Conference on the topic "Discovery of corpses - cooperation between the judiciary, forensic medicine and the police"

During the seminar in Marrakesh
During the seminar in Marrakesh
Morocco

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.

Expert talks in the Moroccan parliament on the development of a professional code for forensic scientists

Mohamed Aujjar, Minister of Justice of the Kingdom of Morocco, (centre) together with Taoufik Maimouni, President of the Committee for Justice, Legislation and Human Rights in the Moroccan parliament, Prof. Dr. Michael Bohnert, Head of the Institute of Legal and Forensic Medicine at the University of Wuerzburg; Asma Dhib, IRZ; Andreas Stüve, Chief Public Prosecutor, Public Prosecutor’s Office of Düsseldorf (from left to right)
Mohamed Aujjar, Minister of Justice of the Kingdom of Morocco, (centre) together with Taoufik Maimouni, President of the Committee for Justice, Legislation and Human Rights in the Moroccan parliament, Prof. Dr. Michael Bohnert, Head of the Institute of Legal and Forensic Medicine at the University of Wuerzburg; Asma Dhib, IRZ; Andreas Stüve, Chief Public Prosecutor, Public Prosecutor’s Office of Düsseldorf (from left to right)
Morocco

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.

Study trip by a delegation to Berlin on the subject of forensic medicine

The Moroccan delegation at its visit to the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV)
The Moroccan delegation at its visit to the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV)
Morocco

From 10 to 14 June 2019 the IRZ received a Moroccan delegation in Berlin within the framework of a study trip focusing on the topic of "avenues to successful cooperation between the judiciary and forensic medicine". The study trip was part of the project "Cooperation with the Kingdom of Morocco in the Field of Forensic Medicine with Special Attention to the Needs of the Moroccan Judiciary", which IRZ has been staging over the period 2017 to 2019 with the support of the Federal Foreign Office (Transformation Partnerships with North Africa/Middle East). Objectives of the project include:

Fostering independent forensic medicine in Morocco through training and further education of forensic doctors,

Support for Moroccan partners in the development of a professional code of conduct,

Improving cooperation between the judiciary and forensic medicine through the further training of judges and public prosecutors in the field of forensic medicine.

The first expert discussion took place at the public prosecutor's office in Berlin, where the importance of forensic medicine and forensic scientists at the scene of the crime was explored. In addition, the participants discussed with their hosts difficulties they face evaluating forensic medical reports and questions relating to who is to pay the costs for DNA examinations. At the meeting with the Berlin State Office of Criminal Investigations, the main topics of discussion were cooperation between the Homicide Commission, the public prosecutor's office and forensic medicine, and the importance of prioritising traces of evidence at the scene of the crime. Communication between the public prosecutor's office, forensic medicine and the police is of tremendous importance to the success of an investigative procedure. 

During the visit to the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV), the focus was on the importance of legal medical expertises in proceedings. How to handle expert opinions continues to pose a challenge to judges, especially with regard to the technical language used. For this reason, hearing the forensic scientist acting in an expert capacity before a court is a relevant issue. He or she can also answer questions to help understand the expert opinion. 

The discussion at Charité commenced with a presentation on the possibilities offered by forensic medicine and its significance for the judiciary. Another point of discussion concerned the funding of forensic scientists. After this, the Moroccan guests were given a guided tour through the departments of the institute, including the autopsy room.

During this study trip, the ten Moroccan participants had the opportunity to benefit from German expertise. They were actively involved in all discussions and spoke very openly about current problems facing forensic medicine in Morocco.