Justice reform begins in Morocco
A new government panel aims to protect judicial independence and modernise the courts.
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat – 20/05/12
The high commission for “comprehensive and profound” judicial reform includes representatives of the judicial, legislative and academic communities, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI announced May 8th in Casablanca.Morocco this month began its long-promised judicial reform process. A new panel will work to accelerate changes demanded by citizens and judges alike.
Speaking at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, presidents of both houses of parliament and cabinet members, the king said the reform initiative would include “safeguards for magistrates”.
According to the monarch, the panel’s forty members, including eight women, will work to develop a national charter that protects “individual and collective rights and freedoms” and sets down operating rules.
Justice Minister and commission member Mustapha Ramid said that “all elements” of the Moroccan judicial system would be discussed.
While the high commission is expected to address revision of the penal and criminal procedure codes, its primary focus will be on guaranteeing judicial independence.
“The independence of the judiciary, relative to the legislative and executive branches”, is specified in the Constitution, the monarch noted.
The reform initiative also includes “safeguards for magistrates”, he said. The day before the king inaugurated the reform panel, some 1,800 Moroccan magistrates signed a petition demanding independence from the executive branch of government.
“We reiterate our call for an independent judiciary, and in particular, the independence of prosecutors,” Yassine Moukhli, the head of the unauthorised Moroccan Magistrates’ Club, said after the group unveiled its petition in Rabat.
King Mohammed VI first called for a judicial overhaul in 2009, but reform initiatives attempted since then have been largely viewed as insufficient.
This time around, the monarch is demanding a national charter, with clear objectives, priorities and funding mechanisms.
“We will involve the maximum number of players in this strategic debate,” National Human Rights Council (CNDH) chief and panel member Driss Yazami said.
The commission will examine substantive issues, ranging from code amendments, to the status of judges to simplifying procedures for litigants, he said.
“Citizen expectations are high and the challenge is complex,” the CNDH head added.
Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid, who broached the idea of a national dialogue as soon as he was appointed, noted that the goal is to reform the judicial system and modernise the courts to better protect the rights of citizens.
“We will make sure that police action meets the needs of justice,” Ramid said.
For parliamentarian and lawyer Mohamed Ansari, the justice minister has “great courage” to attempt the much-anticipated reform process.
“I hope that this time, Morocco achieve its objectives,” Ansari said.
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Citizens are eager to see the government implement its promises.
“For years, we’ve been hearing about reforms, but no change has taken place,” social worker Chabli Mounia told Magharebia.
“Hopefully this project will work, because people really suffer if they have to deal with the courts,” she said.
“There must be safeguards in place to ensure that the citizen can have confidence in justice,” Mounia added.