Study visit on the involvement of external parties in the prison system

The Tunisian delegation at the Plötzensee prison
The Tunisian delegation at the Plötzensee prison

During a study visit to Berlin from 16 to 19 July 2019, organised by the IRZ in partnership with the Berlin Senate Administration, directors of Tunisian prisons discussed the “Involvement of businesses in prisons and the adjustment of available training schemes to the needs of the German employment market” with German experts.

During a visit to the Plötzensee prison, the delegation was welcomed by the Head of Training and Qualifications, who informed the Tunisian guests about the training and qualification opportunities in the Berlin prison system. He stressed the legal requirement of prisoners to work, as set out in the law governing the Berlin prison system.

During a subsequent tour, the delegation visited the various training facilities within the prison. The Tunisian guests were particularly interested in the partnership with the private company Booh Outfit, which has its T-shirts printed at the Plötzensee prison. The partnership between a private company and a prison and the legal basis for this were the main topics of conversation at expert talks between the delegation and employees of the Plötzensee prison.

On the second day, there were expert talks followed by a tour of the Tegel prison, with the Head of the Department of Training and Qualifications, Lars Hoffmann. An employee at the German Federal Employment Agency also took part in the discussions. He presented the cooperation between the Agency and the prison. Prisoners in Berlin’s prisons have the possibility of receiving support from the German Federal Employment Agency for training supplied by external parties (e.g. The Helmut Ziegler Foundation). There is also the possibility for prisoners serving a term of less than 3 years to complete training modules, which can then count towards training schemes after release.

The three-day study visit gave the Tunisian prison directors a deeper insight into the German prison system and into the various partnerships with different parties involved in training and qualifications for prisoners. By taking a committed part in discussions and asking their German partners questions, the Tunisian guests made it clear that they want to use the information gained to inspire them to continue to develop the Tunisian prison system.

The study visit was organised as part of the project running from 2017 to 2019 to support legal reform in Tunisia, which is being supported by the German Foreign Office.

Seminar held in Tunis on the legal treatment of election disputes

Participants in the seminar
Participants in the seminar

On 8 and 9 July 2019, the IRZ in collaboration with the Tunisian Administrative Court organised a seminar entitled "Electoral complaints and the legal assessment of election results in the case of election disputes". The opening address at the event was delivered by the President of the Tunisian Administrative Court, Abdessalem Mehdi Grissia. The seminar in Tunis was designed to address judges of the Tunisian Administrative Court, journalists and academics.

In addition to IRZ expert Dr. Lars Brocker, President of the Constitutional Court of Rhineland-Palatinate and President of the Higher Administrative Court of Rhineland-Palatinate, Presidents of the Chambers of the Tunisian Administrative Court spoke on the role and jurisdiction of administrative courts with respect to electoral law issues.

In his two presentations, Dr. Brocker informed the audience about the powers and authority of judges in election disputes in Germany. Among other things, he drew attention to the fact that election disputes (with the exception of municipal elections) in Germany are decided by the constitutional courts. According to Dr. Brocker, one of the key tasks of judges presiding over such disputes is to ensure that power struggles between political forces are carried out and resolved in a fair manner while at the same time intervening as little as possible.

In addition, Dr. Brocker stressed that the guiding principle in Germany is to ensure stability as the supreme priority. It would be better to have an incorrectly convened parliament, for instance, than to lack a properly functioning legislature. The power vacuum resulting from this would entail risks and pose a threat to the stability of the country.

The Tunisian speakers focused primarily on new developments in the Tunisian legal system since 2011. They stated that the judicial system was still under construction and that the responsibilities of individual courts had not yet been completely clarified. In particular, they noted that there is a need for advice with regard to the review of elections, which in Tunisia is in the charge of the administrative courts. It is still unclear, for example, whether administrative courts may ban political parties.

On the whole, the seminar was marked by numerous discussions and a lively exchange of opinion. The subject was also of particular interest to the Tunisian side, as both parliamentary and presidential elections are scheduled to be held in the autumn of this year, which will constitute an important step in Tunisia's political future.

The seminar was held within the framework of a project promoting judicial reform in Tunisia, which is taking place from 2017 to the end of 2019 with the support of the German Federal Foreign Office.

“Soft skills for judges” training session in Tunis

Participants in the soft skills training session in Tunis
Participants in the soft skills training session in Tunis

On 4 and 5 July 2019, the IRZ, in partnership with the Tunisian Ministry of Justice, organised a training session on personal, social and methodological skills in professional practice. The event was aimed at judges from various regions of Tunisia and was supported by IRZ experts Christian Schmitz-Justen, Vice-President of the Higher Regional Court of Cologne, and Dr. Georg Winkel, Presiding Judge at the Regional Court of Cologne.

On the first day of the seminar, the IRZ experts started by looking in more detail at the requirements for becoming a judge in Germany. In this context, Christian Schmitz-Justen explained the appointment procedure in North Rhine-Westphalia and emphasized the fact that, as well as exam results and expertise, personal suitability is also another crucial factor. The Tunisian participants expressed the wish to make the testing of social skills a job requirement in the Tunisian system as well.

Afterwards, Christian Schmitz-Justen spoke about counselling by colleagues in the justice system in North Rhine-Westphalia and presented the models, levels of effectiveness and benefits of advice from colleagues. He referred to a scientific study, which proves the benefits of this type of advice. It was enriching for the Tunisian participants, not only to learn more about the experiences of advice from colleagues in the North Rhine-Westphalia justice system, but also about the potential for further training for judges in Germany in the areas of personal and social skills.

The second topic addressed during the first day of the training course concerned hearings in civil matters, focussing on court settlements as well as on mediation.

On the second day of the event, Dr. Georg Winkel looked more closely at assessing the evidence of witnesses in criminal proceedings. He started by presenting the principles of giving evidence in German criminal proceedings and went on to discuss with Tunisian colleagues the approach for assessing witness statements. The discussions covered the signs of true or false witness statements, the procedure to follow in the event of contradictory evidence and the credibility of social networks as evidence.

The two-day training session led to intense discussions and animated exchanges. The very active involvement of the participants illustrated the great level of interest in the exchange of experiences between German and Tunisian colleagues.

The training course was held within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding on a working programme for cooperation in 2019 and 2020 between the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection and the Tunisian Ministry of Justice.