Algeria – annual report 2020

Strategic Framework 

Legal Policy Starting Point 

Facing massive popular protests known as the Hirak movement, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika felt compelled to resign in April 2019 after 20 years in power. Abdelmadjid Tebboune, a former member of Bouteflika’s ruling party, emerged victorious from the presidential elections eight months later. Demonstrations demanding reforms of the entire political system continued until the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In February 2020, the government published an action plan detailing fundamental reforms, for instance of the judicial system. Its priorities include the creation of equal access to the judiciary for the entire population. Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Algerian government imposed a state of emergency in March 2020 with a curfew and a ban on assemblies. The Hirak movement protests then largely subsided.

The constitutional amendment, which was the subject of a referendum in Algeria in early November 2020, is one of the reforms that President Tebboune had already announced after his election. In the run-up to the vote, the Hirak protest movement called for a boycott that was reflected in the low turnout. A majority of voters said yes to the constitutional amendment, which, among other things, limits the term of office of the president or future presidents and members of parliament to two terms. The new constitution should also guarantee further economic and social rights. President Tebboune sees the reforms as a concession to the demands of the protest movement. Critics claim that they do not go far enough.

Overall Concept 

Cooperation between IRZ and its Algerian partners provides important added value for both sides and is intended to facilitate and accelerate the cooperation between German and Algerian institutions in the long term. However, Algeria was severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in the reporting year, leading to curfews lasting months. The availability of digital media in the country is also poor, which is why barely any events could be held despite a great willingness to cooperate.

Until now, cooperation has mainly prioritised areas of criminal law, the penitentiary system and the administration of justice. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has also brought the issue of digitisation to the forefront in Algeria, so IRZ facilitated an event with an exchange of experience on the topics of e-justice and electronic legal transactions.

Focus of Activity in 2020 

Administration of Justice

  • Participation by the Bar Association of Algeria in the online regional conference “Electronic legal transactions – digitisation of the judiciary” in cooperation with the German Federal Bar
  • Support for the technical library at the Algerian Ministry of Justice

Outlook 

Cooperation with Algeria will be intensified in the hope that the circumstances described above improve in 2021. It will be adapted flexibly to current challenges, also using electronic technology if possible. There are plans to hold the events in 2021 that were cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic. These include measures to support reforms in criminal procedure law with the aim of shortening prison sentences and strengthening the imposition of alternative sentences. Moreover, cooperation is planned in criminal matters (requests for international mutual legal assistance, investigative and enforcement assistance) on the subject of asset recovery and in the area of the administration of justice. In addition, further cooperation in civil and commercial law is planned, as well as on the topics of penitentiary system and rehabilitation. The aim is to secure in the long term the results from the project “Penitentiary reform in Algeria”, which was completed in 2019 with funding from the Federal Foreign Office.

Algeria - annual report 2019

Final conference of the penitentiary reform project. Mokhtar Felioune, General Director of the Algerian penitentiary authority at the speaker’s desk; Anne Katharina Zimmermann, Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection; Mohamed Zougar, Algerian Ministry of Justice; Andreas Fiedler, German Embassy in Algiers; Dr Frauke Bachler, IRZ (from left to right)
Final conference of the penitentiary reform project. Mokhtar Felioune, General Director of the Algerian penitentiary authority at the speaker’s desk; Anne Katharina Zimmermann, Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection; Mohamed Zougar, Algerian Ministry of Justice; Andreas Fiedler, German Embassy in Algiers; Dr Frauke Bachler, IRZ (from left to right)

Strategic Framework

Legal Policy Starting Point

Unlike other Arab countries in the region, conditions in Algeria have long been viewed as stable. But following massive protests by the population, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was forced to resign in April 2019 after 20 years in power. This has initiated a transformation process, although how it ultimately plays out remains to be seen. Presidential elections were held in December 2019, from which Abdelmadjid Tebboune emerged as the winner.

Various reform processes have already been initiated within the judicial field in recent years, especially in sub-areas of criminal and penitentiary law. Nonetheless, there is still substantial need for counselling on how to proceed with the reforms and their implementation.

The Algerian legal system is essentially based on the French model.

The courts usually do not exercise control over the executive branch. Although administrative court jurisdiction is well established, legal process is rarely sought. The Commission for the Reform of the Judiciary set up by the former president in 2000 did not achieve any structural improvements. The independence of the judiciary enshrined in the Constitution is not fully guaranteed in practice. Especially in criminal proceedings with political relevance the executive branch exerts direct influence on the courts. Moreover, existing laws are not uniformly applied in many cases, resulting in low levels of public confidence in the judiciary.

There is also a continuing need for reform in the area of the penitentiary system because, among other things, the Algerian penal system does not always guarantee prison conditions in accordance with human rights standards. Since pre-trial detention in particular is imposed with disproportionate frequency, there are problems due to the overcrowding of detention rooms and prisons in general.

Overall Concept

Until the end of 2019, IRZ carried out a very successful project in the field of the penitentiary system and resocialisation, the first phase of which was funded by the Federal Foreign Office. This cooperation with the Algerian Ministry of Justice and the country‘s penitentiary authority produced a two-part handbook on “Prison conditions in accordance with human rights standards“ and “Individual rehabilitation plan/classification of inmates“, which was then made available to staff within the penitentiary service. In addition, IRZ joined with its Algerian partners to prepare important guidelines for cooperation with external actors and recommendations for training of prison staff.

Focus of Activity in 2019

Administration of Justice

  • Conference “Appeal on points of law of courts of highest instance“ in cooperation with the German Federal Bar, the Algerian Bar and the Algerian Supreme Court in Algiers

Criminal Law and Penitentiary Law

  • Meeting in Algiers of the Reform Commission set up as part of the project, with the aim of adapting the topical priorities and activities of the four working groups envisaged in the project and discussing the next steps in the work on the handbook, guidelines and recommendations
  • Two workshops in Algiers by the working groups “Treatment of inmates in accordance with human rights standards during the admission process“ and “Individual rehabilitation plan and classification“ to continue preparing the handbooks, as well as to draft recommendations for the Algerian penitentiary system
  • Study trip by a delegation to North Rhine-Westphalia on “Cooperation with external actors“ and “Training of prison staff“
  • Two workshops by the working groups “Cooperating with external actors“ and “Training for prison staff“ to prepare a guideline for cooperating with external stakeholders, as well as recommendations to modernise the basic training curricula within the Algerian penitentiary system
  • Final conference in Algiers to present the results of the four working groups
  • Symposium in Berlin on the practice of international legal assistance in criminal matters, with participants from the Ministries of Justice and the Public Prosecutors‘ Offices of Algeria, Jordan, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia

Outlook

In addition to intensifying the already established cooperation with the Ministry of Justice and the penitentiary authority as part of a comprehensive sustainability phase for the implementation of the manuals financed by a grant from the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection, IRZ 2020 also intends to support the modernisation of procedural law, in particular the Conseil d‘Etat.


Given the current political situation in the country, this is an appropriate starting point for expanding cooperation with Algeria and assisting in coming to terms with the Bouteflika regime. Among other things, IRZ intends to support the establishment of a further training system for the judiciary of the Conseil d‘Etat and develop recommendations for reducing the number of court cases.

There are also plans to strengthen interministerial cooperation in criminal matters with regard to international requests for mutual legal assistance, investigation and enforcement assistance. IRZ will also accompany the reforms in criminal procedure law in 2020. The ultimate aim is to achieve a reduction in the length of prison sentences and to increase the use of alternative sanctions.

Algeria - annual report 2018

Visit to the penitentiary for resocialisation in Blida during the meeting of the working group for the reform of the Algerian penitentiary system
Visit to the penitentiary for resocialisation in Blida during the meeting of the working group for the reform of the Algerian penitentiary system

Strategic Framework

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.

Overall Concept

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

Outlook

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.