Human Rights & Public Liberties

Human Rights & Public Liberties

Published on: 13 Jan, 2021

HRW: ‘Constitutional crisis’ in Tunisia

Published on: 30 August, 2021
President Kais Saied [Al Jazeera]

President Kais Saied [Al Jazeera]

On 27 August Human Rights Watch called on Tunisian President Kais Saied to protect human rights and to lift the ‘repressive steps’ that have been imposed since he took the exceptional measures to the coronavirus crisis on 25 July.

On 23 August Saied renewed the emergency measures that were initially taken on 25 July.

Saied invoked a constitutional provision that after 30 days, the Constitutional Court, upon a request from the Parliament, is to rule on whether the exceptional conditions still exist that would warrant the exercise of extraordinary powers.

According to Eric Goldstein, acting executive director Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch, this plunged Tunisia into a constitutional crisis.

The Tunisian Parliament cannot request the Constitutional Court to rule on this instance of possible presidential overreach since the Parliament does not exist.

HRW expressed its concerns over the absence of a Constitutional Court in Tunisia that could scrutinise the exceptional decisions made by the president.

Goldstein writes: ‘The institutional checks designed to keep Tunisia from reverting to the authoritarian rule it endured from independence in 1956 until the Arab Spring in 2011 are not in place.’


Constitutional Court

Tunisia’s 2014 Constitution provides for the establishment of a Constitutional Court within a year.

In April Saied said that he refused to sign a bill to set up the long-delayed constitutional court. Saied said the deadline for the establishment of the court had expired ‘years ago’ and that he will not bear the responsibility for the delay.

Speaking to Al Jazeera Aymen Bessalah, a Tunisian advocacy and policy analyst said:  ‘Said claimed that the deadline for the establishment of the court was in 2015 meaning that Parliament was already in illegality, in addition to holding that the sudden haste is motivated  by political ambitions – alluding to parties attempting to control the Court and seeking to impeach him.’

Goldstein added: ‘No matter how legitimate people’s grievances may be, they must not be used as an excuse to undermine rights.’