The Ministry of Justice suspended face-to-face court hearings on March 16 to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Rabat – Since the launch of remote trials, 20,544 defendants have appeared in front of Moroccan courts through videoconference, including 650 who were released, Minister of Justice Mohamed Benabdelkader announced on May 27.
The released suspects benefited from a provisional release, an acquittal, or a reduced sentence, Benabdelkader said.
The minister made the statements during a videoconference with the regional directors at the Ministry of Justice to discuss the necessary preparations for a potential resumption of face-to-face court sessions after the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, scheduled to end on June 10.
The number of online court hearings reached 1,209, the minister revealed. During the hearings, the courts opened 18,535 cases and issued decisions for 7,472 cases.
The ministry suspended court hearings with a few exceptions from March 16 and opted for remote sessions.
Online trials respect all fairness prerequisites, in accordance with Morocco’s Code of Penal Procedure and international conventions, Benabdelkader added.
According to the minister, the new trial system has helped protect prisoners, prison staff, judges, and court officials from the COVID-19 pandemic. It also prevented the spread of the virus in or out of penitentiary establishments, especially after several Moroccan prisons recorded COVID-19 cases.
To implement the remote trial system, the Ministry of Justice created approximately 190 accounts for Moroccan courts and prisons on an online videoconference platform.
In addition to remote trials, the ministry offered a series of digital services to prevent citizens from having to travel to courts, Benabdelkader recalled.
Between March 20, the start date of the nationwide lockdown, and May 26, the ministry’s online platform processed 30,370 requests related to the registration of businesses, 7,083 requests of criminal records, and 820 requests of financial statements.
The ministry’s website “mahakim.ma” also recorded 1,029,233 searches and 233,237 visits. The website also witnessed the submission of 205 legal memoranda by 155 lawyers who created a digital account.
To prepare for the resumption of face-to-face court sessions after the lockdown, the Ministry of Justice has purchased 275,000 protective masks and carried out 4,000 disinfection operations in Moroccan courts and legal administrations, Benabdelkader revealed.
Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, the ministry enforced a series of measures to protect civil servants, judges, clerks, legal assistants, and court visitors, including the establishment of logistical cells to organize the cleaning and disinfection of establishments, the minister concluded.