Tunisia: Judges reach out to citizens to improve access to justice

DRI Tunisia trained 28 judges on facilitation techniques to help them effectively engage citizens on access to justice. For the first time, judges from six different judicial associations attended the five-day training (23-26 February 2017) in Hammamet, organised in partnership with the Association des Magistrats Tunisiens (AMT), the Association Tunisienne des Jeunes Magistrats (ATJM), the Association Tunisienne des Femmes Juges (ATFJ), the Syndicat des Magistrats Tunisiens (SMT), the Union des Magistrats Administratifs (AMT) and the Union des Magistrats de la Cour des Comptes (UMCC).

As a follow up, DRI held five town hall sessions between 16 March and 22 April 2017 in Jendouba, Sidi Bouzid, Gafsa, Kairouan and Zarzis to sensitise local civil society groups and citizens about mechanisms and concrete steps towards better access to justice. “We appreciate this rare opportunity to get close to judges and reverse roles so that they are the ones answering questions,” said one participant. Over 160 people took part in the meetings, which were facilitated by the trained judges with the assistance of processual law expert Outayal Dhrif.

The local community discussions highlighted the need to address a lack of public information, one of the biggest obstacles for greater access to justice in Tunisia. Participants called for the Ministry of Justice to simplify procedures to make justice more accessible. The discussions also highlighted the urgency of decentralising the administrative court system, especially with regards to the local elections scheduled for 17 December 2017. In this context, local civil society groups recommended the modernisation of the procedures and the adoption of electronic court systems.

In February, DRI Tunisia trained 28 judges from six different judicial associations on facilitation techniques to help them effectively engage citizens on access to justice

The Tunisian Constitution adopted in 2014 recognises access to justice as a human right. Yet, for many Tunisians, this remains a distant reality. Many people are unaware of their rights as citizens and lack trust in judicial institutions. These deficiencies are complicated by the functional problems of the Tunisian judiciary, in particular bureaucratic hurdles for people taking cases to court and the low capacity of the police and judicial staff to process individual complaints and cases.

Chapter V of the Constitution is dedicated to judiciary authority and endorses every citizen’s right to access justice, but very few are aware of their basic human rights and understand how to claim them through the judicial system. Recognising the importance of people knowing their rights, DRI Tunisia’s project “Implementing the Tunisian Constitution through New Legislation to Strengthen the Rule of Law” funded by the British Magna Carta Fund focuses part of its activities on enhancing citizens’ awareness about their rights, particularly access to justice.

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