* Major initiative comes on heels of several significant human rights and legal reforms *
Washington, DC (March 14, 2014) — Morocco’s Council of Ministers, chaired by King Mohammed VI, today announced its decision to pursue expansive reform of Morocco’s military justice system, which would include ending the use of military tribunals to try civilians, said Palace spokesperson Abdelhak Lamrini. The decision and proposed legislation—which next goes to Parliament—follows a report released last year by Morocco’s National Human Rights Council, and welcomed by King Mohammed VI, that recommended narrowing the jurisdiction of military tribunals. It serves as another example of Morocco’s longstanding commitment to protecting human rights and continuing reform.
“This project… aims to standardize national legislation on military justice with the provisions of the Constitution and international principles in this field, put into practice Morocco’s Constitutional and international commitments in terms of promoting the rule of law and human rights, and provide the necessary conditions and guarantees of a fair trial in all the courts of the Kingdom,” read the statement.
“This is a significant milestone for Morocco in furthering the judicial reforms promised by the Constitution,” said former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel. “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.”
The new law is “a major step towards strengthening the rule of law, reforming the judiciary, and protecting human rights,” said Driss el Yazami, President of Morocco’s respected National Human Rights Council (CNDH).
In the past six months, Morocco’s government has undertaken several significant policy initiatives addressing human rights at the recommendation of CNDH and Moroccan civil society. In September, the country adopted a new migration policy that is regularizing up to 40,000 illegal migrants in the country, to ensure that they have access to healthcare, education, and other basic rights. That policy came after another report released by CNDH, on the needs of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa trying to reach Europe by way of Morocco. In January, Parliament also overturned a controversial provision in a law that allowed rapists to avoid punishment if they married their victims. Originally intended to protect women living in rural areas from being ostracized, the law became the focus of women’s and human rights groups, whose campaign for its repeal succeeded.
Since King Mohammed VI’s ascension to the throne in 1999, Morocco has undergone a steady process of reform. The King established an Equity and Reconciliation Commission which acknowledged the suffering of victims of brutality in the past and compensated the families for their losses, the only such initiative in the region and the first in the world to have occurred without a forced regime change. In 2004, a new Family Law was passed that greatly expanded women’s rights. In 2011, the country adopted a new Constitution proposed by the King that, among other advances, established CNDH as the nation’s human rights watchdog.
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