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Tunisia: UN Calls for End to Judicial Harassment and Attacks on Lawyers and Judges

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Press release

Geneva – May 9, 2024


UN human rights experts have called for an end to judicial harassment and attacks on lawyers and judges in Tunisia, following disturbing reports regarding these incidents and the overall situation of judges in the country.

In a UN memorandum sent to Tunisian authorities, experts expressed concerns over alleged criminal proceedings based on charges related to “terrorism” and “state security,” reportedly faced by lawyers such as Ayashi Hammami, Delila Msadek, and Islam Hamza while representing individuals accused of similar criminal charges.

The experts also noted that the recent annual judicial movement in Tunisia took place without considering the rulings of administrative courts that halted the implementation of dismissal decisions against judges in 2022, raising questions about adherence to international human rights standards prohibiting the deprivation of judges’ tenure.

Ayashi Hammami, a human rights lawyer who previously served as Minister of Relations with Constitutional Bodies, Civil Society, and Human Rights, currently speaks on behalf of the Committee for Defense of Dismissed Judges under the presidential decree issued on June 1, 2022.

Delila Msadek and Islam Hamza, along with Ayashi Hammami, are members of the legal team defending several political dissidents in the “conspiracy against state security” case, where some of their clients have been detained since February 2023 on charges of “conspiracy against state security” and other terrorism-related charges.

The experts highlighted previous correspondence expressing concerns to Tunisian authorities about the dissolution of the Supreme Judicial Council under presidential decree 2022-11 and the dismissal of 57 judges under decree 2022-516. Despite 49 of the dismissed judges obtaining court rulings from the Administrative Court to halt their dismissals, the Ministry of Justice has yet to implement these decisions.

In August 2022, experts shed light on acts of harassment and threats against the President of the Tunisian Judges’ Association. Additionally, they voiced concerns about Law No. 54-2022 related to combating crimes involving information and communication systems, enacted on September 13, 2022, and its potential interference with the legal profession.

The experts affirmed ongoing receipt of concerning reports indicating patterns of judicial harassment against judges and lawyers, especially following the issuance of presidential decrees 2022-11, 2022-35, and 2022-516. These reports include measures like detention, trials, and imprisonment before military courts, and travel bans affecting lawyers representing clients facing charges related to “terrorism” and “conspiracy against state security.” Specifically, Ayashi Hammami is involved in representing opposition politicians under investigation in the “conspiracy against state security” case, which began in February 2023 and has

seen the arrest of political activists, lawyers, and members of opposition parties accused of various violations under penal and anti-terrorism laws.

The experts urged Tunisian authorities to address these concerns and ensure the protection of lawyers and judges in accordance with international human rights standards, emphasizing that addressing these issues requires further action and accountability to uphold the rule of law and protect the rights of justice defenders in Tunisia.

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