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On 6 February 2017, the Parliamentary Secretary of State at the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV), Christian Lange (MdB), and the Minister of Justice for the Republic of Tunisia, Ghazi Jeribi, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on legal cooperation and a work schedule for 2017 and 2018 in Tunis. This will strengthen the existing cooperation between Tunisia and Germany in the field of law. The IRZ will be responsible for carrying out the specific measures involved in this cooperation.
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.
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.