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Tunisia - annual report 2018

Published: July 29, 2019
Opening of the regional conference in Tunis to support in structuring the Tunisian Constitutional Court: among others, Taieb Rached (centre), President of the Provisional Instance to Review the Constitutionality of Draft Legislation, and Carsten Meyer-Wiefhausen (on the right), Deputy Ambassador for the Federal Republic of Germany
Opening of the regional conference in Tunis to support in structuring the Tunisian Constitutional Court: among others, Taieb Rached (centre), President of the Provisional Instance to Review the Constitutionality of Draft Legislation, and Carsten Meyer-Wiefhausen (on the right), Deputy Ambassador for the Federal Republic of Germany

Strategic Framework

Legal Policy Starting Point

The Arab Spring is widely considered to have originated in Tunisia. Despite strong reform efforts and an initial euphoria, the North African country continues to struggle with political and economic problems. There were nationwide protests and riots in early 2018, provoked by the poor economic situation in the country. Nevertheless, Tunisia is persevering in its efforts to introduce political reforms and to decentralise administration. In this regard, the local elections held in March 2018 represented another step forward in the political reform process.

Changes have also been noted in terms of the legal structures. The Supreme Judicial Council, whose members were elected for the first time in October 2016, is the self-regulatory body within the Tunisian judiciary. Preparations are also under way for the timely replacement of the Provisional Instance to Review the Constitutionality of Draft Legislation with an ordinary Constitutional Court. In addition, a number of commissions have been established to act as supervisory bodies, among them an Electoral Commission and a Commission on Policy to Combat Corruption and Good Governance. In spite of the difficult political environment, the Tunisian authorities and civil society continue to drive the process of reforming legal policies. Seeking to overcome the political crisis, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed initiated a cabinet reshuffle in November 2018, which also involved appointing a new Minister of Justice. Additional impetus for reform may result from the parliamentary and presidential elections that are scheduled for 2019.

Overall Concept

The IRZ has been carrying out bilateral legal reform projects with Tunisian partners within the framework of its institutional subsidy since as early as 2011. Support from the Federal Foreign Office as part of its transformation partnerships was added in 2012. Scheduled to run until the end of 2019, the IRZ has implemented, within the framework of its current project under the transformation partnerships, measures to support judicial reform in Tunisia since autumn 2017. Moreover, implementation of the work programme on the joint declaration of intent on legal cooperation between the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection and the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Tunisia was extended from 2017 to 2018.

Following three years of intense and controversial discussions, the Supreme Judicial Council, which was newly elected in October 2016, should regulate the position of the judiciary within the Tunisian state structure and ensure its independence. In accordance with the new constitution of 2014, its establishment will be followed by the founding and development of the Constitutional Court, which will create additional security for the rule of law and the rights and freedoms of citizens. The selection process for members of the court is currently ongoing. Of the twelve members of the Constitutional Court, four will be chosen by the Tunisian Parliament. So far, however, Parliament has only managed to agree on the selection of one single candidate. Hence, the IRZ counselling work will mainly focus on issues that relate to establishment of the institution itself. Among the particular tasks in this regard are issues of court procedure and business processes, court administration and questions of funding.

Administrative court jurisdiction is also experiencing a significant reform process that is aimed at the drafting and passage of an administrative court act. Initial reform measures were implemented in 2018, but further efforts will be required in a variety of areas to ensure their finalisation.

Since 2011, all reform plans by the Tunisian government have prioritised reforms of the country‘s penitentiary system. In particular the conditions in Tunisian penitentiaries require comprehensive change and improvement.

So far, the issues of resocialisation and the release of prisoners have been dealt with as marginal issues but have now been assigned priority status. A Resocialisation Commission has been set up within the penitentiary authorities for this purpose. It brings together stakeholders entrusted with the resocialisation of inmates, with the aim of initiating sweeping reform of the penitentiary system and of placing a clear focus on the resocialisation of inmates.

Overall, the IRZ has continued to make a substantial contribution to the stabilisation process in Tunisia by providing counselling and education.

Foci of Activity in 2018

Constitutional Law/Human Rights and their Enforceability

Civil and Commercial Law

Administration of Justice

Criminal Law and Penitentiary Law

Project funded by the European Union

EU Twinning project: Renforcement des institutions de l’administration pénitentiaire

The final conference of the EU Twinning Project for reform of the penitentiary system was held in Tunis in a festive setting on 26 September 2018. The IRZ successfully implemented this project as a junior partner under the leadership of the French organisation Justice Coopération Internationale (JCI) between October 2015 and September 2018. The event was attended by high-level guests from the partner states, as well as by representatives of the beneficiary institutions in Tunisia (Ministry of Justice, Directorate General for Prisons and and Reeducation, National Academy for Prisons and Reeducation ).

Equipped with a budget of €1.8 million, the project achieved the following goals:

Implementation of the project objectives took place within the framework of regular seminars, study trips and training courses in close cooperation between the expert team and the respective Tunisian partners. In addition, the technical experts from France, Germany and Spain worked with the Tunisian partners on the ground to produce proposals for the improvement of basic training for Tunisian correctional officers.

Given that an increasing focus is being placed on reforming the penitentiary system in Tunisia, a significant need for counselling in this field continues to exist.

Outlook

The most recent events in Tunisia make clear that the country still requires support in its democratisation and reform processes. Hence, the IRZ plans to continue its commitment in the aforementioned fields in 2019 as well. They are all highly topical and require sustained cooperation.

In regard to constitutional court jurisdiction, prioritisation should shift to the establishment and organisation of the Constitutional Court itself once the process of selecting the judges is complete. Cooperation with the prison administration will also proceed and will involve advice for the Rehabilitation Commission. A new work programme between the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection and the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Tunisia is in preparation for 2019 to 2020.