Participants in the conference in Marrakesh
Participants in the conference in Marrakesh

On 18 and 19 April 2018, the IRZ and the Moroccan Public Prosecutor’s Office organised a conference in Marrakesh on “Discovery of a corpse – cooperation between the justice system and legal and forensic medicine”. This took place as part of the project “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 objective of the conference was to point out to the attending judges and public prosecutors the importance of a trusting working relationship between public prosecutors, forensic scientists and the police. A practical example of the discovery of a corpse was used to discuss the crucial roles played by all three parties involved in the criminal investigation.

On the first day, the participants were given an introduction to the work carried out by forensic scientists and a homicide division in Germany. Afterwards, the role played by the public prosecutor’s office in criminal investigations in Germany was explained. The participants were particularly surprised to learn that public prosecutors in Germany are also present at the crime scene.

On the second day, the conference looked in more detail at the authorities that are responsible for recording specific information and evidence at the crime scene and how this information is exploited in forensic reports. Detailed explanations were provided of the mistakes to be avoided when securing evidence and establishing forensic reports to ensure that reports can be used in court. This led to a discussion of the difficulties legal and medical experts may have in understanding one another, which can lead to forensic reports being unusable in court.

The participants showed a great deal of interest in the subject and asked many specific questions. It became apparent that the cooperation between public prosecutors, forensic scientists and the police is quite different in Morocco and so the discussions were particularly fruitful on this subject. Because of this very positive response, the IRZ is planning two further seminars on the same subject this year.

The subject of legal and forensic medicine is playing an increasingly important role in Morocco, since the involvement of well-trained forensic scientists in criminal investigations has been recognised and changes are desired. This is reflected in the fact that even the Agence Marocaine de Presse (MAP) [LINK https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zNHDQSKBN]has reported on this event.

The following experts were appointed by the IRZ to take part:

  • Dr. Lars Oesterhelweg, Deputy Director of the Institute of Legal and Forensic Medicine at Charité Berlin,
  • Senior Public Prosecutor Ralph Knispel, Head of the Capital Offences Department at the Public Prosecutor's Office in Berlin and President of the Berliner Staatsanwälte e.V. (Berlin association of public prosecutors),
  • Detective Chief Inspector Christof Lehmkühler, State Office of Criminal Investigation in Berlin, and
  • Souidi El Hassan, Deputy Judge at the Court of Appeal in Marrakesh.

The project activities are set to continue in June 2018 with a study visit by a Moroccan delegation to Berlin.