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On 5 December 2019, the IRZ organised its first seminar in the Senegalese capital Dakar on “Criminal law and relaxing imprisonment conditions”. The event was organised in partnership with the department of criminal law and pardons at the Senegalese Ministry of Justice and financed by the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection as part of the bilateral cooperation.
Andreas Stüve, Senior Public Prosecutor at the Düsseldorf Public Prosecutor’s Office, and Pascal Décarpes, International Consultant on Prison Management, represented the IRZ as experts at the event.
The seminar provided an opportunity for exchange on the basics of the Senegalese and German criminal law systems. The German speakers also presented the organisational structure of law enforcement authorities and the content of criminal investigations in Germany and discussed the various options for punishment (alternatives to prison sentences) with the participants.
Other subjects included the relaxation of imprisonment conditions and various models of suspended sentencing, which the IRZ experts presented using practical examples, including probation, conditional leave and open prisons.
The prison system in Senegal is currently facing some major challenges. There is massive overcrowding in Senegalese prisons. This is due to both a lack of infrastructure and frequently imposed long periods of imprisonment on remand. In addition, detention conditions often do not meet international standards. In this context, the participants showed a great deal of interest in learning about alternative forms of law enforcement.
In the area of criminal law, both the penal code and the criminal procedural law were comprehensively revised and updated in Senegal. The focus is currently on making criminal law operational and on bringing legal texts into line with international agreements. There is also a particular need to increase efficiency and accelerate criminal proceedings.
The IRZ will continue to work more intensively in Senegal over the coming year. The focus here will continue to be on supporting the reform process in the areas of criminal law and the prison system. Support for judges should also help to increase the independence of the justice system.
From 11 to 15 June 2015, the IRZ welcomed a multidisciplinary delegation from Senegal to talks in Berlin. The study visit marked the start of the cooperation between the IRZ and the Senegalese justice system, which is being financed by the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV).
The Senegalese delegation was made up of representatives from the Ministry of Justice (Department of Criminal Law and Pardons), the Prison Authority and the Judicial Academy. The programme for the study visit was therefore suitably varied. The delegation was welcomed to talks at the BMJV, the Berlin Senate Administration for Justice, Consumer Protection and Anti-discrimination and at Social Services for Justice, Court and Probationary Matters. The subjects of judicial training and further training were discussed in more detail on a visit to the German Judicial Academy in Wustrau and issues relating to German law enforcement were brought to light during visits to the Moabit and Plötzensee prisons.
Senegal initiated some important reforms to the justice system some time ago. Both the penal code and the code of criminal procedure are being comprehensively revised and updated. The focus is currently on making criminal law operational and on adapting legal texts to bring them into line with international agreements.
When it comes to the prison system, the main focus is on relieving overcrowding and improving the reintegration of prisoners. The Senegalese guests were therefore interested in learning about alternative concepts such as open prisons and subjects including relaxing imprisonment conditions and alternative forms of punishment.
The IRZ is planning to continue and intensify its cooperation with Senegalese partners and, in particular, provide more support for the reform efforts in criminal law and prisons. To this end, an event is planned in Senegal for the second half of the year.
In 2018, the IRZ decided in close coordination with the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV) to expand its activities to West Africa. The plan is to carry out a pilot project in Senegal, which will be financed by the BMJV.
With this in mind, the IRZ paid an initial visit to the Senegalese capital, Dakar, from 13 to 17 January 2019 to determine requirements. During the visit, several talks were held with various institutions in order to determine requirements and explore the potential for future cooperation. The IRZ attended talks at the Ministry of Justice of Senegal, at the prison authorities and at the law academy. The IRZ also met the German Embassy, the EU delegation in Senegal and other German organisations active in Senegal.
The discussions were very open and the Senegalese partners seemed extremely interested in working with the IRZ. Senegal is a reliable democracy and an anchor of stability in West Africa and has already initiated some important reforms in the justice system. The progress of the reform process often suffers more from a lack of staff and financial resources than from a lack of support from the parties involved.
By supplying its expertise and advice, the IRZ will be able to provide long-term support for the reforms of the Senegalese justice system. The objective is to develop constitutional and legally watertight structures, in order to make a contribution towards economic development and stable home affairs and foreign policies in the country and in the entire region.
The requirements of the Senegalese justice sector are considerable. There is potential for cooperation in the area of criminal law and the prison system, as well as in the field of further training for judges.
In the prison system, the focus is in particular on improving the reintegration of prisoners and on providing further training for prison staff. In addition, detention conditions do not fulfil international human rights standards, which
means that the subject of humanising the prison system also needs to be addressed. In order to reduce the massive overcrowding of Senegalese prisons, subjects including relaxing imprisonment conditions and alternative forms of punishment are also being discussed. The expertise of the IRZ could also be drawn on here.
The subject of education and training for judges also concerns the question of the independence of the justice system. In this respect, the IRZ can also draw on its experiences from various projects, including in North Africa.
Presidential elections will be held in Senegal in February/March. This means that, in the medium term, the IRZ is planning to start its cooperation with the country with a few very targeted activities.