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.

IRZ regional office opened in Tunis

On 24 January 2018, the regional office of the IRZ for North Africa officially opened in Tunis. As well as high-ranking guests from the Tunisian MInistry of Justice, ths event was also attended by Christian Lange, parliamentary Secretary of State at the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV).

The regional office is headed by Hichem Dkhili and will in particular analyse the current political and legal development, maintain continuous consultations with project partners and provide organisational support in implementing part of the planned local measures. The office will also provide assistance to projects in the partner countries Morocco and Algeria.

Conference on the reform of the criminal justice system in Tunis

Participants in the conference

On 6 and 7 July 2017, the IRZ organised a second conference on the reform of the Tunisian criminal justice system. The event held in Tunis continued on from a conference held in April 2017 on the same subject. The conference was carried out as part of a Memorandum of Understanding on legal cooperation between the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV) and the Tunisian Ministry of Justice.

The Tunisian penal code is currently being revised by a reform commission, composed of public prosecutors, judges and other experts. The focus here is on redefining perpetration, aiding and abetting and instigation, particularly in connection with terrorist attacks. Another priority is the introduction of alternative sentences.

The following experts took part on behalf of the IRZ:

  • Walter Selter, former Prosecutor General,
  • Dr. Arnd Weishaupt, a judge at the Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf and
  • Christoph-Severin Haase, a public prosecutor who is currently working at the BMJV.

The exchange with German colleagues allowed the Tunisian participants to gain a deep insight into the German criminal justice system. As well as the topics of perpetration, complicity and sentencing regulations, the system of suspended sentencing was of particular interest to the Tunisian reform commission.

The IRZ and the BMJV will continue to support the reform efforts in the Tunisian justice system and provide advisory services