“We are not only asking for the revision of our salary scale, but also for the strict application of the law. The media focus their spotlight on cases related to freedoms and do not talk enough about other cases. The day after the decision, announced this Sunday, October 23, to submit the draft law on the status of the judiciary for second reading in the Council of Ministers, a young magistrate is worried. “The Head of State promised us to enshrine the independence of justice. For us, the new generation, it is a fundamental requirement”, he continues, hoping that the new status announced “consecrates the strengthening of guarantees for the free exercise of the profession”.
Algeria: the judiciary in all its states
Discussions around these status changes have been going on for months, with their share of controversy. At the end of February 2022, Issaad Mabrouk, who then headed the National Union of Magistrates (SNM), had already protested against a text which, in his view, did not sufficiently take into account the proposals made during the work of the joint commissions by the magistrates in the aim of ensuring the independence of the judiciary.
Oudache Laïdi succeeds Issaad Mabrouk
On September 19, Issaad Mabrouk finally resigned from his post, without mentioning the reasons for his decision. Since October 22, it is Oudache Laïdi who has taken the lead of the SNM. This native of El-Harrouch, in the wilaya of Skikda, president of the administrative court of El-Tarf and member of the permanent office of the Superior Council of the Judiciary (CSM), was vice-president of the union since May 2019. He has He was also an advisor to the administrative court of Guelma between 2016 and 2019. He therefore has a long experience in structures directly linked to the career management of magistrates and their socio-professional demands. It is up to him now to coordinate the reaction of magistrates to the content of the new statute which will govern the profession.
Algeria: the arm wrestling hardens between the magistrates and the Minister of Justice
So far, Oudache Laïdi has however refrained from commenting on the decision of the Council of Ministers to deepen the study of the said bill. A dismissal decision which seems linked to the measures listed on October 23 by the Head of State himself. Abdelmadjid Tebboune thus ordered that the new statute provide for the improvement of the condition of magistrates through training cycles. But also the revision of the salary scale and the provision of company accommodation in order, he says, “to protect them from any external temptation”. The president also demanded that the drafters of the law favor the use of specialized courts “in order to protect the citizen and preserve the interests of the State”.
Strengthening of the CSM
Other changes: the text proposes to entrust the CSM with the exclusive supervision of appointments and transfers, and evokes the guarantees granted to judges who would be brought before a disciplinary board, including the right to defence, recourse and appeal before the Council of State. More broadly, the text provides that the judge will be able to seize the CSM each time he considers that there is an attack on his independence.
Coronavirus: Algerian justice in slow motion
An important subject because, for three ans, Algerian magistrates are under fire for their post-Hirak management. The prison sentences imposed on activists, political activists and journalists raise questions. On condition of anonymity, many judges claim to suffer from these criticisms and also claim their right to freedom of speech, in the same way as any citizen. “Where is the harm, as long as a magistrate does not disclose a professional secret? “Asks a judge in office in the South who points to a generational conflict within the body of the judiciary itself:” The elders do not have the same perception of the obligation of reserve and freedom of ‘expression. »
New list of serious faults
At the same time, the draft organic law also introduces a new list of serious misconduct likely to lead to dismissal. Among these faults, the one that provokes the most negative reactions within the corporation is “participation in an action likely to stop or hinder judicial activity”. Some magistrates fear that such a provision would, in effect, call into question the right of their union to call for protest actions, such as rallies or work stoppages.
Algeria: is the Minister of Justice Belkacem Zeghmati in the hot seat?
The following are also constitutive of misconduct which may lead to disciplinary sanctions: membership of a political party or the exercise of a political activity, false declaration of assets, non-declaration of assets after formal notice, violation of the obligation of reserve and secrecy of deliberations.
Last concern expressed by the magistrates: the project could set the retirement age at 60 for men and 55 for women. This is all the more problematic, they explain, because of their long training, they start their career late. The text of the law nevertheless specifies that the CSM may, on the proposal of the Minister of Justice and after the consent of the magistrate or at his request, extend the period of activity until the age of 70 for the magistrates of the Supreme Court. and the Council of State, and up to age 65 for others categories.