- Published: July 8, 2019
Legal Policy Starting Point
As opposed to other Arabic countries in the region, the political situation in Algeria had been stable for a long time. Abdelaziz Bouteflika had been President of the country since 1999. In April 2019, he was forced to resign following mass protests by the Algerian people. This led to the start of a transformation process whose outcome remains to be seen.
Algeria remained largely untouched by the revolution in neighbouring Tunisia. The continuing collective memory of the civil war from 1991 to 2002 is one of the reasons why the protests did not spread. Certain government concessions also contributed. For instance, the President declared an end to the state of emergency that had remained in place for 19 years and also announced a constitutional reform. In consequence, an amendment of the constitution entered into force in March 2016. Nevertheless, it is still necessary to develop suitable prospects for the future, as well as to ensure the involvement of civil society in this process.
The Algerian legal system is essentially based on the French model, in which the actions of the executive branch are only reviewed in exceptional cases. Administrative jurisdiction is well established, but legal recourse is rarely sought. As early as 2000, President Bouteflika set up a commission for the reform of the judiciary, which led to considerable personnel changes in the judicial system. Further structural improvements are now necessary in order to contribute to consolidating the independence of the courts as well as of the judges and the harmonisation of case law. This will also provide a foundation for strengthening the citizens’ confidence in the judiciary.
In recent years, some areas of criminal and penitentiary law have been reformed. A need for counselling remains nonetheless in order to achieve progress in the reform process, especially with the aim of human-rights compliant prison conditions, the resocialisation and support for inmates, as well as the strengthening of cooperation with non-governmental organisations. There are already corresponding initiatives with the aim to develop educational and training programmes for prisoners and to provide psychological and social care to them.
These mentioned issues are of considerable interest to Germany as well. A visit to Algeria by the German Chancellor in September 2018 demonstrated the significance attributed to the cooperation with Algeria.
Cooperation between the IRZ and its Algerian partners is of considerable benefit to both sides and should, in the long term, also facilitate and expedite cooperation between German and Algerian authorities.
The IRZ is currently implementing a bilateral project focusing on the penitentiary system and resocialisation, which is supported by the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection and funded by the Federal Foreign Office. Besides cooperation with the Algerian Ministry of Justice and the country‘s law enforcement authorities, as well as with penitentiary system staff, the project seeks to foster an increased involvement of external (governmental and non-governmental) actors. In this way, the law enforcement authorities can receive additional valuable support from other governmental and official stakeholders such as the Ministry of Education, Labour and Health, but also from organisations within civil society. This is of vital importance, especially in the area of basic and further training opportunities aimed at the successful resocialisation of inmates.
Current cooperation with government agencies and organisations within civil society in Algeria should be expanded and strengthened, depending on the political situation and development.
Foci of Activity in 2018
Criminal Law and Penitentiary Law
- Meeting in Algiers of the reform commission established within the project, with the objective of appointing the four working groups scheduled for the project, as well as their thematic priorities and activities
- Two workshops in Algier by the working groups “Treatment of inmates in accordance with human rights law during the admission process“ and “Individual rehabilitation plan and classification of prisoners“ to continue preparing the handbooks, as well as recommendations for the Algerian penitentiary system
- Study trip to Düsseldorf by a delegation on the issue of prison conditions in accordance with human rights law and the individual rehabilitation plan, as well as on their role within resocialisation, based on the German model
- Two workshops by the working groups “Cooperating with external stakeholders“ and “ Training for prison staff“ to prepare a guideline for cooperating with external stakeholders, as well as recommendations to modernise the training curricula within the Algerian penitentiary system
In addition to deepening the already established cooperation with the Ministry of Justice and the penitentiary authorities, IRZ activities aim at expanding cooperation with organisations within civil society on issues that are relevant to human rights. In 2019, the ongoing project will include numerous other activities (meetings of the reform commission, meetings of the working groups to complete the guidelines, a study trip to Germany) and will then conclude with a conference. The continued need for counselling in Algeria should be accommodated in the future as well, in line with a sustainable commitment in the areas of criminal and penitentiary law, as well as in the fields of civil law and access to justice.