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A Threat to Democracy in Tunisia


Supporters of Tunisian President Kais Saied carry banners during a protest against the Supreme Judicial Council, in Tunis, Tunisia, February 6, 2022.

The United States expressed deep concern over Tunisian President’s Kais Saied’s call to dissolve Tunisia’s Supreme Judicial Council, an independent body that oversees the appointment of judges.

A Threat to Democracy in Tunisia
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The United States expressed deep concern over Tunisian President’s Kais Saied’s call to dissolve Tunisia’s Supreme Judicial Council, an independent body that oversees the appointment of judges.

State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said, “An independent judiciary is a core element of an effective and transparent democracy. It is essential that the Government of Tunisia uphold its commitments to respect the independence of the judiciary as stipulated in the constitution.”

In a statement, the envoys of the G7 nations and the European Union also said they were "deeply concerned about the announcement of the intention to unilaterally dissolve the Supreme Judicial Council whose mission is to ensure the sound functioning of the justice system and respect for its independence.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called the attempt to dissolve the Council “a big step in the wrong direction,” adding that it “is in clear violation of Tunisia’s obligations under international human rights law."

President Saied claimed the Supreme Judicial Council is corrupt. His move against it, however, comes after a series of actions since July 2021 that consolidated his own power, including abruptly suspending parliament, dismissing the prime minister, and ruling by decree. In January 2022 President Saied launched a national consultation process which his government said would be used to help draft a new constitution and lead to elections in December 2022.

Meanwhile Tunisia is facing an economic crisis including a shrinking GDP, food inflation, and massive public debt. The Tunisian Government has begun talks with the International Monetary Fund on a bailout package.

Spokesperson Price urged Tunisia “to prioritize implementing the economic reforms required to stabilize the financial situation and address Tunisia’s growing economic challenges.”

After the hope and tumult of the Arab Spring in the early 2010’s, it was Tunisia, the place where the multi-national protests against corruption and authoritarianism began, that emerged as a durable democracy. Threats against that democracy are disservice to the sacrifice and achievement of the Tunisian people.

“The United States,” Spokesperson Price said, “reiterates our calls for an accelerated political reform process in Tunisia that responds to the aspirations of the Tunisian people through the inclusion of diverse voices representing political parties, civil society and unions, particularly in the ongoing national consultations, and that ensures the continued respect for Tunisia’s human rights.”

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