Graphics: IRZ
Graphics: IRZ

On 20 May 2020, the IRZ, together with the Tunisian Centre d’Études Juridiques et Judiciaires (CEJJ), provided the first exchange of experiences on the current legal and political situation with regards to the Coronavirus pandemic. The online event took place as part of the current working programme between the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection and the Tunisian Ministry of Justice. The discussions focussed on the restriction of basic and constitutional rights aimed at limiting the spread of Covid-19, and on the proportionality of these restrictions. The participants also discussed the effects of these measures on everyday life and on the legal system.

The following experts took part in the online event:

  • Prof. Dr. Michaela Wittinger, a professor in Constitutional, State, European and International Law at the Federal University of Applied Administrative Sciences in Mannheim
  • Stefan Schlotter, Public Prosecutor, Public Prosecutor's Office Frankfurt am Main
  • Samar Jaiidi, a researcher at the CEJJ and judge on constitutional issues
  • Iyadh Chaouachi, a judge and Group Leader in Administrative Law at the CEJJ
  • Yassine Ammar, a judge and researcher on criminal cases at the CEJJ

Since Tunisia is a young democracy, with a constitution adopted as recently as 2014 and as yet no operational constitutional court, the laws and regulations approved by decree by the executive authorities to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic weigh particularly heavily. They may threaten the still fragile parliamentary democracy. Since there is not yet an active Constitutional Court, which can declare laws or government actions as unconstitutional, it is particularly important to handle restrictions appropriately and proportionately in this legal and political vacuum.

Discussions between experts from different legal cultures and backgrounds encourage a critical and committed approach to maintaining and developing the rule of law. With this in mind, the exchange of ideas dealt with the principle of proportionality and the legal measures imposed by states during the Coronavirus pandemic. This included the restriction of citizens’ freedom and the effects of the measures on the judicial system.

The participants looked at the course of the pandemic in Tunisia and Germany and the related restrictions and regulations imposed. They discussed the effects of infringements on the penal policy. In doing so, they established a trend towards the criminalisation of citizens and a shift from regulatory law towards criminal law. They also talked about the digitalisation of the judicial system, which is still insufficient in both countries. There was a general consensus amongst the participants that this has a negative effect on fast access to the law and legal remedy. They called for the rapid expansion of digital infrastructure to allow the further development of electronic legal transactions.

One objective of the IRZ is to offer its Tunisian partners advice, even at short notice, resulting from current issues concerning the rule of law, as was the case for this online exchange of experiences. IRZ will also continue to provide Tunisia with rule-of-law support that has been in place since 2011.