Tunisia: Civilians To Be Tried In Military Courts

The Court of Appeals in Tunis has ruled that two civilians could be tried in military courts. Lawmakers Saif Eddine Makhlouf and Nidal Saudi have appealed the decision that they be tried in military courts, but the judges have ruled that military courts have jurisdiction to try civilians.

There are currently 5 MPs imprisoned since September after a military judge jailed Saudi and Makhlouf, of the Karama Party. Makhlouf is a critic of President Kais Saied.

Earlier on Sunday Saied met with the highest judicial bodies in the country, sparking widespread controversy as a public attempt to control the judiciary.

The court of appeals’ decision has met huge criticism and rejection from lawyers, politicians, and human rights defenders. Amnesty International has raised concerns and stated that in the past three months alone, the military justice system has investigated or prosecuted at least 10 civilians for a range of offenses.

Some of them are just being prosecuted for criticizing the president.

“Civilians should never be tried in military courts. Yet in Tunisia, the number of civilians brought before the military justice system appears to be increasing at an alarming rate – in the past three months alone, more civilians have faced military courts than did in the preceding ten years,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

After anti-government protests on July 25, Saied appointed himself as head of the executive authority until the formation of a new government, and lifted the immunity of politicians for 30 days, citing a provision in Tunisia’s 2014 post-revolution constitution. He also removed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspended parliament.

On 29 September, he appointed Najla Bouden Romdhane as prime minister and a government has since been formed.

Saied’s moves this year have strengthened the powers of the presidency at the expense of parliament and the government. Some critics are stating that he aims to transform the country’s government into a presidential system.

As a matter of fact, On 22 September, President Saied issued Decree Law 117, which suspends all but two chapters and the preamble of Tunisia’s constitution, granting the president control of most aspects of governance, including the right to legislate through decrees, and to regulate media, civil society, and courts, Amnesty International concludes.

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