Online seminar on “Apostille, new Technologies and Notary Services”

Graphics: IRZ
Graphics: IRZ

On 10 June 2020, IRZ organised a online seminar on “Apostille, new Technologies and Notary Services”. The online event was aimed at thirty or so notaries from all over Tunisia. The experts participating in the online seminar from Tunisia and Germany were:

  • Kais Kabada, President of the Tunisian Chamber of Notaries,
  • Richard Bock, Justizrat and former Vice-President of the German Federal Chamber of Notaries,
  • Dr. Torsten Jäger, notary,
  • Houcine Lagrem, Secretary of the Tunisian Chamber of Notaries,
  • Dr. Peter Stelmaszczyk, Managing Director of the German Federal Chamber of Notaries in Brussels, and
  • Sourour Abidi, notary.

The initiative for the online seminar came from the Tunisian Chamber of Notaries, due to the restrictions and hurdles resulting from the current legal and political situation during the coronavirus pandemic. The event focussed on the challenges facing notarial services because of the restrictions, curfews, closures and distancing measures in place. The aim was to find solutions to these challenges. The participants also discussed the effects of the coronavirus pandemic with a view to economic and private law issues.

Since notarial certification, the verification of the authenticity of documents, seals, signatures, identities and stamps, is usually almost exclusively carried out in person and on presentation of original documents, the coronavirus pandemic is hitting notarial transactions particularly hard. Many notary’s offices have been affected by the restrictions in the wake of the crisis and have remained closed, which means that citizens have to a large extent been unable to gain access to the law and legal transactions.

During the online seminar, individual problems concerning notary services and legal transactions in Tunisia and Germany were discussed, as well as potential solutions such as the e-Apostille system. At present, both countries have a low level of digitalised legal transactions. Within this context, the participants discussed the e-Apostille system, as well as the dangers, advantages and disadvantages of digital legal transactions. They talked about how the safety, confidentiality and authenticity of persons, documents and contents can be protected, without any obvious inspection being carried out. They also discussed the risk of authenticating and legalising documents, which could be counterfeits. The experts put forward proposals for the conditions under which the digital verification of documents could be possible. In this context, the Belgian model was presented: A third-party online platform provides all verified documents with an encrypted code to prevent any manipulations.

There are also efforts at EU level to set criteria and standards for harmonising legalisation procedures, with a regulation due to come into force in 2022. The envisaged procedures will require an electronic identity document with PIN and video identification with PIN. Since not all EU countries allow the collection of biometric data, it will be difficult for members to agree on a standardised procedure to cover the entire EU. The participating Tunisian and German notaries did, however, agree that the simplification and harmonisation of legal transactions must also be reflected digitally.

Whilst Tunisia has joined the Hague Apostille Convention, the Convention does not yet apply with relation to Germany. There is therefore not yet any universally valid and recognised digital process to qualify and legalise documents, seals, signatures and stamps. The participants also agreed that the certification process should not be allowed to proceed exclusively via an app and algorithms, without any human intervention.

Background information

With the help of institutional funding, IRZ has been organising bilateral projects on legal reform with its Tunisian partners since 2011. These are currently established between the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection and the Tunisian Ministry of Justice as part of the working programme for 2019 - 2020. Within the framework of this programme, the IRZ has a partnership with the Tunisian Ministry of Justice and therefore also with the Tunisian Chamber of Notaries, which itself has good relations with the German Federal Chamber of Notaries. The continuation of these relations is fundamental for the improvement of legal transactions between Tunisia and Germany.

Legal mechanisms for tackling the Coronavirus – state actions during the crisis and the principle of proportionality

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.

Exchange of Experiences in Tunis on combating Corruption in Sport

The participants with the INLUCC President, Shawki Al-Tabib (centre), and the German expert Dr. Helmut Brocke (on his left) (photo: Wassim Bougdar,  INLUCC)
The participants with the INLUCC President, Shawki Al-Tabib (centre), and the German expert Dr. Helmut Brocke (on his left) (photo: Wassim Bougdar, INLUCC)

On 10 and 11 March 2020, IRZ organised an exchange of experiences on “Combating Corruption in Sport – Applying the Law in Sport” in partnership with the Tunisian National Anti-Corruption Authority (INLUCC = Institution Nationale de Lutte Contre la Corruption). Whilst Tunisia has already ratified all the relevant international and regional conventions on preventing and combating corruption, the subject continues to be topical. Corruption is a relevant topic in politics, public administration, justice and civil society, such as sports associations. Prior to this event, it was reported in Tunisia that sports clubs are increasingly being financed by companies and that the bribery and corruption of referees is rising. There are also problems with invitations to tender and with elections within sports associations. It was reported that there has recently been an increase in tax fraud and money laundering in the sports industry. The Tunisian justice system does not include any form of arbitration to cover sports issues.
This led to the establishment of the following main topics of conversation for the exchange of experiences:

  • good governance in sports associations in Germany and Tunisia
  • codes of conduct and the management of sports associations
  • mechanisms for combating and preventing corruption in Germany and Tunisia
  • arbitration and alternative dispute resolution

Sport is also the largest civilian movement in Tunisia and, following the 2010 revolution, sports associations now need to establish their new roles in the division from politics. At the same time, sport has high expectations of the government and state administration. Over the course of the two-day event, all the important representatives from the Ministry of Sport, state controlling bodies and sports associations were represented and positioned themselves with speeches and interventions. On the Tunisian side, the event was organised by

  • Shawki Al-Tabib, President of the National Anti-Corruption Authority,
  • Ahmed Galoul, Minister for Youth and Sport, and
  • Mehry Boussaine, President of the National Olympic Commission in Tunisia.

Representing IRZ at the event was Dr. Helmut Brocke, a lawyer and former Senior District Manager.

The topic of "Combating Corruption in Sport” was met with a great deal of interest from sports associations, as well as from the worlds of politics, justice, administration and, not least, the media. With participants from a wide variety of backgrounds, many different points of view were presented and discussed. An intense exchange of experiences took place throughout both days of the event. There are plans to continue the cooperation with the INLUCC.

Background information

With the help of institutional funding, IRZ has been organising bilateral projects on legal reform with its Tunisian partners since 2011. The exchange of experiences detailed above was a continuation of the opening event on “Combating Corruption – Mechanisms and Prevention”, part of the working programme for 2019 and 2020 organised by the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection and the Tunisian Ministry of Justice, which took place in Tunis in October 2019.