Tunisia's National Constituent Assembly (NCA) today finished approving articles in the draft constitution that would establish new structures and guidelines for the country's judiciary.
The articles appear to resolve disputes over judicial independence, and will establish a new Constitutional Court in the country.
Voting on provisions related to the judiciary resumed on yesterday, following the cancellation of Wednesday's session when the NCA's Consensus Committee failed to reach compromises on contentious points in articles 103, 107, and 108.
Article 103 caused an uproar at the NCA when an amendment giving the government the authority to make nominations in high judicial positions after consulting the Ministry of Justice was approved. The Democratic Bloc opposition party and the judges' union slammed the article, which they described as a threat to the independence of the judiciary.
But, following a compromise reached after negotiations at the NCA Consensus Committee, the article was rephrased to task the president with nominating judges with the approval of the Supreme Judicial Council.
On the other hand, senior judges shall be nominated by virtue of a presidential order after consultation with the Prime Minister, based on the sole opinion of the Supreme Judicial Council, the same article states.
Article 107 on military courts was also amended to include a new clause assigning to these courts the task of dealing with crimes committed by members of the military. A previous version of the article only gave these courts the mission of investigating military crimes.
Article 108, which previously stated that judgments shall be issued and executed in the name of the people, was also reworded and the term executed was removed.
Failing to execute or impeding the execution of a sentence without legal grounds is prohibited, the same article reads.
The NCA also voted in favor of adding a new article on the legal profession on Friday.
The legal profession is a free and independent profession that contributes to the establishment of justice and the defense of rights and liberties. Lawyers enjoy the legal guarantees that protect them and enable them to fulfil their functions, the newly-added article states.
The draft constitution also establishes a Constitutional Court tasked with overseeing the constitutionality of draft laws, proposed constitutional amendments, and treaties before their ratification. The independent body is made up of twelve members appointed by the president, the parliament, and the Supreme Judicial Council.
Under the rule of former president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia had a Constitutional Council tasked with reviewing the constitutionality of laws submitted by the president. However, the body was powerless and lacked independence. For instance, the president was responsible for appointing all of its nine members.