High-ranking delegation representing Jordanian law enforcement agencies returns to the IRZ in Bonn for more expert discussions

During their stay in Germany, a high-ranking delegation representing Jordanian law enforcement agencies once again visited the IRZ in Bonn on 24 November 2016. The study visit took place as part of the European Commission's TAIEX support programme.

Under the leadership of General Walid Al Battah, Head of the Judicial Police Force at the Police Headquarters in Jordan, accompanied by two directors of Jordanian penal institutions, the delegation learned about "Analysing security risks in penal institutions" during their visit to Germany from 22 to 25 November 2016.

Back in March this year, as part of the European Commission's TAIEX support programme, a high-ranking delegation of representatives from Jordanian law enforcement authorities had already visited the Bremen Senate for justice and the constitution and prisons in Bremen and Lower Saxony, in order to get an insight into the practical application of dynamic security concepts in the German prison system. Since this initial visit led to valuable insights gained on both sides, the current study visit was organised as a follow-up.

The Jordanian guests took part in expert discussions with the Bremen Senate for justice and the constitution, the Verein Bremische Straffälligenbetreuung (an association offering support to offenders in Bremen), the IRZ in Bonn and at penal institutions in Bremen and Bremerhaven. Once again, the leadership and organisation of the study trip was assured by Torben Adams, the prison director of a young offenders' institute in Bremen and a project leader at the Bremen Senate for justice and the constitution. Between 2012 and 2014, Torben Adams was a team leader involved in the successful implementation of an EU prison reform project led by the IRZ in Jordan and he is an acknowledged expert in Jordanian penal institutions.

The main focus of the discussions between the Jordanian guests and the IRZ in Bonn was on the latest developments and problems involved in solving security issues in Jordanian penal institutions. The main priority is dealing with overcrowding in Jordanian detention facilities. The prison population has increased enormously over the past four years (from around 7,000 to some 13,000). The number of prisoners addicted to drugs and the number of detained criminals fleeing from Syria have also increased considerably. One way of helping to reduce the number of detainees could be to review the current system used in Jordan to classify offenders. During the current study visit, the Jordanian delegation also expressly asked for support and an exchange of expertise in this field.

Another step would be to introduce a relevant probation service, which until now has not existed in Jordan. In this respect, the relatively high number of radical religious extremists presents an additional major challenge for the Jordanian penal system. German penal institutions could also benefit from the extensive experience already gained in this area in Jordan as part of a reciprocal exchange of valuable knowledge (e.g. in dealing with “IS returnees” from Syria).

Seminar on the relationship between judicial independence and judicial supervision with the Jordanian Judicial Academy in Amman

From 23 to 24 May 2016 the IRZ organised an expert seminar on the topic “The relationship between judicial independence and judicial supervision. Practical experience in Germany” in cooperation with the Jordanian Judicial Academy in Amman. The event was funded by the Federal Foreign Office within its project funding for the transformation partnerships Middle East and Maghreb.

About 30 judges of the ordinary jurisdiction from different courts in the districts of Amman, Salt, Zarqua and Rusaifah as well as of the special jurisdiction (customs courts, military courts, police courts) participated in the seminar. The IRZ was represented by the German experts Dr. Stefan von der Beck, Presiding Judge at the Higher Regional Court of Oldenburg, and Dr. Thomas Veen, President of the Local Court of Osnabrück. They engaged in an intensive dialogue with their Jordanian colleagues during the two-day event.

After an introduction into the legal basics of the topic both from the German and the Jordanian side, the seminar was mainly dedicated to practical work on case studies. Taking these case studies as an example, the two poles of judicial independence and judicial supervision were examined in their many different facets.

Moreover, the participants worked on solutions for the cases in lively and intense discussions. In this context, it was remarkable that both sides agreed almost completely on the assessment of the cases. Opinions diverged only with regard to the question whether judges should be allowed to be members of a political party. In contrast to the German professional law for judges, this is not allowed according to the Jordanian Code of Conduct for Judges from 2014.

Mostly, however, it became obvious during the seminar how much the judiciary of both countries has in common. This led to a very productive and satisfactory exchange among the colleagues during the two-day event. Not least, one of the things in common was that the female judges from Jordan raised many crucial aspects and gave major impetus to the discussions.

Expert talks with the Jordanian Court of Cassation in Amman

On 2 and 3 May 2016, expert discussions were held with the Jordanian Court of Cassation in Amman on the role of research staff in the preparation of cases. This exchange of experiences was led by two researchers at the German Federal Court of Justice, who were appointed as experts by the IRZ. It was based on cooperation talks with the Court of Cassation in Amman in December 2015 and it was the first joint event to be held between the IRZ and the Jordanian Court of Cassation as part of project work in Jordan. On the Jordanian side, judges from the Jordanian Court of Cassation and the department of research staff at the Court of Cassation (known as the Technical Office) took part in the expert talks. As well as Director Mohammad Shamout and his four colleagues, other employees (Research Assistants and Legal Assistants) were also present. The Presidents of the three Courts of Appeal in Jordan, located in Amman, Irbid and Ma'an, also took part in the conference.

The intense discussions focussed on differences in the organisation of groundwork carried out by research staff. The Technical Office of the Jordanian Court of Cassation only works on more in-depth substantive legal reviews at the request of the Senate. A detailed expert opinion is provided, which has generally been processed initially by several research staff and is then discussed by the four legal members of the Technical Office and their head, a judge at the Court of Cassation. The research staff at the German Federal Court of Justice, on the other hand, work for the respective rapporteurs directly on the instructions of the Chairman of the Senate. The Jordanian contingent was surprised that, in spite of their allocation to a certain senate, no prior knowledge of the relevant specialist field for that specific senate was required and that they each only carried out their work for the senate for a period of three years.

There was a general consensus about the fact that in both legal systems, the preliminary work carried out by research staff only serves to support the Senates and it has no binding effect whatsoever. Following on from a presentation of gender distribution amongst research staff and judges at the German Federal Court of Justice, the questions from the Jordanian participants also concerned the number of women working in the German legal system.

As well as these questions, which were closely linked with the subject of the conference, the Jordanian participants, particularly the Presidents of the three Courts of Appeal, were also interested in issues concerning access to appeal, to arrangements for legal fees and costs and the right to legal aid.

Due to the high demand for information on the part of the Jordanian participants, their involvement in the discussions was extremely lively. The Director of the Technical Office and Judge at the Court of Cassation, Mohammad Shamout, who chaired the meeting, also expressly encouraged non-legal members of the Technical Office to participate actively in the discussions. All those involved made the most of this opportunity. Staff working at the Technical Office were involved in the discussions to the same extent as the participating judges from the Court of Cassation and the Presidents of the Courts of Appeal. At the end of the meeting, Judge Mohammad Shamout expressed the considerable requirement for further events held jointly with the IRZ.