Senegal – annual report 2020

Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection, Christian Lange, Member of the Bundestag, and State Secretary at the Senegalese Ministry of Justice, Aïssé Tall, during the signing of the joint work programme at the Senegalese Ministry of Justice in February 2020 (photo: BMJV)
Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection, Christian Lange, Member of the Bundestag, and State Secretary at the Senegalese Ministry of Justice, Aïssé Tall, during the signing of the joint work programme at the Senegalese Ministry of Justice in February 2020 (photo: BMJV)

Strategic Framework 

Legal Policy Starting Point 

Senegal pursues an active foreign policy in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union and at the United Nations. It is considered a reliable democracy and an anchor of stability in the West African region. The country’s democratic tradition was again confirmed by the peaceful presidential elections in February 2019, in which President Macky Sall was confirmed in office.

Sall’s government continues to prioritise implementation of a comprehensive programme for Senegal’s economic and social development up to 2035 (“Plan Sénégal Emergent”). Besides expanding the country’s infrastructure, this programme sets out extensive reforms of the judiciary to improve the climate for investments. Senegal continues to face significant challenges, such as energy shortages, food crises, strong population growth and high unemployment, despite many positive developments. This is why the Senegalese government is working to obtain financial support from the international community for the economic development of the country. Reforms are planned in the area of commercial law to improve legal certainty and the investment climate.

Senegal was less affected by the COVID-19 pandemic than other regions of the world. However, it still imposed far-reaching restrictions on public life and border closures. Overall, the country earned international praise for its handling of the pandemic, especially with regard to its education and information policy.

Overall Concept 

Coordinating closely with the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection, IRZ initiated cooperation with the Senegalese judiciary in 2019 as the first partner state in sub-Saharan Africa. So far, the cooperation has mainly prioritised the areas of criminal law and the penitentiary system. The Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection and the Senegalese Ministry of Justice in February 2020 continued to expand on this legal cooperation. In this regard, both parties agree that their work should initially extend to the following areas:

  • continued development and improvement of laws and regulations in the area of criminal law
  • reforms in the penitentiary system
  • basic and further training for judges, public prosecutors and other actors within the judiciary

This is to be achieved through a mutual exchange of experience and the implementation of expert talks, seminars and internships, through training courses and further training for those working in the judiciary – including prison staff – as well as through the exchange of laws and case-law.

IRZ was forced to postpone a large number of its scheduled events due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated restrictions. In addition, events surrounding the pandemic presented significant challenges for the judiciary: issues of e-justice and electronic legal transactions suddenly came to the fore. For this reason, the agreed catalogue of topics was expanded to include digitisation of the judiciary and related issues of access to the judiciary, and an online event was held on this topic.

Focus of Activity in 2020

Criminal and Penitentiary Law 

  • Seminar “Supporting reforms in Senegalese criminal law and combating organised crime” with the Senegalese Ministry of Justice in Dakar

Administration of Justice

  • Online seminar on “Digitisation of the judiciary” in cooperation with the Senegalese Ministry of Justice
  • Support for the technical library at the Senegalese Ministry of Justice

Outlook

Over the coming years, IRZ will continue to expand its cooperation with the Senegalese judiciary based on the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection and the Senegalese Ministry of Justice. The measures that were cancelled this year will be rescheduled for 2021 if possible. Criminal law and the penitentiary system will continue to play a key role in this regard, especially the operationalisation of Senegalese criminal law. In addition, advice will be provided on prison furloughs and the suspension of sentences in order to ease the strain on the overburdened penitentiary system. Cooperation with the Senegalese Judicial Academy will also aim to support the judiciary and thereby strengthen case-law. Furthermore, IRZ will endeavour to support the envisaged and necessary reforms of commercial law in Senegal.

IRZ also plans to expand its work to include other countries in the West African region in 2021. It will engage in a variety of activities to acquire a comparative perspective of the region and, where possible, create synergy effects between the countries.

Senegal - annual report 2019

The Senegalese delegation in the Wustrau conference centre during the visit to the German Judicial Academy
The Senegalese delegation in the Wustrau conference centre during the visit to the German Judicial Academy

Strategic Framework

Legal Policy Starting Point

Senegal is considered a reliable democracy and a paragon of stability in the West African region. This was again confirmed by the peaceful presidential elections in February 2019, from which President Macky Sall emerged as the winner. He was confirmed in office in the first round of elections and started his second term in April. The Sall government is viewed as liberal and reform-oriented. Its priority is to implement a comprehensive programme for Senegal‘s economic and social development until 2035 (“Plan Sénégal Emergent“). Besides expanding the country‘s infrastructure and improving investment conditions, the plan also sets out extensive reforms in the judicial sector.

For instance, reforms to improve legal certainty and the investment climate are to be implemented, particularly in the area of commercial law. The Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure were also revised and updated. Currently, the focus is on the operationalisation of criminal law and the harmonisation of legal texts with international treaties. It also provides for the establishment of a criminal record and for legal aid, which will enable access to the judiciary for a wider group of people.

The Senegalese penitentiary system is also facing immense challenges, because the prisons are heavily overcrowded. Firstly, this is due to an inadequate infrastructure or the lack thereof – there are too few prisons that are often in a dilapidated condition– and secondly to the almost ubiquitous and lengthy imposition of pre-trial detention. In many cases, prison conditions do not meet international standards, either. Given this situation, the Senegalese penitentiary authority has adopted a four-year reform programme for 2018 to 2022, which includes improving prison conditions and implementing international human rights standards. Moreover, resocialisation measures will be bolstered, and the prison staff will receive better basic and further training. Broadly speaking, the problem of implementing reforms is often not an absence of motivation on the part of the relevant stakeholders, rather a lack of human or financial resources.

Overall Concept

In 2018 IRZ expanded its activities to sub-Saharan Africa and specifically to the West African region, coordinating closely with the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection. In the medium term, IRZ also plans to extend its work to other countries in West Africa in order to provide a comparative perspective across the region and to achieve possible synergies between the countries. A pilot project was agreed with Senegal due to the country‘s strategic importance. The Senegalese actors are interested in diversifying their project partners, so they are very open to cooperation with IRZ.

An initial analysis indicated a considerable need for reform in the Senegalese judicial sector. As a first step, IRZ therefore agreed to cooperation in the area of criminal law and to further collaboration to support reforms in the Senegalese penitentiary system. With these activities, IRZ aims to contribute to the expansion of the rule of law and structures underpinned by legal certainty and hence to achieve economic development and stabilisation of domestic and foreign policies within Senegal and the wider region.

In June 2019, an interdisciplinary delegation travelled to Berlin for talks to mark the start of cooperation between IRZ and the Senegalese judiciary. Representatives of the Senegalese Ministry of Justice (Department of Criminal Law and Pardons), the Senegalese penitentiary authority and the Senegalese Judicial Academy took part in an extensive professional programme. The study trip included discussions of criminal law issues as well as visits to prisons and the German Judicial Academy. Discussion of the topics that had begun in Berlin was continued during a seminar in Dakar. Here, the focus was mainly on questions of privileges during imprisonment, alternative penal sanctions and fundamental principles of the German criminal law system.

Focus of Activity in 2019

Criminal Law and Penitentiary Law

  • Multidisciplinary study trip to Berlin of a Senegalese delegation on the topics of criminal law, the penitentiary system and further training for judges
  • Seminar “Criminal law and privileges during imprisonment“ in Dakar
  • Symposium in Berlin on the practice of international legal cooperation in criminal matters, with participants from the Ministries of Justice and the Public Prosecutors‘ Offices of Algeria, Jordan, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia

Outlook

IRZ plans to continue and intensify its engagement in Senegal in 2020. The basis for this is to be a “Memorandum of Understanding“ between the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection and the Ministry of Justice of Senegal, which is to be signed in early 2020. Activities will continue to focus on accompanying the reform processes in the area of criminal law and the penitentiary system. In particular, this involves operationalisation of Senegalese criminal law and harmonisation with international conventions. In addition, the issues of privileges during imprisonment and suspended sentences will be addressed with the aim of easing the strain on the fraught judiciary. In the penitentiary system, the focus is on improving prison conditions and implementing international human rights standards, strengthening resocialisation measures and providing basic and further training to prison staff. The issue of independence of the judiciary will also be addressed by supporting judges, in particular through the provision of training.