Monday, October 8, 2012

Judges in Morocco Lead Sit-in for Autonomy

The sit-in of 1,000 judges in Morocco calling for autonomy, freedom to not have decisions be "bought" by prestige or money is worth noting.  Here is the Associate Press article via The New York Times. 

Judges in Morocco Lead Sit-In Calling for Autonomous Judiciary

Published: October 6, 2012
Morocco’s courts have historically been weak and under the control of the king and his Justice Ministry, which determines judges’ salaries and appointments so that they will often rule as instructed for the sake of their careers. 

“We have no protection, no rights, we have a miserable salary, we work in catastrophic conditions,” said Nazik Bekkal, a judge from Sidi Kacem in northern Morocco, at the demonstration. “Above all we are not autonomous, very simply, and that’s what is most important. It’s the autonomy, the independence of the judiciary, that’s what we really are looking for.”
Yassine Mkhelli, a judge from Taounate in northern Morocco and founder of the club, said more than 2,200 judges — about two-thirds of the country’s total — had signed a petition calling for reforms. 

In May, judges across the country wore red armbands to protest official interference in the judiciary in another action organized by the club. Morocco’s new Constitution, passed last year, does give the judicial branch greater powers and independence but has yet to be implemented. 

The justice system is one of the most sensitive issues in Morocco, a North African country of 33 million. Many Moroccans believe that it serves the highest bidder.
Critics say verdicts in civil trials can be bought for just $5,000, while a phone call from a high official is enough to seal a guilty verdict in the case of terrorism or political trials. 

The Justice and Development Party, an Islamist group which won last year’s elections, made battling corruption and creating a truly independent judiciary a main plank of its campaign, but judges say little has changed.
“This issue concerns all the Moroccan people who deserve a truly independent judiciary,” said Judge Mohammed Anbar of the Supreme Court, the vice president of the club.

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