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Tunisia's high-stakes legal battle: What's behind the international arrest warrants for exiled figures?

Tunisia's high-stakes legal battle: What's behind the international arrest warrants for exiled figures?

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Politics The Truth

Friday 22 September 202311:28 am
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

معارك إنتربول "الخاسرة"... لماذا أصدر قضاء تونس مذكرات توقيف دولية بحق سياسيين في الخارج؟


Tunisians are closely following the fate of twelve Tunisian individuals currently subject to international arrest warrants due to serious charges, including offenses that carry the death penalty. This development has sparked significant concerns about whether these complex cases will receive the necessary international attention, considering Tunisia's past experiences, where authorities in other countries have refused to extradite political figures accused of conspiring against the state.

A formidable challenge

The investigation into the alleged conspiracy against state security has led to the issuance of international arrest warrants for twelve prominent figures, some of whom are former high-ranking officials, currently residing outside Tunisia.

The decision by the investigating judge at the Counter-Terrorism Judicial pole has stirred various opinions. Some see it as a commitment to President Kais Saied's call for the judiciary to actively participate in the restoration of judicial authority. Conversely, others view it as a potential weapon against political opponents and the opposition, especially given the history of previous international arrest warrants, which included former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his family, as well as former President Moncef Marzouki, without any international compliance.

The decision by the investigating judge has raised a slew of questions regarding the timing of his directives, especially given that the individuals in question had already left Tunisian territory. Has Tunisia ever received international responses in such cases and successfully extradited political figures previously subjected to international arrest warrants? Furthermore, has the Tunisian judiciary lost credibility in the eyes of foreign authorities, which have previously shown no cooperation in such matters? Are these arrest warrants genuinely being used within the framework of the anti-corruption campaign initiated by the Tunisian president, or are there concealed political motives at play?

As the investigations into the conspiracy against state security widen, the Tunisian judiciary has issued international arrest (detention) warrants for 12 prominent figures, including former high-ranking officials.

These questions undoubtedly present a formidable challenge for the Tunisian judiciary, particularly if they fail to apprehend the wanted individuals this time around. Among those sought are former Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, former Presidential Chief of Staff Nadia Akacha, former Minister and Ennahda Movement leader Lotfi Zitoun, as well as others like Maher Zaid, Moaz Al-Khreiji, Kamal Al-Qazzani, Mustafa Khedher, Abdelkader Farhat, Adel Al-daadaa, Shahrazad Akacha, Ali Al-Hilyawi, and Rafik Yahya.

The sequence of events in Tunisia leads us back to President Kais Saied's speech in April, in which he emphasized that "Tunisia is currently engaged in a national liberation struggle against those seeking to undermine the state and its institutions." At that time, he urged the judiciary to fulfill its role in this pivotal phase for Tunisia, aligning itself with the right side of history.

According to political analyst Mohamed Dweeb, in a conversation with Raseef22, what is happening today signifies the judiciary's initial steps towards recovery from the allegations it faced and its liberation from political affiliations. He contends that Tunisians have the right to closely monitor the progress of these cases, which will inevitably lead to the unveiling of other significant matters.

However, President of the Tunisian Judges Association, Anas Al-Hamadi, does not share this perspective. He expressed his discontent with these decisions, which coincided with the annual judicial shake-up, marked by leadership changes and shifts in responsibilities. He views them as rewards for those aligned with the ruling authority, seeking further control and the consolidation of its influence in judicial matters.

How will Interpol respond?

Lawyer Mukhtar Al-Jamaa clarified the process of handling international arrest warrants, emphasizing that they serve as the foundation for execution. Each country must confirm the presence of any of the accused within its borders, and according to international treaties, is bound to apprehend the accused and deliver them to Tunisian authorities.

He further noted that these recent arrest warrants may amount to little more than diversionary tactics to redirect public attention away from larger issues, and their value might not extend beyond the ink that was used to inscribe them because the reality is substantially different. Their enforcement hinges on the foreign authorities' trust in the Tunisian judiciary's capacity to carry out these decisions. Historically, international judicial security agencies have not interacted seriously with the Tunisian legal system.

"These recent arrest warrants may amount to little more than diversionary tactics to redirect public attention away from larger issues, and their value might not extend beyond the ink that was used to inscribe them because the reality is substantially different"

For his part, Ayyashi Al-Hamami, a member of the defense team for the accused in the state security case and president of the National Association for the Defense of Democratic Freedoms, dismissed the likelihood of Interpol responding to the arrest warrants. He asserted that the issuance of these warrants is not an automatic, arbitrary, or even administrative process because Interpol relies on Tunisia's specific and precise data concerning the pending case. It also considers the gravity and transparency of the Tunisian judiciary in handling such serious charges, which, in reality, may not apply.

He added that "Tunisian President Saied, instead of investing in reducing the social unrest due to the rising cost of living and the loss of essential commodities, has taken a different course. He has attempted to intimidate the judiciary, assert control over the Supreme Judicial Council, interfere in recent judicial actions, and disregard court rulings by dismissing 57 judges who had been acquitted of various charges. This is seen as an exploitation of the judiciary to pursue his retaliatory policies against his political opponents and anyone who could pose a real threat to his rule, systematically eliminating all voices of dissent, even those who were once close to him and actively contributed to undermining Tunisian democracy."

A political liquidation through legal weapons?

Regarding the implications of these arrest warrants issued by judicial order, Tunisian politician and leader in the Democratic Current Party, Hisham Al-Ajbouri, insists that "the judicial elite lost its authority when President Saied accused political detainees of terrorism and criminality, threatening judges that anyone who dares to justify their positions is complicit with them."

He continued, "All current trials, regardless of their content, are undeniably political. Who would believe that figures like Ghazi Al-Shawashi, Hayem Al-Turki, Shaima Issa, Radha Belhaj, Jouhar Mubarak, and others are terrorists? What's happening is nothing more than dilution of anti-terrorism laws and attempts to arbitrarily throw charges at a group of political activists whose sole concern is public affairs and their opposition to the 'July 25th' coup and the futile path of the state president."

"The judicial elite lost its authority when President Saied accused political detainees of terrorism and criminality, threatening judges that anyone who dares to justify their positions is complicit with them"

The same speaker pointed out to Raseef22 that despite the powers he granted himself, President Saied has failed to make improvements and change the reality of Tunisians for the better. Instead, he chose to silence and intimidate every dissenting voice while clinging to the need to ensure a decent life for Tunisians.

Thus, the speaker added, "Through the campaign of arrests and efforts to manipulate the judiciary behind the scenes of politics, Saied seeks to occupy public opinion with so-called state security conspiracy cases at a time when this group is experiencing a severe shortage of basic commodities, requiring an examination of the reasons for their unavailability."


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