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On 17 and 18 September 2019, the IRZ, together with the General Delegation for Prison Administration and Reintegration (DGAPR) organised their fourth seminar on “Social and psychological Support for Prisoners” in Tétouan, Morocco.
Building on the previous seminars, the main focus of this event was on institutional and practical support measures for prison staff. Specific case examples were used to explain how particularly sensitive prisoners, especially those who have been radicalised, can be motivated to seek social and psychological support.
The experts representing the IRZ at the seminar were psychologist Dr. Angelika Burghardt-Kühne and Group Leader Vera Schiepe, both of whom work at the Heidering penal institution in Berlin.
This seminar, which makes up part of the project supported by the German Federal Foreign Office on “Cooperation with the Kingdom of Morocco on Prison Management”, further intensifies the successful cooperation between Morocco and Germany in this area. As part of the project, a handbook on social and psychological care for prisoners will be produced.
The Head of Personnel at the DGAPR, Redouane Kouta, emphasised at the start of the seminar how much both sides benefit from the Moroccan-German discussions on prison management. As a result of the joint project implementation, Morocco has also intensified its cooperation with other countries in Africa.
The current situation regarding social and psychological care in Moroccan prisons
The admissions procedure in Moroccan prisons starts with an extensive medical and psychological examination, which is used to make an assessment. Any pre-existing medical conditions are taken into account here. During this initial examination, staff at the prison put together all the available information in detailed reports for social services and prison management.
However, a good level of care for prisoners is vital to ensure their successful reintegration. Good working conditions for prison staff therefore play a particularly important role here. Since dealing with prisoners can be a real burden for the staff, support systems should be established. These cover various measures, from improving structural factors to psychological care. A setting involving several persons and advice on cases from colleagues have both proved to be helpful problem-solving measures in the care of prisoners.
To protect its officers from prisoners’ attempts to manipulate them, for example, the DGAPR runs social and psychological programmes, with the help of external psychologists in some cases. The strategy developed by the DGAPR here also covers the care of prisoners and has the objective of developing their skills.
Prisoners’ motivation for taking part in voluntary treatments presents a particular challenge for Moroccan prisons, as well as those in other countries, since the prisoners cannot be forced to participate. The treatment of prisoners with mental health problems is particularly difficult. Special motivation training sessions and motivation therapies aim at helping prisoners to participate in treatment measures, thus establishing a set structure to their day and achieve their own objectives for their period of detention. At the same time, these measures support the successful reintegration of prisoners. In order to reduce the relatively high relapse rate of approx. 57 percent, Morocco also wants to focus more on alternative forms of punishment.
On 2 and 3 July 2019, the IRZ together with the Moroccan Public Prosecutor's Office staged a conference in Marrakech on "Discovery of corpses - cooperation between the judiciary, forensic medicine and the police". The event was directed at public prosecutors and was held within the framework of the project "Cooperation with the Kingdom of Morocco in the field of forensic medicine with special focus on the needs of the Moroccan judiciary". The project is being implemented by the IRZ over the period 2017 to 2019 thanks to project funding being provided by the German Federal Foreign Office (transformation partnerships with North Africa/the Middle East).
The aim and objective of the conference was to demonstrate to the participants the importance of trustworthy cooperation between the public prosecutor's office, forensic medicine and the police. The crucial role that each of these three actors plays in the investigation of criminal offences was discussed using the practical example of a corpse being found.
At the beginning of the event, Samouth Hafid, representing the Moroccan Public Prosecutor's Office, discussed the current situation surrounding forensic medicine in Morocco. There are now 15 full-time forensic scientists working in the country who have completed four years of educational training at the University of Casablanca, and 12 more who are currently undergoing educational training. The latter group will be available to work for government authorities in about one and a half years. Public prosecutor Samouth Hafid stressed that there are still too few forensic doctors in this country of about 35 million inhabitants. Especially in the south of the country, authorities are forced to have general practitioners at hospitals perform autopsies. This was said to lead to many mistakes in forensic medical reports. The new Act on a Professional Code of Conduct for Forensic Medical Practitioners, which is currently on the table before the upper house of Parliament in Morocco and is expected to be enacted by the end of the year, lays down clear rules for the practice of forensic medicine by general practitioners as well as mandatory continuing educational training requirements.
The following German participants took part in the workshop on behalf of the IRZ:
Dr. Lars Oesterhelweg, Senior Physician and Deputy Director of the Institute of Forensic Medicine of Charité Berlin,
Ralph Knispel, Senior Public Prosecutor, Head of the Department for Capital Offences at the Berlin Public Prosecutor's Office and Chairman of the Vereinigung Berliner Staatsanwälte e.V. (Association of Berlin Public Prosecutors), and
Katharina Tomalla, Chief Detective and Deputy Head of the 5th Homicide Unit at the Berlin State Office of Criminal Investigations.
On the first day, the speakers from Berlin each gave a presentation on their work and sketched out the nature of their cooperation.
The second day they did a deep dive: From his vantage point as a forensic scientist, Dr. Lars Oesterhelweg described the quality criteria that apply to a forensic medical report. Chief Detective Katharina Tomalla concentrated on the prioritisation of traces at the scene of a crime, illustrating her presentation with individual examples. Finally, Senior Public Prosecutor Ralph Knispel concentrated in his lecture on the assessment of forensic expert opinions in court, while discussing various individual provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure of importance.
The topic met with considerable interest among the participants. This was also underscored by the many questions and contributions to the discussion. The last seminar of this kind will be taking place in Fes at the end of September this year.
On 3 July 2019, a further high-profile expert meeting was held with press attendance in the House of Representatives (Lower Chamber) of the Moroccan parliament in Rabat, discussing the draft legislation for a professional code for forensic scientists in Morocco. The draft legislation is to be adopted at the end of this year.
The meeting in Rabat was the continuation of the first discussions between members of parliament and representatives of the Moroccan Public Prosecutor’s Office and and from legal and forensic medicine held on 27 March this year. The Moroccan Minister of Justice, Mohamed Aujjar, and the President of the Committee for Justice, Legislation and Human Rights in the Moroccan parliament, Taoufik Maimouni, opened the conference. In his welcome address, the Minister of Justice clearly addressed the existing difficulties and problems in legal and forensic medicine and promised more support by the Ministry of Justice.
Members of the Committee for Justice, Legislation and Human Rights in the Moroccan parliament, representatives of the Moroccan Ministry of Justice, the Moroccan Institute of Legal and Forensic Medicine (SMML) and of the Moroccan Public Prosecutor’s Office were invited to the meeting. The participation of representatives of the Moroccan National Council for Human Rights (Conseil national des droits de l’Homme/CNDH) was also of great importance. Prof. Dr. Michael Bohnert, Head of the Institute of Legal and Forensic Medicine at the University of Wuerzburg, and Chief Public Prosecutor Andreas Stüve, Public Prosecutor’s Office of Düsseldorf, took part in the expert meeting as IRZ experts.
The event offered all parties involved the opportunity to follow up on the results of the last expert talks and to discuss the currently open questions on the draft legislation.
The main focus was on the following topics:
safeguarding human rights values in the practical work of legal and forensic medicine;
the role of legal and forensic medicine in criminal proceedings and
particular difficulties and challenges in the legal and forensic medicine of Morocco.
All participants agreed that the present draft legislation is a great support for the work of legal and forensic medicine in Morocco and for the Moroccan justice system in general, and that measures for its financial, institutional and organizational implementation have to be taken for the law to be successful.
It is planned to organise final expert discussions in the House of Councillors (Upper Chamber) of the Moroccan parliament, where the draft legislation will be reviewed once again and any further questions regarding the implementation of the law can be clarified, if necessary, before it is officially adopted. The Moroccan side has expressed great interest in the involvement of German expertise within the framework of these discussions.