Tunisia President Kais Saied on Sunday issued a decree replacing the country’s judicial independence watchdog with his own council and giving himself near-unilateral power over the appointment and dismissal of judges. Protests followed shortly after as citizens denounced Saied’s most recent step toward authoritarianism.
In July, Saied dismissed the sitting prime minister and suspended parliament, citing corruption of the political class. Since September, he has been ruling by decree without input from other governmental bodies. Since taking power in what some have called a coup, the country’s judicial oversight board has been a primary source of pushback over Saied’s repeated constitutional violations.
The Supreme Judiciary Council filed a lawsuit against Saied’s Ministry of Interior, seeking the keys to their headquarters. After announcing his decision to dissolve the council last week, Saied ordered police to lock the doors to their offices. Former council members responded by striking, which Saied also banned in today’s decree.
Saied’s newly-seized power over the judiciary clears the way for him to rule indefinitely by silencing opposition from duly elected judges and replacing them with his own appointments. The decree gives Saied the authority to block judicial promotions and demand dismissal of any judge. The International Court of Justice said the move to appoint judges to the oversight council, rather than allowing for an election, is a violation of international law.