(IFEX-TMG) - IFEX-TMG has been documenting various forms of politically motivated persecution of independent judges since its second fact-finding mission to Tunisia in September 2005. A fact-finding mission in spring 2010 produced the report, "Behind the Façade: How a Politicised Judiciary and Administrative Sanctions Undermine Tunisian Human Rights". The following is an open letter to Judge Kalthoum Kennou, congratulating her on her election as President of the Association of Tunisian Judges (AMT):
9 November 2011
The Honourable Judge Kalthoum Kennou,
We, the members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange Tunisia Monitoring Group (IFEX-TMG), a global coalition of 21 IFEX members, are writing to congratulate you on your election as president of the Association of Tunisian Judges (AMT). For many years, you and your brave colleagues at the AMT fought against a politicised judiciary, which was often used to silence dissent and quell opposition during the dark years of Ben Ali's rule.
It is a pleasure to see the AMT hold free and fair elections for the leadership of the AMT, after it was illegitimately taken over in 2005 by pro-government judges.
We commend you for your tenacious struggle against a politicised judiciary, despite the professional and personal pressures you and your colleagues were subjected to. It is undoubtedly an inspiration for many and we are proud to have supported you in this battle against those who would silence you.
We would also like to salute you for the work you have embarked upon since the revolution, alongside your colleagues Raoudha Karafi and Noura Hamdi, who were also elected to the board at the AMT General Meeting on 30 October. IFEX-TMG has not ceased to document violations against independent judges, including being moved far from your families, denied promotions and having your salaries cut in retaliation for insisting on serving justice without interference. Other judges who have been persecuted include Wassila Kaabi, Leila Bahria, Hamadi Rahmani, Mohktar Yahyaoui, Leila Abid and Ahmed Rahmouni, the former president of the democratically elected board of the AMT.
We welcome this opportunity for the AMT to work to truly restore the independence of the Tunisian judiciary enshrined in the 1959 Tunisian Constitution and the 1999 Universal Charter of the Judge. You have a crucial role in supporting the new Constitution to be written by the Assembly elected in October.
No matter what kind of regulatory environment is created for journalism and the new electronic media in Tunisia, the media can only remain relatively free within a framework protected by a strong and completely independent judiciary. There must be a strong and independent judiciary to uphold the articles within the Constitution that will be written to protect free speech.
Your commitment to this cause and efforts to uphold a strong and independent judiciary, which is a cornerstone of good governance and a guarantee of human rights and free expression in particular, will be instrumental as Tunisia moves towards a democracy where freedoms are enshrined and the rule of law reigns.
We hope that your success in the AMT elections would herald a new phase in Tunisia, where the Tunisian judiciary consolidates its strong and independent position and democracy triumphs.
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Cartoonists Rights Network International
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
Index on Censorship
International Federation of Journalists
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions
International Press Institute
International Publishers Association
Journaliste en danger
Media Institute of Southern Africa
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters - AMARC
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers