Rabat – Mustafa Ramid, the Moroccan minister of justice and liberties confirmed the continued overcrowding of the kingdom’s prisons and attributed the phenomenon to the now-common practice of pretrial detention and the delayed start of cases involving the prematurely arrested detainees.
The minister called on King Mohammed VI’s judicial forces to avoid pretrial detentions requested by the prosecution unless the defendant has been caught red-handed in a crime, if judicial supervision will not be enough to prevent the defendant from escaping justice, or if the release of the suspect would lead to the obstruction of justice in another manner.
Official data from the ministry charged with managing the nation’s prisons shows that nearly 40 percent of the inmates have been arrested before their trial begins, leading to significant population pressures.
Ramid recently announced the contents of a draft amendment to the country’s criminal procedures which will further define the criteria for a pretrial arrest and put the process under judicial supervision, allowing the suspect to lodge an appeal against an unnecessary detention.
The minister also advised the King’s agents to use the new recommendations to authorize arrests only when there is significant evidence binding the defendant to a crime.
Habib Haji, the president of the Association for the Defense of Human Rights, said to Hespress that the King’s agents need to be trained on the criminal laws that apply during their investigations and the legal rights that the accused have the power to evoke.
Haji said the agents “do not follow criminal procedures” and pointed out that they “do not need to arrest a suspect based on the gravity of the act – which would be illegal – but instead they need to [carry out the arrests] based on the gravity of the actor on the public order.”
The human rights lawyer said he is surprised at “the level of danger the detentions present to students even though they can be arrested only at the order of education authorities” and added that the “implementation of the laws in the correct way would reduce pretrial detentions and lead to a decrease in incidence of violent arrests without a lawful reason backing the police action.”
A report recently released by another human rights group in Morocco cited concerns about the prevalence of highly-crowded prisons in the kingdom. The report claimed that a prison in Marrakech holds more than 2299 inmates even though its maximum capacity dictates it can provide for no more than 700 prisoners. Another prison in Nador hosts 1177 prisoners, but was at maximum capacity at just 840.