Study visit on prison system reform for a delegation from Tunisia

The Tunisian delegation at the Ministry of Justice for North Rhine-Westphalia
The Tunisian delegation at the Ministry of Justice for North Rhine-Westphalia

During the period from 26 August to 1 September 2018, a delegation of representatives from the prison authority and the prison service in Tunisia visited the Ministry of Justice and various penal institutions in the North-Rhine Westphalia region of Germany.

The event was organised in partnership with the “General Delegation for Prison Administration and Reintegration” in Tunisia and under the leadership of the French organisation “Justice Coopération Internationale” (JCI) and was supported by the European Union within the framework of the twinning project “Renforcement des institutions de l‘administration pénitentiaire” on prison system reform in Tunisia. The project began in October 2015 and will run until September 2018.

The main objectives of the project are:

  • Development of the institutional capacities of the General Delegation for Prison Administration and Reintegration
  • Support for the National University of Prison Administration and Reintegration in the development of a new training programme 
  • Development of a national concept for the gradual introduction of a probation system in Tunisia.

At the start of their visit, the Tunisian guests were welcomed to the Ministry of Justice for the North Rhine-Westphalia region in Düsseldorf by assistant state secretary Jakob Klaas. Here, the participants were given an introduction to the prison system in North Rhine-Westphalia. They were informed about the structure and organisation of the prison system and were given an overview of the following topics:

  • suspended sentencing, 
  • the roles and tasks of probation officers, 
  • admitting and dealing with terrorist prisoners and 
  • cooperation with the media and publicity work.

Over the following days, the delegation visited various penal institutions, including the JVA Geldern, the young offenders’ institution in Heinsberg, the Willich II women's prison and the Moers-Kapellen open prison. The following topics were discussed at these institutions:

  • the process and requirements of sentence planning for prisoners,
  • prison staff (figures, career paths, human resources),
  • opportunities for vocational training and occupational therapy for prisoners,
  • the differences between open and closed prisons and
  • specific features of the various institutions.

The Tunisian guests were also able to see for themselves the various training facilities, sports grounds, libraries and prison cells.

The topics discussed during the study visit were met with a great deal of interest by the participants. They took an active part in discussions and made the most of the opportunity to ask plenty of questions.
In Tunisia, the reintegration of prisoners is a subject that is increasingly taking centre stage. There is therefore a continued need for exchanging expertise in this field.

Funded by the European Union

Regional conference in Tunis on the de-radicalisation of prisoners within the rehabilitation plan

Regional conference in Tunis on the de-radicalisation of prisoners
Regional conference in Tunis on the de-radicalisation of prisoners

On 2 and 3 July 2018 the IRZ organised a regional conference on the “De-radicalisation of prisoners within the rehabilitation plan” in cooperation with the Tunisian prison authority. The event was carried out within the ongoing project from 2017 to 2019 for the promotion of the justice reform in Tunisia funded by the German Foreign Office.

High-ranking representatives of the prison authorities of Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria participated in the event which was opened by the Director General of the Tunisian Prison Authority Illyes Zalleg.

Two German experts supported the IRZ in organising this conference:
  • Kai Abraham is a staff member of the Berlin Senate Administration for Justice, Consumer Protection and Non-Discrimination, which supervises the prisons.
  • Feride Aktaş is a project coordinator at the Violence Prevention Network e.V. responsible for the activities in the fields of prevention of religious and political extremism and de-radicalisation of violent criminals motivated by extremism.

In their introductory lectures the experts of the participating countries explained the legal basis and spoke about their practical experience in dealing with radicalised prisoners. Another topic were the measures being taken in rehabilitation and transition management. In the final thematic block specific support measures for the de-radicalisation of prisoners were explained.

All participants showed great interest as was evident by the lively discussions. There was particular interest in specific examples from Germany of support measures for radicalised prisoners. Another focus of the debate was how to determine the degree of risk of the inmates. Due to existing tendencies towards radicalisation in prisons the participants pointed out the topicality of this issue and that there was great pressure to act.

Special attention was also given to the support of prisoners in preparation of and after their release from prison. It was emphasized that is was necessary to closely monitor and support radicalised former prisoners. Organisations and experts from civil society can be involved in carrying out these support measures. The participation of family members and other key persons is also of major importance. Moreover, the staff need to be trained in dealing with radicalised inmates during their vocational training.

The regional conference enabled an exchange about the forms of participation of civil society organisations in implementing de-radicalisation measures and introduced specific concepts when dealing with radicalised prisoners.

All participants considered the conference as an important exchange of their experience with radicalised prisoners. The IRZ will continue to support the reform projects in the Tunisian prison system with regard to the resocialisation of prisoners and the preparation for their release from prison.

Exchange of experiences in Tunis on select Conventions of the Hague Conference on Private International Law

Experts at the conference in Tunis
Experts at the conference in Tunis

On 10 and 11 May 2018, the IRZ together with the Tunisian Ministry of Justice and in cooperation with the Hague Conference for Private International Law organised a conference on four select Hague Conventions, which Tunisia has already joined or will soon join. The event was held as part of the Memorandum of Understanding of 6 February 2017 on legal cooperation for 2017 and 2018 between the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV) and the Tunisian Ministry of Justice.

The following subjects were discussed at the conference:

  • the Apostille Convention of 1961,
  • the Service Convention of 1965,
  • the Child Abduction Convention of 1980 and
  • the Choice of Court Convention of 2005

The following experts from the IRZ and the Hague Conference took part in the event:

  • Dr. Christophe Bernasconi, LL.M., Secretary General of the Hague Conference on Private International Law,
  • Private Lecturer Dr. Florian Eichel, University of Passau, Department of Civil Law, Civil Procedure Law and International Private Law,
  • Dr. Inka Hottgenroth, a judge at the Local Court of Cologne, Head of the Family Law Division and
  • Dana Tillich, representing the German Federal Office of Justice, Department II 1 International Civil Law.

Under the leadership of Prosecutor General Imed Derouiche, Head of the Judicial Service at the Tunisian Ministry of Justice, the experts discussed with their Tunisian colleagues various aspects concerning the practical application of the Conventions in Tunisia’s justice and administrative systems. The first major challenge will be applying the Conventions to national Tunisian legislation and case law. Under the conditions of the contract, Tunisia also has to determine the relevant legal and official structures for each Convention. This has not yet been carried out in all cases, which means that Tunisia’s accession to the Convention concerned has not yet been recognised by all member states.

During the two-day meeting in Tunis, however, potential solutions for many of the outstanding issues were discussed and some of the terms in the individual Conventions, which the Tunisians obviously found misleading, were clarified, such as the “usual residence of the child” in the case of the child abduction Convention.

During the conference, Imed Derouiche and Dr. Bernasconi repeatedly emphasised the highly topical nature of the subject and the perfect timing of the meeting, which took place immediately after the Apostille Convention came into effect in Tunisia on 30 March 2018. The Hague Convention on Private International Law is also celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.

Together with the Hague Conference, the IRZ provided active support for the process of Tunisia’s accession from 2012 until its membership in November 2014, with advice and expert discussions in Tunis, and it has continued to offer regular advice since then.

As IRZ partner countries in the region, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt are the only Arab member states of the Hague Conference, which are also represented in individual Hague Conventions. Iraq is not a member of the Hague Conference, although it is a contracting party to a Hague Convention. Other IRZ partner countries from the Arab world, such as Jordan, are in fact member states of the Hague Conference but have not yet joined any of the Hague Conventions. Algeria is neither a member of the Hague Conference nor a contractual partner of a Convention. This makes it all the more important for the IRZ to continue to include the Hague Conventions as part of its project work in the MENA region, so that it can make clear to its partner states the positive effects these Conventions can have on international legal and administrative cooperation.