Thursday, July 20

Reform of justice in the Arab World – the Moroccan case

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Your Middle East

ARAB SPRING
The Arab awakening was a claim for justice above all. Although, there are many other social issues, the young Arabs were asking first for a justice reform. They wanted to be able to talk freely, to be treated in a fair way when dealing with their governments before starting to engage in more complex reforms such as education and unemployment.

One example of a country that weathered through the so called “Arab Spring” is Morocco. The main reason is a steady process of reform undergone by King Mohammed VI since the ascension to the throne in 1999 – ranging from the establishment of an Equity and Reconciliation Commission, which acknowledged the suffering of victims of brutality in the past and compensated the families for their losses, to a new Family Law that greatly expanded women’s rights in 2004.

Last week, Morocco’s government approved a law ending the trial of civilians in military courts, a practice heavily criticized by human rights groups. The draft law states that “Civilians, regardless of who they are or the nature of the offence they committed in times of peace, can in no circumstances be referred to military courts or tried by them”. It was endorsed on Friday at a cabinet meeting chaired by King Mohammed VI, and must now be voted on in parliament before becoming law.

Last March, the National Human Rights Council (CNDH) published a report that discussed the reform of the military court and presented the Council’s proposals regarding the compliance of the legislation in force with the provisions of the new Constitution and the international commitments of the Kingdom. In a statement, the CNDH “welcomed the adoption of a bill that is in full compliance with the Constitution of July 2011, the main international human rights law instruments and the relevant international jurisprudence.” adding that “the adoption of this bill is a major step towards the consolidation of the rule of law, judicial reform and the protection of human rights.”

Edward M. Gabriel, a former US Ambassador to Morocco (editors note: today a consultant to the Government of Morocco) said that “this is a significant milestone for Morocco in furthering the judicial reforms promised by the Constitution. I am encouraged that Morocco’s progress in these reforms and human rights has been steady and deliberate, signaling a strong culture of respect for democratic values and human rights.”

Last November, in a meeting with President Barack Obama, King Mohammed VI pledged to end the practice of trying civilians in military courts.

One year ago, the Middle East Specialist Joseph Braude published a piece in the Huffington Post saying that he feels encouraged and that “confining military courts to military affairs would send a message that systemic reform remains possible in the Arab world – even at a time of turmoil across the region”.

Why I am sharing this information? Because I think it is important to support Morocco’s reforms and efforts to become a model for the region. Because democracy can only be achieved through a process where civil society, medias, government and the king in this situation are all engaged and certainly not without the support of the international community especially the United Nations and the United States.

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