Dissolution of Tunisia’s High Judicial Council seriously undermines rule of law in Tunisia – Bachelet

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GENEVA (8 February 2022) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday urged the President of Tunisia to restore the High Judicial Council, warning that its dissolution would seriously undermine the rule of law, the separation of powers and independence of the judiciary in the country.

The President on Sunday announced his decision to dissolve the High Judicial Council, a body mandated to ensure the proper functioning of justice and independence of the judicial authority, and charged with appointing most judicial positions in the country. Its establishment in 2016 was hailed as a major advance in the consolidation of the rule of law, separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary in Tunisia.

"Much remains to be done to bring justice sector legislation, procedures and practices in line with applicable international standards – but this has been a big step in the wrong direction," Bachelet said. "The dissolution of the High Judicial Council is in clear violation of Tunisia's obligations under international human rights law."

The office buildings of the High Judicial Council have been cordoned off by Internal Security Forces and members and staff have been prevented from entering the premises. There have also been online hate campaigns and threats against the Council's members. The High Commissioner stressed that all necessary measures must be taken to safeguard the security of members and staff of the Council.

This is the latest development in a worrying trajectory in the country. On 25 July 2021, the President suspended Parliament and assumed all executive functions. Since then, there have been increasing attempts to stifle dissent, including through harassment of civil society actors.