TUNIS (Reuters) -Ten international human rights groups on Friday accused Tunisian President Kais Saied of dealing “a deep blow to judicial independence” after he sacked dozens of judges.
Saied dismissed 57 judges on June 1, accusing them of corruption and protecting terrorists – charges that the Tunisian Judges’ Association said were mostly politically motivated.
The groups, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty international and International Alert said in joint statement that Saied’s moves were an assault on the rule of law and he should immediately revoke the decree and reinstate judges he fired.
Saied seized control of the executive power last year, dissolved parliament and ruled by decree. He faces strong domestic and foreign criticism that he seeks to consolidate one-man rule.
But the president, who rejects the accusations, says he seeks to save the state from collapse and reform state institutions after “a decade of ruin”.
“The decree is President’s latest move to concentrate powers in his own hands”, groups said in a statement.
Saied’s decision drew anger from the judges, who started a week-long strike and were heading for a second week extension.
Among the judges fired was Youssef Bouzaker, the former head of the Supreme Judicial Council whose members Saied replaced this year.
The council had acted as the main guarantor of judicial independence since Tunisia’s 2011 revolution that introduced democracy.
(Reporting By Tarek Amara; Editing by Toby Chopra and Angus MacSwan)