Tag Archives: Tunisia

The Path to Tunisia’s 2022 Constitutional Referendum


Tunisia is preparing for a constitutional referendum set to take place on July 25, 2022, exactly one year after the country’s President Kais Saied set the country on an alarming trajectory. This explainer unpacks how Saied has spent the last year dismantling the independence of the judicial and legislative branches and expanding his executive authority, and details how he threatens to make permanent these steps in a new constitution.

One year of Saied’s ‘state of exception’

On July 25, 2021, Saied dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, suspended the activities of the Assembly of the Representatives, and lifted parliamentary immunity; on July 29, he issued Presidential Decree No. 2021-80 to formalize these steps. Thereafter, he stated that he would head the executive branch alongside a new prime minister, who was eventually announced to be Najla Bouden

On September 22, 2021, Saied declared that he would rule by decree virtue of Presidential Decree No. 2021-117 which suspended major constitutional articles and reaffirmed the previously-announced measures subverting parliamentary privileges. This step gave the president the right to rule by decree over various areas including the judiciary, the military, civil society associations, and political parties while exempting him from judicial review. Since then, Saied’s legislative and executive powers have continued to grow exponentially in the face of undermined oversight mechanisms.

These developments occurred as Saied planted the seeds for a “new political roadmap” that was rooted in a national narrative of fighting corruption and conspiracy, and holding “traitors” to account. As he did so, he declared that the 2014 constitution would no longer be valid and that the new roadmap would be based on “legal solutions” grounded in “the will and sovereignty of the Tunisian people.”

One of the steps to translate Saied’s vision into reality became the National Consultation Process, which took place between January 1 and March 20, 2022 and served as a stepping stone for the political and electoral reforms that were to come. The consultation proposed a series of questions, with specific pre-drafted answers regarding electoral, political, economic, educational, and social issues for eligible Tunisians to select from. Despite the fact that the consultation engaged only 508,000 participants, Saied declared the process a success and proceeded with his plan to implement its alleged input into next steps. Observers and experts critiqued the consultation for its low participation and methodology which resulted in unequal representation, particularly with regards to gender and region. Head of the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) Noureddine Taboubi condemned the failure to inclusively involve national actors from the beginning of the consultation. In its latest urgent opinion, the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe that is composed of constitutional law experts, found fault in the president’s roadmap more generally and cast doubt over the possibility of arriving at a “constitutional synthesis” with a consultation that “ did not give rise to widespread popular support, as participation remained very little.” 

In a step that further ate away at checks and balances more generally, on February 12, 2022, Saied dissolved the Higher Judicial Council (HJC) via Decree No. 2022-11. The HJC had been promulgated in the 2014 constitution and was the highest judicial oversight body in the state. Saied’s decree replaced the HJC with a Provisional High Judicial Council, retaining the same composition of the HJC, though altering the number of judges and the appointment process, and empowering the president to act as a disciplinary power and request removal of members. These changes tightened the executive branch’s control over the judiciary and expanded the president’s powers and influence. Months later, Saied would amend Decree No. 2022-11 with Decree No. 2022-35 on June 1, 2022, giving him the power to dismiss judges if they harmed the independence or the integrity of the judiciary; the amendments paved the way for the sacking of 57 judges, per Presidential Order No. 315-2022


Key takeaways from the constitution

Consistent with the unilateral approach that Saied has taken in setting forward the political roadmap and constitutional drafting process detailed above, the latest version of the draft constitution that Tunisians are set to vote on incorporates Saied’s narrative into the preamble. It claims that July 25, 2021 was a “correction of the Revolution’s path and that of history,” and that it will enable the country to move into a “new phase in history”—an expression Saied has used multiple times in his remarks and rhetoric. The preamble refers to the national consultation process and inflates its legitimacy, stating that “hundreds of thousands of citizens” participated.

Most significantly, Saied’s draft constitution seeks to create what has been described as a “hyper-presidentialist” system, where the president has extensive executive and legislative authorities, with little checks over them. The draft grants the president executive powers found in presidential systems, while also affording him legislative powers typically enjoyed by the head of government in parliamentary systems. While Tunisia’s 2014 constitution distributed these powers between the head of government and the president in a hybrid presidential-parliamentary system, Saied’s draft seeks to concentrate them, not only making the president the most consequential actor in policymaking, but also making him omnipotent, in a manner similar to the 1959 constitution.

Saied’s draft eliminates parliament’s ability to vote to impeach the president prior to adjudication by the Constitutional Court, as had been set forth by the 2014 constitution. Moreover, while the government had previously been accountable to parliament under the 2014 constitution, this draft makes the government accountable to the president, who will also enjoy the authority to appoint and dismiss the head of government and other government ministers. The new draft keeps the infamous Article 80 of the 2014 constitution—which Saied relied on to declare emergency measures under a state of exception. However, the provision is now found in the form of Article 96, which eliminates the temporal deadline to lift these emergency measures and the Constitutional Court’s ability to rule on the validity of said-measures. In eliminating these safeguards, Saied makes the provision identical to Article 46 of the 1959 constitution and further expands the president’s authorities

Also similar to the 1959 constitution, Article 116 of the new draft stipulates that in case of a second vote of no-confidence against the government, the president has the right to accept the government’s resignation or dissolve one or both chambers of parliament. Although parliament in theory can still pass a vote of no-confidence against the government—albeit with difficulty as it requires a two-third majority of both chambers—its oversight power has been further constrained alongside the president’s expanded authority. 

In the new draft constitution, the president enjoys expansive legislative powers at the expense of a severely-weakened parliament. He has the authority to suggest draft bills, as well as the authority to issue decrees that enjoy the force of law during parliamentary recess periods or when parliament is dissolved. The draft stipulates that the president can also call for legislative and constitutional referendums without prior parliamentary approval. On the flip side, while parliament does enjoy the authority to draw up bills that are supported by a minimum of 10 MPs, it cannot pass legislation that touches on the president’s administrative powers or on financial issues. Important to note that until a sitting parliament is elected, Saied will continue to enjoy the legislative power that he has been exercising vigorously. 

While the new constitution establishes the National Assembly for Regions and Districts as the second chamber of parliament, it does away with an entire chapter on decentralization, previously present in the 2014 constitution and heralded at the time as an important success. The draft instead stipulates that local governance will further be expanded on in the law, leaving the matter outside of the constitution and raising concerns that the president may further weaken local powers, including through future amendments to the Local Authorities Code and the Electoral Law. 

The draft constitution also curtails the powers of the judiciary. It eliminates the single Higher Judicial Council that was elected and tasked to manage all types of judicial jurisdictions, and replaces it instead with three higher councils that will oversee each type of jurisdiction individually—the details of which will be left to the law; it does not guarantee their independence. Leaving this to the law, rather than protecting judicial independence at the constitutional level, creates concern that the judiciary’s role will be even further weakened down the line and its independence, further compromised. The draft dedicates a chapter to the Constitutional Court, separating it from that of the remainder of the judiciary, and changes its composition. Unlike the 2014 constitution, under which the Constitutional Court was selected by the Higher Judicial Council, parliament, and the president and was composed of judges and professors from different fields, the draft creates a court composed only of appointed judges based on seniority.

The draft constitution does away with a number of independent entities created by the 2014 constitution to act as safeguards for rights and freedom by establishing additional oversight over state institutions. The draft keeps only the Independent High Authority for Elections, albeit without specifying whether its members will be elected by parliament as had previously been the case. Though the draft does recognize and protect individual rights and freedoms, an unusually-constructed Article 5 sets forth the state as the sole entity responsible “to work, in the context of a democratic system, to fulfill the “maqasid [purposes] of Islam,” raising concerns about the state’s role in interpreting religion and on how this will manifest in practice. Civil society organizations have also raised concerns about the draft’s failure to explicitly prohibit the military trial of civilians. 

Ultimately, Saied’s constitution threatens to enshrine a system of governance in which the president enjoys expansive and in many cases, unchecked authorities, while the legislature and judiciary become seriously constrained, functioning with limited, if any, independence and autonomy. The draft is a reflection of a process that has lacked transparency, inclusivity, and accountability since day one and that threatens to formalize the actions that were taken in an alleged “state of exception,” grounding Tunisia and the Tunisian people further in an alarming and undemocratic pathway.











https://www.ohchr.org/fr/press-releases/2022/07/tunisia-presidential-decrees-undermine-judicial-independence-and-access (FRANCAIS)









https://arabic.euronews.com/2022/06/10/tunisia-judges-threaten-extend-strike-second-week-dismissal (ARABIC)

Tunisian lawyers fear constitutional reform could mean the end of accountability


President Kais Saied proposed a new constitution this month that would limit the role of parliament and boost his own rule. The constitution will be put to a referendum on July 25 in a vote most political parties have already rejected. Our team on the ground reports.



https://www.aa.com.tr/fr/afrique/tunisie-l-union-internationale-des-magistrats-appelle-le-pr%C3%A9sident-sa%C3%AFed-%C3%A0-abroger-sa-d%C3%A9cision-de-r%C3%A9voquer-57-juges/2632763 (FRANCAIS)


Three Tunisian judges dismissed by President start hunger strike


Three judges in Tunisia have staged a hunger strike in protest against President Kais Saied’s decision to sack 57 judges, including them, Anadolu News Agency reported.

This came in a statement read out on Wednesday by Hammadi Rahmani, one of the three striking judges, in the capital, Tunis.

The judges on hunger strike are Rahmani, Ramzi Bahria and Mohamed Taher Kanzari.

The judges demanded that all dismissed judges return to their posts and called for the opening of an administrative investigation into the circumstances that led to choosing the list of the sacked judges, with the aim of liquidating judges known for their independence, integrity and competence.

They also stressed on the need to “restore the constitutional path of the judiciary, adhere to the principle of separation of powers and stop interfering in the judiciary”.

Earlier on Wednesday, four former heads of the Tunisian Bar Association called, in a statement to President Saied, to reverse the dismissal decision, affirming their support for the judges in their protest movements “in defence of their independence”.

On Saturday, the Judges’ Association decided to extend their national strike for a third week in protest against Saied’s decision to sack dozens of them.

Saied dismissed 57 judges on 1 June, accusing them of corruption and protecting terrorists – charges that the Tunisian Judges’ Association said were mostly politically motivated.





https://www.aa.com.tr/fr/afrique/tunisie-les-magistrats-reconduisent-leur-gr%C3%A8ve-pour-la-4%C3%A8me-semaine-cons%C3%A9cutive/2623071 (FRANCAIS)


Tunisian court sentences lawyer who opposes president to jail, imposes job ban


A Tunisian military appeal court on Friday sentenced Seifeddine Makhlouf, a lawyer and prominent opponent of President Kais Saied, to a year in jail and banned him from his job for five years for insulting a judge, his lawyer told Reuters.

Saied has been facing increasing opposition since he seized power last year, dissolving parliament and ruling by decree in a move his opponents called a coup. Critics say he seeks to consolidate one-man rule.

“The verdict is a real farce. … This is the judiciary that Saied wants.. a judiciary that he could control it and use it against opponents,” Makhlouf’s lawyer, Anouar Awled Ali, said.

The authorities were not immediately available for comment.

Earlier this year, Saied replaced the Supreme Judicial Council with a temporary council. In early June he sacked dozens of judges, accusing them of corruption and protecting terrorists in a move the judges’ unions said allows him to influence the judiciary and create vacancies to appoint his loyalists. read more

Judges entered a second week of strikes on June 9 in protest.







https://www.mosaiquefm.net/fr/actualite-national-tunisie/1059584/prison-ferme-et-suspension-du-barreau-contre-seifeddine-makhlouf (FRANCAIS)


Tunisia judges strike after mass sackings, Saied ‘interference’


Move is a response to the president’s sacking of 57 judges on Thursday, raising fears of a return to authoritarianism.

Tunisian judges have launched a week-long strike in protest at President Kais Saied’s “interference” in the judiciary, days after he sacked 57 of their colleagues, accusing them of corruption and protecting “terrorists”.

The strike, which began on Monday, is the latest in a series of escalating moves by Tunisia’s politicians, institutions and civil society as the country’s political crisis deepens.

Saied, who dismissed the country’s elected parliament and seized executive power last July, issued a new degree extending his rule over the judiciary after he said he had “given opportunity after opportunity and warning after warning to the judiciary to purify itself” in a televised address.

The latest move against the only democratic system to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings has raised concerns among judges and other civil society groups, resulting in four judges’ unions announcing a nationwide court strike to strongly condemn the president’s “continued interference in the judiciary”.

They accused Saied of laying off judges “without the slightest recourse to disciplinary procedures” in an affront to the Constitution.

Mourad Massoudi, head of the Young Judges Union, said on Monday that “the strike started today at all courts across the country, and appears to have been widely observed”.

Courts will stay open for terrorism cases.

In February, Tunisia’s president dissolved the Supreme Judicial Council that deals with the independence of judges. The council had acted as the main guarantor of judicial independence since Tunisia’s 2011 revolution and the move spurred accusations that Saied was interfering in the judicial process.

At the time, Tunisia’s Judges Association called for a two-day strike for all courts in the country in protest against President Saied’s move to dissolve the top judicial watchdog, amid growing fears of a return to authoritarian rule.






https://www.businessnews.com.tn/hammadi-rahmani-commente-sa-revocation–un-acte-de-vengeance,520,119701,3 (FRANCAIS)








Tunisia: Abderrazak Kilani condamné à un mois avec sursis : Six anciens bâtonniers intentent un recours en appel


Six anciens bâtonniers ont intenté un recours en appel contre le jugement émis par le tribunal militaire permanent de Tunis, le 19 mai 2022, contre leur confrère Abderrazak Kilani, condamné à un mois de prison avec sursis, pour «outrage à un fonctionnaire public lors de l’exercice de ses fonctions».

C’est ce qu’indique une note diffusée par l’ancien bâtonnier Kilani, où ses collègues Abdelwaheb Behi, Bechir Essid, Abdessatar Ben Moussa, Chawki Tabib, Fadhel Mahfoudh, et Ameur Mehrezi, annoncent avoir intenté un recours en appel contre le jugement, en date du jeudi 26 mai.

«Il s’agit d’une violation de l’immunité de l’avocat, pendant l’accomplissement de son devoir professionnel», lit-on dans la dite note.

Rappelons que le verdict a été rendu après le procès du 12 mai relatif à l’affaire N°69445, et ce, pour «outrage à un fonctionnaire public lors de l’exercice de ses fonctions», sachant que l’affaire remonte à mars dernier, lorsque Me Kilani, assurait la défense du dirigeant du parti islamiste Ennahdha et ancien ministre de la Justice Noureddine Bhiri, qui était alors en résidence surveillée pour soupçons dans une affaire terroriste.

Abderrazak Kilani a fait l’objet de poursuites après une altercation avec des agents sécuritaires, qui assuraient la garde de son client à l’hôpital Habib Bougatfa de Bizerte. Il avait été placé en détention, après un émis un mandat de dépôt émis par le juge d’instruction militaire avant d’être libéré après 20 jours de détention.




https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/tunisia-military-court-sentences-prominent-lawyer-prison (ENGLISH)


(Defense Committee Of Dean Abderrazak Kilani Facebook, 27/05/22)

Tunisia: Letter on the arrest, detention and prosecution of Abderrazak Kilani


In a joint letter Lawyers for Lawyers, the Law Society of England and Wales, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada express grave concern  about the arrest, detention and prosecution before a military tribunal of Abderrazak Kilani, a lawyer and former President of The Law Society of Tunisia from 2010 until 2012, as well as a former ambassador of Tunisia to the UN in Geneva.

On 2 January 2022, Mr. Kilani was contacted by the spouse of Mr. Noureddine Bhiri, asking for legal representation by Mr. Kilani for her husband. Mr. Bhiri is a lawyer, former Minister of Justice, and opposition politician. She told Mr. Kilani that her husband had been abducted by plainclothes police officers in front of their house on 31 December 2021. He had been held at an undisclosed location for two days and was subsequently admitted to Habib Bougatfa hospital in Bizerte with a deteriorated health condition. We were informed that, only at that stage, was he issued with an order for “house arrest”, without having been charged with any offence.

Mr. Bhiri’s spouse asked Mr. Kilani to accompany her to the hospital. Mr. Kilani asked police officers guarding Mr. Bhiri to meet with his client. That request was conveyed by the police to the Minister of the Interior, who denied it. Only Mr. Bhiri’s wife and the President of the Bar Council were permitted to meet with Mr. Bhiri. Mr. Kilani then told the security officers at the hospital that the Tunisian Constitution establishes that security forces should be neutral and serve the republic rather than any particular interest.

On 3 January 2022, the Minister of the Interior held a press conference where he said that “a respectable person had [incited the police and the public]” referring to a recording of Mr. Kilani’s encounter with the police at the hospital that was shared on social media. Mr. Kilani was subsequently investigated on charges of incitement to disobedience, as well as “belonging to a group likely to disturb public order”, “insulting public officials”, and “inciting [police officials] by violence, assault, threats, or fraudulent practices to cease performing their individual or collective duties”.

On 2 March 2022, a hearing took place before the military tribunal of Tunis during which Mr. Kilani’s pre-trial detention was ordered. He was sent to Mornaguia prison in Tunis where he remained in detention for approximately three weeks. On 21 March 2022, the investigating judge of the military tribunal of Tunis issued an order for his release and established the date of the next hearing before the military tribunal, which will take place on 12 May 2022. During this hearing, the merits of the charges against Mr. Kilani will be addressed.






Tunisia military judge orders release of president’s opponent/former Bar president


A Tunisian military judge on Monday ordered the release of Abd Errazak Kilani, a lawyer and prominent opponent of President Kais Saied, from prison pending trial, Kilani’s lawyer told Reuters.

Kilani was imprisoned this month on a charge of inciting police to break the law. The judge, who had the option of releasing Kilani, did not give a reason for the decision. A trial date has not been announced.

Last summer, Saied suspended parliament and seized most powers, in a move his opponents called a coup. He also changed the supreme judicial council reinforcing the one-man rule.

Kilani’s arrest this month sparked the anger‮ ‬of human rights groups at home and abroad, who accused President Saied of seeking to impose a dictatorial regime and using the military judiciary to target his opponents.

But Saied rejected accusations and said he did not interfere in the judiciary.





Dilou annonce la libération de l’ancien bâtonnier Abderrazak Kilani



https://www.amnesty.de/mitmachen/urgent-action/tunesien-tunesien-anwalt-vor-militaergericht-2022-03-21 (DEUTSCH)

Tunisia: Military Court Jails Prominent Lawyer


Suggests No Critic of President’s Power Grab is Safe

The jailing of a prominent lawyer on March 2, 2022, for arguing with police officers is an alarming new step in the confiscation of civil liberties since President Kais Saied seized extraordinary powers on July 25, 2021, Human Rights Watch said today. Abderrazak Kilani, a former government minister and head of the national bar association, is one of the most prominent Tunisians to be put behind bars for his peaceful expression since the ouster of the authoritarian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

A military court has charged Kilani, a civilian, in connection with a verbal exchange he had with security officers who were denying him access to a hospital on January 2. He was trying to visit a client who had been taken there while under a form of house arrest. During the exchange he criticized the president.

“After placing scores of critics under ‘assigned residence’ house arrest or banning their travel, tossing Abderrazak Kilani into Mornaguia Prison sends a chilling new message that no one who criticizes President Saied’s power grab is safe,” said Salsabil Chellali, Tunisia director at Human Rights Watch. “

Kilani faces charges of “disturbing the public order,” “insulting public officials,” and “inciting [members of the security forces] by violence, assault, threats, or fraudulent practices to cease performing their individual or collective duties,” under articles 79, 125, and 136 of the penal code, Samir Dilou, one of his lawyers, told Human Rights Watch. The military court claims jurisdiction apparently because the speech in question was addressed to members of the security forces, Ridha Belhaj, another of his lawyers said. Kilani faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.

Kilani, 67, served as a deputy prime minister for relations with the Constituent Assembly from 2011 to 2013. He also has served as head of the bar association and as ambassador to the UN in Geneva. He is active in the Citizens against the Coup, an informal group of Tunisians who openly oppose Saied’s seizure of special powers.







https://www.hrw.org/fr/news/2022/03/14/tunisie-un-tribunal-militaire-emprisonne-un-eminent-avocat (FRANCAIS)








Tunisie : Des organisations demandent la libération immédiate Me Abderrazak Kilani


Tunisia: Former National Bar Association head under military investigation


Qui est Abderrazak Kilani, l'élu de Kais Saied au poste de chef du  gouvernement ? | Tunisie Tribune

Two Tunisian attorneys confirmed on Friday that the authorities have referred former head of the National Bar Association Abderrazak Kilani for military investigation.

Attorney Hosni Al-Baji posted on Facebook: “My friend and fellow, Abderrazak Kilani, was referred to the military investigative judge.”

“He was referred due to his opinion, which he expressed, that it is not necessary to oblige the executive authority’s officials, especially the security agents, with instructions that violate the constitution and the law,” Al-Baji added.

Another attorney, who asked not to be named, said that Kilani: “Received an invitation yesterday through a notification addressed to the office of the branch’s head of the National Bar Association in Tunis.”

“The notification did not specify the date of the hearing or the charges brought against Kilani, provided that the military investigative judge shall send a second notification to the National Bar Association to set the date of the hearing and the charges,” the attorney elaborated.

It is noteworthy that Kilani is a member of the defence committee for parliament member Noureddine Bhiri, 63, who is under house arrest.





http://kapitalis.com/tunisie/2022/01/21/tunisie-me-abderrazak-kilani-convoque-par-la-justice-militaire/ (FRANCAIS)

Abderrazak Kilani : «Les menaces du ministre de l’Intérieur ne me font pas peur»




الحمد لله
تونس 21جانفي2022
✅ بيان
اثر صدور قرار النيابة العسكرية بفتح بحث تحقيقي ضد العميد عبد الرزاق الكيلاني فإن مجموعة محامون لحماية الحقوق والحريات :
📍1/تجدّد رفضها محاكمة المدنيين أمام المحاكم العسكرية في خرق واضح للدستور و المعاهدات و المواثيق الدولية.
📍2 /تعتبر إحالة العميد الأسبق للمحامين الأستاذ الكيلاني حلقة جديدة في مسلسل استهداف المحامين الفاضحين لإنتهاكات الإنقلاب و المتصدين للدفاع عن الحقوق و الحريات .
📍3/ تؤكد أن هذه الإحالات المتكررة للمحامين منذ 25جويلية لن تفتّ في عضد المحامين المناهضين للإنقلاب و لن توهن عزيمتهم في فضح ممارساته و لن تزيدهم إلا ثباتا و إصرارا على أداء رسالة المحاماة.
📍4/تستغرب اعتبار النيابة العسكرية تمسك العميد الكيلاني بتطبيق القوانين والدستور من قبيل الدعوة للعصيان و تعتبر أن إحالته بناءً على ذلك يعد إيهاما بجريمة موجبا للمساءلة الجزائية.
📍5/تحذّر من عودة الدكتاتورية و مضي سلطة الإنقلاب قدما للجمع بين السلطات و تركيز دولة الإستبداد و انتهاك الحقوق و قمع الحريات .
📍6/تدعو العميد و أعضاء الهيئة الوطنية للمحامين لتحمل مسؤولياتهم المهنية و التاريخية في الدفاع عن منظوريهم و الذود عن الحقوق و الحريات.
محامون لحماية الحقوق والحريات

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