Magharebia (Washington DC)

26 March 2014

Morocco Reforms Military Justice

Rabat — Morocco's recent decision to exclude civilians from military courts is "a decisive turning point" in the kingdom, National Human Rights Council (CNDH) chief Driss El Yazami said Tuesday (March 25th) in Rabat.

The new measure to amend the 1956 law protects both citizens and members of the Royal Armed Forces.

Under the change proposed on March 13th, military tribunals would be barred from trying civilians.

They would also be prevented from hearing cases of military personnel involved in common law crimes.

"This reform is a positive step, which we are very happy about because civil society campaigners have been complaining about this for years," said Moroccan Human Rights Organisation (OMDH) President Amina Bouayach.

But some say more needs to be done in terms of human rights in Morocco.

While the number of protests held across the kingdom is a good indicator of freedoms in the country, law enforcement agencies sometimes resort to violence in order to scatter protesters, political analyst Mohamed Sabouni said.

Authorities should take this matter very seriously, he added, in order to avoid tarnishing Morocco's image.

He agreed that Morocco had made considerable strides forward in terms of human rights. However, the legal arsenal suffers from several gaps and should be strengthened, he said.

He cited the need to enact the new Press Code and protect vulnerable groups and women.

According to sociologist Salim Ihabi, efforts to foster a human rights culture in Morocco must go hand in hand with the need to shoulder responsibilities.

"Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more demands for rights being made without people realising that there are responsibilities attached to them," he told Magharebia.

Some citizens say that human rights in Morocco need to be advance even further.

"We still lament the observations made by international NGOs in the field of human rights. No one can deny that human rights have moved forwards in Morocco. But we want to see more being done to ensure that all citizens feel protected," teacher Sara Morchidi said.

Student Hamza Baroud agreed, noting: "What people hope for is to see equality of rights between all citizens without exception and to feel protected both by law and in practice."

"In some cases there are laws that establish human rights, but it is what happens in practice that leaves something to be desired," he said.

"There needs to be greater oversight and follow-through," he added.

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