Online conference on “Electronic legal transactions in North Africa” with the German Federal Bar Association

Graphics: IRZ
Graphics: IRZ

Because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in particular, the subject of digitalisation is becoming a focus of attention in the justice system, as it is in many areas of our lives and work. It is against this backdrop that IRZ’s project section for Africa organised a series of events this year on the complex subject of the “Digitalisation of the justice system”. One of these events was the regional conference on “Electronic legal transactions in North Africa,” which took place on 9 December 2020. The online event was organised by IRZ in partnership with the Tunisian Ministry of Justice and the German Federal Bar Association (BRAK). Around forty members of the judiciary from Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria took part in the conference, which was the first in a series of events organised by IRZ and BRAK. The event was financed by the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection.

The full-day online conference covered the following subjects:

  • The current status of the digitalisation of the justice system in Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria
  • Electronic legal transactions in the justice system and in particular in the work of lawyers in Germany
  • Data security in electronic legal transactions
  • Digitalisation in the legal profession and in the administration of justice in Germany

The participants discussed their experiences in these areas in the context of current developments in Germany, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. It soon became clear that, despite the different approaches between the countries, similar problems need to be addressed in the digitalisation of the justice system.

The following institutions were represented at the online conference:

  • the bar associations of Tunisia and Algeria
  • the Tunisian chamber of notaries
  • the Ministries of Justice of Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria
  • courts in Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria

All participants in the conference see the digitalisation of the justice system as a great opportunity and they agreed that the process should be accelerated. The COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of almost the entire judicial system in North African countries have demonstrated the urgency of introducing electronic legal transactions. Compared with other areas, electronic legal transactions are still underdeveloped in North Africa: Claims are still submitted in paper form, there is almost no electronic communication between those working in the justice system, and administrators have not received the relevant training.

The judiciary and lawyers therefore work much more slowly than is the case in Germany, for example. With legal transactions being processed in paper form, the closure of courts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic also had the major disadvantage of making it completely impossible for citizens to access the law, rather than just more difficult. This situation has shaken confidence in the rule of law and made the justice system dependent on physical factors. Digital procedures are therefore essential for a modern justice system.

Lively discussions took place at the conference, underlining the remarkably high level of interest shown by the participants in this complex and topical subject. IRZ plans to continue and intensify its partnership with North African partner countries in the area of e-Justice. The objective is to create a platform for discussing current developments, challenges and successes in the relevant countries and thereby get all those working in the justice system involved.