|Morocco magistrates stage sit-in - photo AFP ( Abdelhak Senna)|
A rare Protest
More than 1000 Moroccan magistrates and judges held a sit-in on Saturday outside the Courts in Rabat.
The demonstration was organized by the Judges’ Club, a group formed in August 2011 to push for judicial reform. The group has been officially banned, but is tolerated. Club founder Yassine Mkhelli, a judge from Taounate in northern Morocco, said that more than 2,200 judges — around two-thirds of the country's total — have signed their petitition calling for reforms.
"Justice without corruption," and "We demand the independence of the judiciary," some of them read, while others called for an "urgent improvement" in the working conditions of magistrates, as promised by King Mohammed VI.
Since early last year, Morocco has witnessed sporadic social unrest, spearheaded by the February 20 protest movement demanding action on a wide range of social grievances and calling in particular for an end to corruption.
The king has vowed to press ahead with reforms, including strengthening the judiciary's independence and battling corruption, after constitutional changes he introduced last year in a bid to contain the Arab Spring-style protests.
But frustration remains over the slow pace of reform and ongoing corruption, with hundreds of activists frequently taking to the streets of Morocco's main cities to call for change. The Islamist Justice and Development Party that 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. An interesting observation by one judicial expert was that a lot of the impetus for these protests emanates from the north of Morocco and has now spread countrywide.
“This issue concerns all the Moroccan people who deserve a truly independent judiciary,” said Mohammed Anbar, the vice president of the club and a Supreme Court judge. “We are here, simply put, for the independence of the justice system. We want a justice system which is effective, has integrity, is strong and is independent.”
Last Friday, prior to the protest by the judges, Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid said that the judiciary is a locomotive for growth and economic prosperity because it encourages investment and guarantees the rights of individuals.
"An adaptive judicial system, and the legislative that is just, fair, equitable and effective, are required," he said. He noted that the national dialogue on the judicial reform had put in place mechanisms to protect the efficiency of the judiciary and ensure rights and freedoms.
A Basic Irony?
Maati Monjib*, a political analyst and historian, says "The irony here is that fighting genuine, large-scale corruption in Morocco isn’t really on the agenda of either the palace or the government: It is so deeply entrenched in the state that an actual attempt to uproot it could uproot the regime itself."
*Monjib is the editor of “Islamists versus Secularists in Morocco” (2009). His remarks, translated from the Arabic, first appeared at Sada, an online journal published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.