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From 29 September to 9 October 2015, the IRZ organised a practical training programme for 15 Tunisian judges and public prosecutors in Bonn and Cologne. For the fourth consecutive year, participants were offered a comprehensive programme to support efforts to implement judicial reform. The main aim of the training programme was for participants to experience everyday legal proceedings in Germany. During the theoretical part of the course in the first week, lecturers (including Mr Selter, a former Prosecutor General and judges at the Regional Court of Cologne) taught participants the basics of the German legal and court system. The subsequent practical part of the course over the following week was of particular interest. During this time, once they had been introduced to the relevant case reports, the Tunisian guests were able to observe civil and criminal hearings at the Regional Court of Cologne. Many discussions on topics such as the independence of the judiciary, streamlining proceedings and judicial administration contributed towards an informative and inspiring exchange for both sides.
On the podium (from left to right): Dr. Franca Fülle, Anne Katharina Zimmermann and Dr. Ralf Riegel, all from the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (from left to right)
Working closely with the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV) and the Federal Foreign Office, the IRZ organised a five-day conference as part of the "Arab Forum on Asset Recovery" (AFAR), held in Tunis from 18 to 22 May 2015. AFAR was set up as part of a G7 initiative in partnership with Arab Countries in Transition.
As part of this initiative, an Action Plan on Asset Recovery was agreed in 2012 to support Arab countries in their efforts to recover stolen or misappropriated assets from former Arab regimes. Special sessions are held annually to deal with technical issues concerning the identification and recovery of assets.
The fourth annual meeting took place in Tunisia under Germany's presidency of the G7. Arab delegations represented Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Qatar and Tunisia. The G7 states were represented by Germany, France and Great Britain. Switzerland was also represented.
Plans were developed in close coordination with the World Bank's Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR). The conference focussed in particular on asset tracing, which involves detecting assets that are being held illegally in the states concerned. The results of these "special sessions" will be taken into account at the fourth Arab Forum to be held in November 2015.
Minister of Justice, Mr Mohamed Saleh Ben Issa; Rachid Sabbagh, Minister of Defence, ret., Honorary President of the Administrative Court and President of the Court of Cassation, ret.; Patrick Schneider, IRZ (left to right)
On 7 and 8 April 2015 the IRZ organised a conference in Tunis on the subject of "The High Judicial Council and the Independence of the Judiciary". The establishment of a Judicial Council is one of the central topics in the Tunisian debate about the reform of the judicial system. The draft laws submitted by various institutions and stakeholders were discussed very intensively during recent years.
Large parts of the judiciary consider the greatest possible autonomy of the Judicial Council and the self-administration of the judiciary as an opportunity to learn lessons from Tunisia's authoritarian past and to create a genuinely independent judiciary.
The Ministry of Justice takes a different position. Its view is that ensuring the independence of the judiciary at all costs does not mean that all competences will and should be withdrawn from the Ministry. The controversial background to this process ensured meaningful and lively discussions and met with great interest above all from the Tunisian judiciary and Parliament.
The Tunisian Minister of Justice, Mohamed Saleh Ben Issa, who has only been in office for a short time, opened the two-day conference with rather critical words. The conference was covered by numerous media representatives from television, radio and the press (Al Jazeera, etc.). The agenda included presentations and discussions with regard to the following topics, among other things:
constitutional provisions and the independence of the judiciary,
tasks and composition of the High Judicial Council,
self-administration of the judiciary,
control of the judiciary under disciplinary law,
The views of the Tunisian contributors were always supplemented with presentations by two German judges about the situation in Germany in terms of comparative law and by contributions to the discussion regarding the pros and cons of specific regulations.
The IRZ will continue its cooperation with the Tunisian administrative courts in 2015 with expert seminars and conferences in Tunis. What is more, the IRZ will offer Tunisian administrative and constitutional judges study trips to attend expert talks and benefit from exchanges of opinion with their counterparts at the German Federal Administrative and Constitutional Courts this year.