Hunger-striking Tunisian judges admitted to intensive care

Hunger-striking Tunisian judges admitted to intensive care
The judges have refused to give up their protest despite rapidly deteriorating health conditions.
2 min read
31 July, 2022
Tunisia's embattled judiciary has been seen as one of the last safeguards against autocratic rule [Getty]

Three Tunisian judges have been hospitalised after weeks on hunger strike have left them weak and at risk of death. 

The trio were all admitted to facilities in Tunis on Thursday, one of whom remains in intensive care. 

All of them have stayed committed to their protest, despite their failing health. 

Today is the 40th day since they began their hunger strike, protesting against the judicial purges of Tunisian president Kais Saied. 

Judge Mohamed Tahar Kanzari, a member of the Young Tunisian Judge’s Association, was sacked by President Kais Saied in June alongside 56 others. 

Saied dismissed the judges of varying rank, accusing them of corruption and protecting terrorists, in a move which sparked international outrage. 

The Tunisian strongman ruler said in a speech shortly after that the mass sacking came after he had “given opportunity after opportunity and warning after warning to the judiciary to purify itself.”

The president only secured the power to hire and fire in February when he dissolved Tunisia’s Supreme Judiciary Council, one of the last remaining institutions in the country able to work independently of him. 

Hunger strikes by members of the judiciary worldwide are extremely rare, as are examples of the open-ended strike undertaken by Tunisian judges in recent months. 

And after the controversial referendum on July 25, fears are growing that Saied could move to purge the judiciary of dissenting voices from top to bottom. 

In June, a top Tunisian judicial source warned that a fresh purge of 400 Tunisian judges is being prepared by the regime, to take place in the wake of the divisive vote. 

A new Tunisian constitution giving far more power to President Saied passed in a referendum on Tuesday with a 30.5 percent turnout, tightening his grip in what critics fear is a march to a new era of autocracy.

The commission said 95 percent  of voters approved the constitution in Monday's referendum boycotted by opposition groups, which accuse Saied of staging a coup against the young democracy that emerged from Tunisia's Arab Spring uprising of 2011.