IRZ delegation visits Tunisia for talks on the penal system and social reintegration

As part of the international legal cooperation between the IRZ and the Tunisian Ministry of Justice, IRZ Managing Director Veronika Keller-Engels and the Legal Advisor for North Africa and the Middle East, Mohamed Montasser Abidi, visited Tunisia on 25 and 26 May 2016. They were received by the Tunisian Minster of Justice, Omar Mansour, during the third round of talks between the German and Tunisian governments.

The meeting was to discuss the ongoing cooperation programme between the Tunisian Ministry of Justice and the IRZ. The programme covers several subjects and involves people from various legal professions, such as judges, lawyers and notaries. An important part of the cooperation programme is the established partnership with the prison authorities.

Minister of Justice Mansour expressed his wish to extend this partnership to cover more subjects and include more members of the legal profession. He also talked about how important it is to continue bringing the administration of justice up to date and for the positive experiences that have taken place until now to be developed in other areas of the law.

The Minister of Justice expressed his desire to include the new measures taken so far by the Ministry of Justice for supporting a humane penal system and probation services in the cooperation programme with the IRZ. One of these measures is open prisons for young offenders, enabling the inmates to continue their education and therefore improve their personal circumstances.

During their visit to Tunisia, the IRZ delegation also met Sabeur Khefifi, the Director General of the prison authorities. This meeting was about the cooperation between the IRZ and the Tunisian authorities, both at a bilateral level and within the framework of a twinning project supported by the EU. The future of the partnership, which will be developed in accordance with the reform plan over the years to come, was also addressed.

Veronika Keller-Engels and Mohamed Montasser Abidi also met with the first President of the Administrative Court, Abdelsalam Mehdi Grissiaa. This meeting dealt with how the Administrative Court can implement the reforms, which are firmly embedded in the new Tunisian constitution, and how the IRZ can support these reform efforts, which go hand in hand with the profound changes to the administration of justice in Tunisia.

Conference in Tunis on the prison system

From 18 to 20 January 2016, another conference was held in Tunis to discuss planned reforms of the prison system in Tunisia. The main focus of this conference was on the "Requirements of a modern prison system with regard to construction and social rehabilitation".

The reforms have been supported by the IRZ since the beginning of the cooperation, in close partnership with the Senate Department for Justice and Consumer Protection in Berlin. Experts from the Berlin prison system also took part in this conference. These included Dr. Uwe Meyer-Odewald, Director of the open prison in Berlin, Dr. Anja Schammler, head of department at the Tegel prison facility, Alfred Leszczynski, head of department at the open prison in Berlin, and Jürgen Heitmann, building advisor for the Senate Department for Justice and Consumer Protection in Berlin.

In order to get an insight into the current situation in the Tunisian prison system, the programme for the first day of the conference included visits to two prisons, Burj Ameri and Mornaguia. During presentations and a tour of the prisons, current problems and the measures taken by the prison directors to solve them were explained. This very open insight offered by the Tunisians led to the development of more in-depth discussions and presentations at the conference the next day, as well as talks about definitive ways of finding solutions. The talks focussed in particular on the overcrowding of prison facilities, dealing with detainees who are in prison because of terrorist offences and plans for the reform of the Tunisian prison system. On the third day, these discussions then continued with two workshops dealing with individual aspects concerning the lodging of detainees.

The IRZ will continue to work intensively on its successful and reliable cooperation with Tunisia with regards to its prison system. This includes the launch of a twinning project in January 2016 involving the IRZ.

Fourth international Arab Forum on Asset Recovery in Tunisia

Christian Lange (left), Secretary of State at the BMJV, at the Arab Forum on Asset Recovery in Hammamet, Tunisia (photo: BMJV)Christian Lange (left), Secretary of State at the BMJV, at the Arab Forum on Asset Recovery in Hammamet, Tunisia (photo: BMJV)

The fourth international Arab Forum on Asset Recovery (AFAR) was held in Hammamet (Tunisia) from 8 to 10 December 2015. The IRZ was one of the organisers of this event.

The AFAR was set up as part of a G7 initiative in partnership with Arab Countries in Transition. The objective is to support Arab countries in their efforts to recover assets, which were stolen or misappropriated from former Arab regimes.

Two special sessions are held annually to deal with technical issues concerning the identification and recovery of assets from abroad. The results of these special sessions collected by leading specialists are integrated in a high-level annual conference, during which international efforts at minister and senior official level are followed up and important momentum is generated to continue with the process.

Having already been appointed by and worked closely with the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV) and the German Foreign Office to organise one of these special sessions in Tunis in May, the IRZ then became involved as a co-organiser together with Tunisia and Qatar to prepare for and put on the annual conference.

This year's event was held under Germany's presidency of the G7. Germany was represented at the conference by the parliamentary Secretary of State at the BMJV, Christian Lange (MdB). Also present were the Minister of Justice for Egypt, Lebanon and Tunisia and the Prosecutor General for Qatar. In addition to the countries named above, delegations and speakers also attended from Germany, Great Britain, France, Switzerland, Senegal, Saudi Arabia and the USA, the latter represented by the FBI and the State Department. The World Bank's "Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative" (StAR) was also closely involved. Representatives from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were also invited and took an active and critical part in the discussions.

The conference included a political section, during which the attending ministers stressed their continued support for the process and their awareness that the significant amount of misappropriated assets should be used to support the development of the countries concerned, instead of remaining in the hands of white collar criminals.

There were also many discussions on a bilateral level, in which delegations from the various countries made the most of the opportunity to discuss actual cases and remaining barriers to cooperation.