February 24-25, 2023, at the Higher Institute of Magistrates
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Ever since the Kingdom of Morocco ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1979, the principle of fair trial has become a major legal concern for judges, lawyers, and the various stakeholders involved in judicial matters. This concern has led them to elaborate guidelines to preserve the rights of defendants and suspects. Although national legal laws did not mention the concept of “fair trial”, its use had become common in courtrooms and its impact was very evident in judges’ decisions. Then came the current Code of Criminal Procedure (CCP), promulgated on October 3, 2002, which expressly stipulates the term “fair trial” and places it at the top of the legal guarantees and procedures that ensure the rights and freedoms that this Code abounds with. As such, the first article of CCP indicates that "fair trial" is the general framework that organizes criminal proceedings and is inherent to all their applications.
In this context, the preamble of the Code of Criminal Procedure states that: “the concern to guarantee fair trial according to conventional patterns and respect the rights and freedoms of individuals on the one hand, and the concern to preserve the public interest and public order on the other, constituted a crucial point in the revision of the Code of Criminal Procedures of 1959”.
The preamble also adds that the new text (CCP of October 3, 2002) focuses on “highlighting the fundamental principles and provisions of human rights and ensuring the proper conditions for a fair trial, given its status as an immutable principle of the modern criminal justice system.
In fact, the right to a fair trial is no longer just a legal issue. The principle has been constitutionalized by virtue of chapter 23 of the 2011 Constitution, which expressly states that “the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial are guaranteed”, and enumerates the paramount conditions for a fair trial as provided for in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights.
Moreover, the Constitution has taken an interest in establishing the principle of fair trial and preserving its internationally recognized forms, and the law, namely the Code of Criminal Procedure, has thoroughly detailed the conditions of a fair trial as per modern comparative legislation of the most democratic states. Thus, the Moroccan judiciary has always been keen on ensuring these conditions and providing adequate circumstances to apply legal provisions governing fair trial.
We are witnessing today, on this occasion, the fruits of judicial work reflected in the mammoth number of Court of Cassation decisions issued over the past year, which contain internationally recognized applications of the principle of fair trial.
Indeed, the decisions contained in the first of the two published volumes, which will be handed over to you later by the ministerial delegate for Human Rights, are tangible proof that “fair trial” actually exists in Morocco and is applied on a daily basis in the Kingdom’s courts, with the assistant of judicial actors at all levels of jurisdictions, lawyers, and judicial police officers. These decisions also enjoy the support of the various powers of the State and its institutions. In fact, HM King Mohamed VI, may Allah Bless Him, alluded to this point in the royal message addressed to the participants in the International Conference on the Independence of the Judiciary, held in Marrakech on April 2, 2018, where He mentioned that the Constitution has “laid down provisions for upholding the rights of litigants and ensured the proper administration of justice. It confirms the judge’s role in terms of protecting the rights, freedoms, and judicial security of individuals and groups. It also guarantees not only a citizen’s right to take legal action, but also the presumption of innocence as well as the right to a fair trial within a reasonable timeframe”.
HM the King has affirmed this orientation once more in His royal message on the occasion of the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, where He said: “Our national commitment to human rights is not just enshrined in our Constitution, it is a determinant of our political, economic and social agenda”. HM added: “I am keen to make sure Morocco consolidates its achievements and keeps moving forward”.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
HM’s keen vision of what the judiciary should be, that is to say, a bedrock for the rule of law and the guarantor of rights and freedoms, makes judges’ commitment to the standards of fair trial a fulfillment of this constitutional choice. This is reflected in the judgments of the various courts as well as the jurisprudence and the decisions of the Court of Cassation, including those compiled in the valuable volume prepared by the Ministerial Delegation for Human Rights. If you pore over this compendium, you will perceive the extent of the judicial heritage that conveys advanced human rights values, reflecting our judges’ awareness of the importance of a fair trial, their consciousness of its conditions, standards, and principles, and their resolve to apply it in real life.
In this regard, I would like to bring to your attention the decision of the Court of Cassation dated October 27, 2021 (criminal file No. 4461-6-3-2021), which states that: “the principles of a fair trial and the right to defense, being one of its bedrocks, are not bound by justified or unjustified presence or absence of the accused, or whether they requested that the proceedings be conducted in their absence. Therefore, preventing the defendant’s lawyer from pleading and providing legal assistance to their client in criminal cases, constitutes, even if no text provides so, a violation of the right of defense and the right to a fair trial which is inherent to human rights, as well as creates an imbalance between parties”.
This decision and hundreds of others thereof are irrefutable proof that the Moroccan judiciary’s commitment to respecting fair trial conditions is not vaniloquence, senseless prattle, or overblown ceremonial talk, but is, in fact, a practical embodiment of a constitutional orientation and a real concretization of legal texts. The principle of fair trial has become a strong conviction in our judges’ hearts and was ingrained in them by virtue of their legal studies and the human rights knowledge they accumulated in the Higher Institute of Magistrates, not to mention the various opportunities these magistrates have had to update their knowledge and sharpen their skills, within the framework of continuous training sessions on various human rights topics, including the manifestations of a fair trial. Among these training sessions are the workshops implemented by the Public Prosecutor’s Office for two years, which have benefited about a thousand judges so far. The workshops were also supervised by foreign experts, university professors, and seasoned judges renowned for their competence in human rights and for their mastery of this subject. The work of the first phase of these training sessions was compiled in a book that was subsequently distributed to the courts and the recently graduated trainee judges.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the efforts exerted and to thank, on my behalf and on behalf of the Supreme Council of the Judicial Power and all of the Kingdom’s judges, the interministerial representative for Human Rights, Mr. Ahmed Chaouki Benyoub, who initiated the production of the two books whose contents will be discussed during the two days of this conference. It must be said that all gratitude expressions would not be enough to thank him for the immense efforts he has spared in order to disseminate human rights and spread a culture of respect for fair trial standards. I also like to extend my gratitude to the highly qualified staff and executives who have worked on the said books, without forgetting our judges who have rendered these decisions, and to all those who have contributed, from near or far, to the realization of these precious books, notably honorable judge Samira Anane who finalized the first book containing judicial decisions, and the President of the Bar, Mr. Abderrahim El Jaami, who realized the second book which gathers requests and defense briefs.
My deepest gratitude goes also to the organizers and all those who participated in this meeting, as well as the speakers and the audience who honored this conference with their presence and who participated in promoting the culture of human rights and the principle of fair trial. My best wishes for a successful conference.
Wassalamu alaikum warahmatullah.
Section16, CP 1789, Hay Riyad, Rabat