Tunisian President Kais Saied officially dissolved the Supreme Judicial Council on Feb. 6, sending police to seal the chamber where the body meets. The Council's head, Youssef Bouzakher, called the dissolution "illegal," and said it is aimed at bringing Tunisia's jurists under control of the executive. Established in 2016, the Council is a constitutional body entrusted with ensuring the independence of the judiciary, responsible for appointing judges and taking disciplinary action. Bouzakher said the Council intends to continue working in defiance of the president's announcement.
Tunisia's former president Moncef Marzouki was sentenced in absentia to four years in prison by the Tunis Court of First Instance on Dec. 21. Marzouki was convicted of "undermining the external security of the State," according to Tunisia's national press agency. Marzouki served as Tunisia's president from 2011 through 2014. Most recently, Marzouki has received attention for his criticism of Tunisia's current President Kaïs Saied.
Anger over a regional garbage crisis in Tunisia exploded into street clashes Nov. 9 after a man died following exposure to tear-gas during protests against the reopening of a landfill site. Abderrazek Lacheheb, 35, died in the town of Aguereb in the coastal region of Sfax, punctuating weeks of demonstrations over a growing waste and public health crisis. The powerful UGTT trade union confederation announced a general strike for the day after his passing in Aguereb, condemning the "savage intervention by security forces."
Tunisian President Kais Saied was accused by opposition parties of launching a "coup" with the help of the country's military after firing the prime minister and freezing parliament July 25. The move comes after anti-government protesters took over the streets of the capital Tunis, expressing dismay over ongoing economic turmoil and a demonstrably poor response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Saied had been engrossed in disputes with the now-ousted prime minister Hichem Mechichi since the pandemic struck.
US-led forces are currently carrying out war games in Morocco, the periodic "African Lion" exercises which this year also involve troops from Tunisia and Senegal. The games are taking place near the disputed region of Western Sahara, which Morocco is trumpeting this as a re-affirmation of US recognition of its claim to the territory. Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani said on Twitter ahead of the exercises that the event "marks the consecration of American recognition of the Moroccan Sahara." (The Defense Post, Africa News, June 15)
A Tunisian appeals court ordered the release of jailed activist Rania Amdouni on March 17, following an outcry from civil society and human rights groups. Amdouni had been charged with "insulting police and abuse of morals," which sparked concerns from rights groups over suppression of free speech. Amdouni is the president of Chouf Minorities and a member of the Tunisian Association for Justice & Equality (DAMJ), both organizations concerned with rights for women and the LGBT. She has faced abuse from law enforcement over of her involvement in recent protests against austerity policies and police brutality. Police and politicians have shared her photo on social media with disparaging comments about her appearance and presumed sexual orientation and gender identity.
The army was ordered into the streets in Tunisia Jan. 18 following four days of angry protests by disaffected youth that have led to hundreds of arrests. Enraged over widespread unemployment, youth have erected roadblocks of burning tires, clashed with police, ransacked shops and banks, and hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at government buildings. The protests began in poor districts of Tunis, but quickly spread to other cities, including Kasserine, Gafsa, Sousse, Siliana and Monastir. At the more organized demonstrations, marchers carry placards reading "Employment is a right."
As nations across the globe remain under lockdown, more sweeping powers are being assumed by governments in the name of containing the COVID-19 pandemic. Facing demands for relief from poor barrios running out of resources under his lockdown orders, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to shoot protesters in the streets. Particularly naming the popular organization Kadamay as planning protests, Duterte said April 1: "Remember, you leftists: You are not the government. Do not go around causing trouble and riots because I will order you detained until this COVID [outbreak ends]. I will not hesitate. My orders are to the police and military...that if there is trouble... shoot them dead. Do you understand? Dead. Instead of causing trouble, I'll send you to the grave." (Rappler)