The civil and human rights society in Tunisia was surprised by the postponement of the visit of the International Committee on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Margaret Satterthwaite, which was scheduled for May 16-26, 2023, at the request of the Tunisian government.
In a statement published on its website, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called on those interested in human rights, the judiciary, civil society organizations and academics to provide information and proposals to assist the UN rapporteur during this visit.
Margaret Satterthwaite was scheduled to discuss the legal and political framework for the independence of judges and lawyers and follow up on various developments in the judicial and legal sectors, in addition to the challenges that may face certain groups in accessing justice, including women, marginalized groups, minorities and others, as well as discussing ways to enhance the independence of the judiciary. Free and independent practice of the legal profession.
A deliberate and unjustified decision
While human rights activists and civil society were waiting for this visit, a coalition of associations, based in Geneva, announced that the indefinite postponement of the visit came at the request of Tunisia, denouncing the decision to postpone it, which it described in a statement as “deliberate and unjustified.” The independence of the judiciary and its international standards,” pointing to “the dire situation in which judges and the judiciary are currently living, which is unprecedented in the history of Tunisia.”
These associations sent an urgent appeal to officials of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and all organizations concerned with the protection of human rights, to take urgent action to put an end to what they described as “the tragedy experienced by the Tunisian judges and judiciary, and behind it political detainees and all victims of the tyrannical regime in Tunisia.”
What are the reasons for postponing this visit? What are the repercussions of this on the image of Tunisia? Are rights and freedoms really regressed in the country?
Violation of judicial process
The massive campaign of arrests launched by the authorities in Tunisia since mid-February 2023, including political opponents and a number of journalists, deepened the political crisis in the country. This campaign was rejected by civil society components who stressed the need to respect the presumption of innocence, provide legal protection for detainees, and ensure the foundations of a fair trial.
In the context, the governing body of the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights denounced “the trials of opinion, politicians, journalists, and human rights activists for expressing their opinions and practicing their activities.” It also denounced the “serious violations related to legal procedures, especially the lawyer’s decree and the Code of Criminal Procedures.”
Observers of public affairs in Tunisia believe that the current political context does not allow such visits, which will reveal many breaches, especially with regard to the trial of a number of political leaders without clear charges and without sufficient evidence to convict them.
Confusion of the Tunisian authorities
And while the head of the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights, Bassam Al-Tarifi, refused to comment on the Tunisian government’s request to postpone the visit of the UN rapporteur, Jamal Muslim, a human rights activist and former president of the League, confirmed in a statement to “Independent Arabia” that “Tunisia is a signatory to international agreements and treaties related to United Nations rapporteurs on the number of sectors, including the judiciary and the legal profession,” expressing his surprise at the decision to postpone.
Jamal Musallam believes that “Tunisia will bear the consequences of postponing this visit because it is obliged to accept the UN rapporteur,” pointing out that “the controversy surrounding the political suspensions is one of the main reasons for Tunisia’s request to postpone the visit,” considering that “the decision to postpone the visit indicates the confusion of the Tunisian authorities, who will pay the price.” Her improvisation in the final UN report, as it will not serve Tunisia’s image abroad.
This section contains related articles, placed in the (Related Nodes field)
The human rights activist added, “Judges in Tunisia today are afraid of the executive authority and do not work in complete independence, after a number of them were subjected to pressure and harassment, in addition to the multiplicity of cases against lawyers.”
The former president of the Tunisian League for Human Rights acknowledges that “there is a remarkable decline in rights and freedoms,” calling on the authority to “overcome this problem and accept the UN rapporteur and facilitate her work in order to preserve Tunisia’s reputation abroad.”
The laws apply to everyone
On the other hand, while no official clarification was issued by the Tunisian government about postponing the visit of the UN rapporteur, a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in response to the comments of several countries about the campaign of arrests of politicians and journalists in Tunisia, confirmed that “the laws of the Republic of Tunisia apply to all litigants alike and without discriminatory while providing all the necessary guarantees, and that justice is exercised discreetly without being affected by the wave of unacceptable comments.”
The statement added, “Such comments would reflect negatively on the state’s intensive efforts to correct the economic and financial situation that is under pressure, as a result of the poor governance that characterized the past decade, and the repercussions that Tunisians still bear for its consequences.”
International prejudice on Tunisia
For his part, political activist Sarhan Al-Nasseri affirmed that “the Tunisian people today demand accountability for all those who have committed crimes against Tunisia during the past decade in terms of employing the judiciary and sabotaging the justice system, especially the financial corruption that destroyed Tunisia,” pointing out that “the judiciary in Tunisia is independent, but it faces pressure to expedite the accountability of all those involved,” denying that the judiciary is facing restrictions from the authority.
Al-Nasseri stressed that “building the new republic needs to purify the political climate, establish justice by holding criminals accountable and ending the phenomenon of impunity,” stressing that “those arrested in connection with a number of cases, including those related to terrorism, money laundering and conspiracy against state security, will be held accountable by the judiciary in full respect for all their rights.
The political activist pointed out that “the political opposition demonstrates freely in the streets, and Tunisia does not need lessons from anyone, and does not accept any international interference in the work of its institutions,” pointing to “the presence of prejudice from foreign parties targeting Tunisia.”
It is noteworthy that the UN Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers had previously visited Tunisia in 2014, and met at that time with various components of civil and human rights society and representatives of the authorities, and concluded with a report that noted the situation of the judiciary and the legal profession in Tunisia, and included a number of recommendations to further strengthen the independence of the judiciary to achieve justice.
Disclaimer: The Baladi website works automatically without human intervention, and therefore all articles, news and comments published on the site are the responsibility of their owners and the management of the site does not bear any moral or legal responsibility for the content of the site.
“All rights reserved to their respective owners”