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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.
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.
On 20 and 21 June 2019, the fourth seminar on "Decent treatment of inmates in the Moroccan penal system" was held in Rabatt. The seminar was organised by the IRZ in cooperation with the "Directorate General for Correctional Service and Resocialisation (DGAPR)". The seminar is part of the project "Cooperation with the Kingdom of Morocco in the Penal System", which is being carried out by the IRZ over the period 2017 to 2020 with funding from the Federal Foreign Office.
The IRZ has received the support of an expert from Tegel Prison in Berlin in the implementation of the seminar: Silvia Cardini, Head of Psychological Service, and Michael Weise, Head of the General Penal Service.
The first day of the seminar included a meeting of the steering committee for all the working groups set up within the framework of the project. After a brief presentation of the project by the IRZ, the participants discussed the content and design of the manual that is to be produced. It is to be drawn up on the basis of Moroccan penal system law as well as applicable international agreements.
During the second day of the seminar, possible ways of preventing violence between prisoners and against prison guard officers were discussed. Two core tasks of the "Directorate General for Correctional Service and Resocialisation (DGAPR)" in Morocco are to ensure security in prisons and adequately prepare prisoners for resocialisation. To achieve these two objectives, the DGAPR applies a security strategy based on two pillars:
Material security: technical and infrastructural measures and steps to improve working conditions for staff.
Dynamic security: building good relations with inmates and preventing violence by ensuring that inmates are treated with dignity.
In Germany, personal and structural factors are considered to be causes of violence among prisoners. It is for this reason that, in addition to humane accommodation of inmates to facilitate prevention of violence, open prisons are increasingly being used. On top of this, additional preventive measures, e.g. to combat violence and drug use, are being applied.
In Germany, as in Morocco, an effort is being made to improve working conditions of prison officers by such means as:
ensuring a sufficient number of well-trained personnel,
effective support and
a range of continuous training courses.
Both countries cooperate closely with external actors from civil society or the public sector in implementing measures to prevent violence along with internal measures taken by prisons themselves, particularly in the areas of initial and continuous training and the treatment of inmates.
With the aim of preventing religiously motivated violence, Morocco has adopted a strategy of helping inmates find peace with themselves, while achieving reconciliation with society and religious texts. In Germany, religious scholars offer group discussions and are in regular contact with inmates at their request. These treatment methods are also part and parcel of efforts to prevent violence.
There is considerable interest on both sides in a continued exchange of experience and views on these issues.