July, when Kais Saied dismissed the government, suspended parliament and assumed the executive authority with which he is ruling by decree, something the opposition has called a "coup d'état". Added to this is the financial crisis, which has forced the government to request a loan of $4 billion from the International Monetary Fund.