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

Participants in the expert discussions
Participants in the expert discussions
Morocco

On 27 March 2019, high-profile expert talks were held in Rabat with members of the Committee for Justice, Legislation and Human Rights in the Moroccan parliament, representatives of the Moroccan Institute of Legal and Forensic Medicine (SMML) and the Moroccan Public Prosecutor’s Office. The discussions focussed on the current issues concerning the development of a professional code for forensic scientists in Morocco.

The event was part of a three-year project, which started in 2017 and is being led by the IRZ until the end of this year together with the Institute of Legal and Forensic Medicine at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. This project is being supported by the German Foreign Office as part of the Transformation Partnerships with North Africa/the Middle East.

Objectives of the project:

  • Supporting independent legal and forensic medicine in Morocco by providing continued training and education for forensic scientists,
  • supporting Moroccan partners in the development of a professional code and
  • improving the cooperation between the justice system and legal and forensic medicine by providing continued training for judges and public prosecutors in legal and forensic medicine.

The expert talks were a continuation of the discussions, which began last year, on the draft legislation for a professional code for forensic scientists in Morocco. The objective of the meeting was to have an open exchange about the current draft, both from the legislator’s point of view and from a practical point of view (forensic scientists and public prosecutors in Morocco). The event was the first joint exchange of experiences between forensic scientists, public prosecutors and parliamentarians on the draft version of a professional code.

Prof. Dr. Michael Bohnert, Head of the Institute of Legal and Forensic Medicine at the University of Würzburg, was appointed by the IRZ to take part in these discussions. Morocco was represented at a high level by the First Deputy to the President of the Committee for Justice, Legislation and Human Rights in the Moroccan parliament, the representative of the Chief Prosecutor’s Office at the Moroccan Public Prosecutor's Office and the Head of the Moroccan Institute of Legal and Forensic Medicine.

The following are some of the difficulties and challenges faced by forensic medicine in Morocco:

  • Lack of financial, institutional and organisational structures,
  • outstanding remuneration issues,
  • lack of experts,
  • need for new young talent and further training,
  • admission criteria,
  • legal and personal protection for forensic scientists.
  • The intense discussions also focussed on specifying the scope of work for legal and forensic medicine and establishing quality standards for forensic investigations, such as autopsies, and for forensic reports. These topics will be dealt with in the draft legislation. All those attending the talks agreed that there should be a particular emphasis in the draft legislation on the important role played by legal and forensic medicine in supporting the work of the justice system and, above all, in guaranteeing a fair trial.

The Moroccan partners expressed great interest in continuing the discussions before the last reading of the draft legislation in the Moroccan parliament and the passing of the law, which is planned for June this year. Another meeting will therefore take place in the autumn on the specific issues concerned with implementing the law.

Seminar on “Social and psychological support for prisoners” held in Casablanca

Participants and speakers at the seminar in Casablanca
Participants and speakers at the seminar in Casablanca
Morocco

On 27 and 28 March 2019, the IRZ, together with the General Delegation for Prison Administration and Reintegration (DGAPR) held a third seminar on “Social and psychological support for prisoners” in Casablanca, Morocco. The event was held as part of the “Cooperation with the Kingdom of Morocco on Prison Management” project, which is running from 2017 until 2020 with the support of the German Foreign Office.

Two experts from the Berlin prison system were appointed by the IRZ to speak at the seminar: Dr. Angelika Burghardt-Kühne, Psychologist, and Vera Schiepe, Group Leader, both of whom work at the Heidering penal institution.

Building on the previous seminars, the main focus of this event was on the following topics:

  • how prisoners deal with their crimes,
  • measures to support staff as they supervise prisoners,
  • support for reintegration measures through work-release programmes and
  • involvement of families in therapeutic measures.

For the reintegration of prisoners in Morocco, training and informal education measures are mainly offered to combat illiteracy and provide further training for prisoners. There are also measures in place for organising leisure activities and psychological support for prisoners. The DGAPR also offers a “national mental health programme” and a “national programme for preventing and combating drug addiction”. As part of the latter, working groups have been set up in five penal institutions to fight addiction in cooperation with the Ministry of Health. Social workers, social assistants, psychologists, and general practitioners work together in these working groups. Another important contribution towards the reintegration of prisoners is made by Moroccan civil society, with cultural programmes and training measures.

In Germany and Morocco, similar programmes are carried out for the reintegration and support of prisoners. In Germany, for example, a prisoner’s family is also involved in their reintegration measures, although this involvement is more limited than in Morocco. Another important programme in Germany helps prisoners to deal with their crimes, which is also set out in the law governing the prison system. By developing their appreciation of the problem, prisoners should be able to take responsibility for their actions. The prison officers’ ability to empathise and the joint development of alternative courses of action with prisoners have an important role to play here.

The experts from both countries established similar difficulties in the handling of certain groups of prisoners. Dealing with prisoners who refuse to come to terms with their crimes is a particular challenge in both countries, since participation in these programmes is voluntary in Morocco and Germany. In particular for high-risk offenders, the experts believe that there are only very limited treatment options available.

One of the main tasks for prison staff is to motivate prisoners to take part in reintegration measures. To ensure that staff are successful in this task, they need to be supported by therapeutic measures and an everyday climate that encourages treatment. Officers should be able to talk about their experiences in a protected environment. That’s why training courses covering various disciplines are essential as supporting measures.

For high-risk offenders, VERA 2 is a new European-wide instrument for assessing risk and this has already been introduced in the first German penal institutions. In Morocco, there continues to be a need for guidelines and handbooks so that social and psychological care for prisoners can be improved. The IRZ has, in close cooperation with its partners at the DGAPR, responded to this requirement with its project and set up a working group in this area as well. The objectives of this working group include appointing a pilot institution, in which a handbook planned by the working group will be introduced.

Moroccan public prosecutors visit Berlin for a study visit on legal and forensic medicine

Participants in the study visit in front of the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection
Participants in the study visit in front of the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection
Morocco

From 18 to 22 March 2019, the IRZ in Berlin hosted ten public prosecutors from various regions of Morocco for a study visit on “Ways to achieve successful cooperation between the justice system and legal and forensic medicine.”

At the start of the visit, the delegation was welcomed to the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection. After a short introduction to the structure and organisation of the Ministry, the Moroccan guests were able to find out more about the role of forensic reports in criminal proceedings and the relevant legal foundations in this respect. The relationship between the justice system and legal and forensic medicine was also discussed, with a particular focus on the importance of the independence of expertw.

At the Institute of Legal and Forensic Medicine at the Charité Berlin, the deputy head of the institute, Lars Oesterhelweg, presented the various tasks involved in legal and forensic medicine and gave the participants an insight into the current state of legal and forensic medicine in Germany. Afterwards, the participants visited the dissection room, the department of toxicological tests and the outpatients’ clinic for protection against violence at the Institute of Legal and Forensic Medicine,

Other ports of call on the study visit included the Public Prosecutor's Office in Berlin and the LKA (state office of criminal investigation) in Berlin. Thanks to many years of experience in prosecuting homicides, Senior Public Prosecutor Ralph Knispel was able to address many issues concerning the cooperation between public prosecutor’s offices, police criminal investigation departments and legal and forensic medicine. There were some lively discussions on the various challenges facing Germany and Morocco in this area. Detective Chief Inspector Guido Sündermann explained the practicalities of this kind of cooperation using an example case. He explained in which cases a forensic scientist is called to the scene of the crime in Germany and to what extent the investigations of police and forensic medicine are kept separate from one another.

The study visit by the Moroccan delegation took place as part of the “Cooperation with the Kingdom of Morocco in the field of legal and forensic medicine, with particular consideration paid to the concerns of the Moroccan justice system” project, which the IRZ is coordinating between 2017 and 2019 as part of the project financed by the German Foreign Office (Transformation Partnerships with North Africa/the Middle East). The next study visit on this subject will take place in June 2019.