Judges in Tunisia go on strike opposing Kais Saied’s decision to sack 57 of their colleagues 

The judges’ strike adds to the growing number of public actions against President Kais Saied’s rule by decrees and his reforms to politics and administration in Tunisia

June 07, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Tunisia judges strike
(Photo: Anadolu Agency)

Judges in Tunisia went on a nationwide strike on Monday, June 6, in opposition to President Kais Saied’s decision to sack 57 of their colleagues last week. The judges are demanding the reversal of the order and an end to the increasing interference in the judiciary by Saied’s government. 

On Wednesday, June 1, Saied issued decree no. 516 sacking 57 judges from courts across the country after accusing them of corruption and sheltering people who indulge in corruption and terrorism. 

The sacked judges include former head of the Supreme Judicial Council, Youseef Bouzakher, and former legal advisor to the Prime Minister, Belhassen Ben Amor, among others. Some of the judges are considered to be close to the Islamist Ennahda party which ruled the country for most of the period since the 2011 revolution. 

In February, Saied dissolved the Supreme Judicial Council and appointed a new body in which he had a greater role in appointing and dismissing judges. Judges had opposed this decision and accused Saied of interfering and curtailing the independence of the judiciary. Judges also observed a day’s strike to oppose the move.    

Following Wednesday’s decision, the four major judges’ unions in the country called for a nationwide court strike against the president’s “continued interference in the judiciary.” 

The National Council of the Association of Tunisian Judges decided to go on strike for a week starting Monday, June 6. In a statement on Monday, Anas Hmaidi, the president of the association, claimed that 99% of the judges in the country took part in the strike on the first day. He also asserted that “the strike will continue as long as president Kais Saied does not reverse his decision to dismiss the 57 judges,” TAP reported. 

Growing calls for public action against Saied’s rule

The judges’ strike is the latest in a series of public actions against President Saied’s rule by decrees. His administration has been facing protests and strikes ever since he sacked the elected government led by Hicham Mechichi on July 25, 2021. Various political groups have termed Saied’s move as a “coup.”

While dismissing the government, Saied accused the Tunisian ruling class of corruption and being inefficient. He has since also suspended the 2014 constitution. He has also appointed a commission to conduct a national dialogue on the proposed national referendum on July 25 to decide on a new constitution for the country. 

Most of the major political parties have called for a boycott of the referendum. Tunisia’s most important trade union, UGTT, also boycotted the national dialogue calling it a unilateral move. The union has called for a national strike on June 16 against Saied’s economic policies. 

Last week, the Tunisian Workers Party, along with four other left parties, launched a campaign against the referendum. Ennahda, the largest party in the country’s now dissolved parliament, and the Patriotic Democratic Socialist Party (PDSP) have already decided not to participate.