By Siham Ali
By Siham Ali
September 3, 2011 (Magharebia)
Morocco last week passed a bill to reform criminal proceedings. The draft law aims to facilitate access to justice and ensure transparency in court judgements.
The constitution guarantees a fair trial but that can only be achieved through practice, the Justice Ministry’s Penal Affairs Director Mohamed Abdennabaoui said at an August 24th press conference.
The bill will allow detainees to remain silent and contact their family and lawyer while they are being held awaiting charges, according to Abdennabaoui. He added that the law must be implemented now, while bolder legislation is being developed.
The bill aims to bring Moroccan law in line with the constitution, approved in the July 1st referendum. According to the new constitution, the national law enforcement must comply with international conventions, which stipulate that detainees should know the reasons for their arrest as well as their rights, including the right to remain silent, to receive legal advice, and to contact their families within a short period.
For justice reform to achieve its goals, issues of rights and responsibilities need to be introduced into school syllabi from the earliest years onwards, according to lawyer and MP Fatima Moustaghfir.
Honest and competent individuals are needed to uphold the spirit of the law, she added. If people are ignorant of their rights the long-awaited reforms will come to nothing.
To battle corruption, divisions specialising in financial affairs will be set up in the courts of appeal in Rabat, Casablanca, Fes and Marrakech. Fifty judges will be trained to understand the details of financial cases.
“Up to now, Morocco has lacked magistrates who specialise in finance,” economist Magid Badri commented. “This is a laudable initiative to fight financial crime, including money laundering.” Furthermore, the government will set up appeal chambers attached to the courts of first instance to rule on smaller cases valued at less than 20,000 dirhams.
The initiative aims to make justice more accessible since at present many have to travel to appeal courts, which could be a long way from the courts of first instance. The justice minister cited the example of the court in Dakhla, which is located 600km away from the court of appeal in Laayoune.
Additionally, competence areas of single judges will be expanded to speed up the processing of cases. Under this key measure, the thinking of the judges will be public, according to Justice Minister Mohamed Naciri. Judges will no longer be able to hide under the cover of secret deliberations, he added.
“Any deviation will be seen,” the minister explained. “In addition, the number of sessions will be increased, because judges will share out the cases among themselves.”
The mechanism of single judge trials will introduce greater fairness and transparency, Moustaghfir said.
“The lawyer is faced with a single interlocutor,” she said. “The weight of responsibility is greater, because it is easier to keep tabs on the magistrate who has given the verdict. The judge will not be able to shirk his responsibilities.”