Seminar on the cooperation between the justice system, legal and forensic medicine and the police

Participants and speakers at the seminar in Fez
Participants and speakers at the seminar in Fez

On 25 and 26 September 2019, the IRZ, in partnership with the Moroccan Public Prosecutor’s Office, organised a two-day seminar in Fez on “Discovery of a corpse – cooperation between the justice system, legal and forensic medicine and the police”. The seminar is 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. The IRZ is coordinating this project between 2017 and the end of this year as part of the project financed by the German Foreign Office (Transformation Partnerships with North Africa/the Middle East).

The objective of the seminar was to point out to the attending 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.

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

  • Prof. Dr. Knut Albrecht, Director of the Brandenburg Regional Institute of Legal and Forensic Medicine;
  • Ralph Knispel, Senior Public Prosecutor, Head of the Capital Offences Department; President of the Vereinigung Berliner Staatsanwälte e.V. (Berlin association of public prosecutors);
  • Christof Lehmkühler, Detective Chief Inspector in the 5th Homicide Division at the Berlin State Office of Criminal Investigations.

The IRZ experts presented the most important provisions in the German Code of Criminal Procedure for legal and forensic medicine. They also discussed in detail the significance of legal and forensic reports in investigation procedures. They stipulated the necessity of establishing quality standards for these reports. Another important topic was the prioritisation of evidence at the crime scene, which the participants discussed with the help of a number of specific case examples.

The current situation in terms of legal and forensic medicine in Morocco was also discussed. They established that the draft legislation on a professional code for forensic scientists, which the IRZ is also advising on as part of this project, should include new and clear regulations for exercising legal and forensic medicine. There are still a few outstanding issues to be resolved in this context, such as the question of sufficient funding for legal and forensic medicine.


Seminar on “Social and psychological Support for Prisoners” held in Tétouan

During the seminar
During the seminar

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.

Motivation challenge

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.

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

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.