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.

Training on legislative techniques in Tunis

Participants in the training session with the experts Alexandra Kratz and Dr. Sandra Michel (centre of the photo)
Participants in the training session with the experts Alexandra Kratz and Dr. Sandra Michel (centre of the photo)

On 25 and 26 June 2019, the IRZ organised a seminar on legislative techniques at the request of the Tunisian government. The training seminar was aimed at employees of the legislation department in the Tunisian government. The one-day seminar was carried out on two consecutive days, each day covering the same subjects for two different groups of participants. It took place within the framework of the institutional funding provided by the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV).

On the Tunisian side, the training session was opened and moderated by Head of Department Zouheir Ben Tanfous and Ahmed Jâafar, Head of the Department of Legal Issues and Legislation at the Prime Minister’s office.

The following experts took part on behalf of the IRZ:

  • Alexandra Kratz, Head of the Division for Scrutiny of Legal Provisions, Advice on Linguistic Matters, and General Administrative Law at the BMJV, and
  • Dr. Sandra Michel, Head of the Joint Office of the Committee on Labour, Integration and Social Policy and on Family and Senior Citizen Affairs at the German Bundesrat.

At the start of the seminar, Dr. Sandra Michel gave a lecture on the procedures for developing draft legislation. She set out the requirements for good legislation and explained the process with the various work stages – from the idea to the completed draft.

This was followed by a lecture by Alexandra Kratz on the instruments required for developing good, comprehensible laws. She looked in more detail at the legislative process, legal and language reviews and went on to establish that, without clearly comprehensible laws, there is no good legislation. Alexandra Kratz also presented the various structures involved in Germany, explained the special role of the BMJV and shed light on the process, from the draft for discussion to the announcement, with particular attention paid to the ministerial and parliamentary phase. Dr. Sandra Michel also reported on the practice of regulatory impact analysis in Germany.

It was of great interest to the Tunisian participants to learn more about the tasks, responsibilities and composition of the National Regulatory Control Council. This is an independent body, which has advised the German government with non-binding opinions since 2006. The participants learned a great deal about German expertise since the National Regulatory Control Council was set up.

The training session led to many discussions and animated exchanges. The Tunisian participants seemed very interested and asked a lot of detailed questions. The German experts also learned more about the procedures and structures in Tunisia, leading to plenty of exchanges of experience throughout both days of the event.