Morocco: ensure effective investigation and prosecution of sexual and gender based violence

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The ICJ today called on the Moroccan authorities to effectively investigate and prosecute sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) offences, including by ensuring the rights of victims to effective remedies and reparation and by combatting the impunity prevailing in Morocco over such offences.

The statement came following a high-level mission to Morocco from 18 to 21 December 2017 in which the ICJ launched its memorandum Morocco: ensuring the effective investigation and prosecution of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls, and engaged with members of the government, the Parliament and the judiciary on the findings and recommendations of the memorandum.

Based on a review of 75 judgments handed down by Moroccan First Instance Tribunal and Courts of Appeal in cases involving SGBV offences, and on interviews with various actors in the justice system, the ICJ documented how the lack of guidelines on investigating and prosecuting SGBV, combined with the inadequacy of evidentiary rules and procedures, frustrate the successful prosecution of SGBV cases in Morocco.

Cases are often dismissed on grounds of insufficient evidence; and sentences, in those cases brought to trial, are often disproportionately lenient. This is partly due to the prevalence of judicial stereotyping, reduction of sentence when the defendant marries the victim (a practice that itself raises human rights concerns), and the arbitrary or unexplained application of mitigating circumstances such as the “social situation of the defendant” or “the relative seriousness of the acts that were committed”.

Moroccan authorities should overhaul the framework and procedures on investigation and prosecution of SGBV,” said Saïd Benarbia, Director of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme. “They should ensure effective and timely protective measures for the victims; provide for clear guidelines and protocols for law enforcement officers, prosecutors, doctors and other health professionals, and consolidate and supplement the victims’ testimony with additional evidence, in particular medico-legal and forensic evidence.”

“Those in charge of investigations and prosecutions must also minimize the burden on the victims with a view to avoiding their secondary victimization; refrain from stereotyping, victims’ blaming and other harmful practices that undermine the rights of the victims, and challenge, by way of appeal, disproportionately lenient sentences,” concluded Martine Comte, honorary judge and former President of the Court of Appeal of Orléans, France, who led the ICJ Mission.

Contact:

Saïd Benarbia, Director of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +41.22.979.3817, e: said.benarbia(a)icj.org

Additional information

The mission was led by Martine Comte, honorary judge and former President of the Court of Appeal of Orléans, France, and included Saïd Benarbia, Director of the ICJ MENA programme, and Giulia Soldan, Programme Manager of the ICJ MENA programme.

The ICJ delegation met with Mr Mohamed Aujjar, Minister of Justice; Mr Adil El Bitar, President of the Commission on Justice, Legislation, and Human Rights at the Chamber of Deputies; Mr Mohamed Abdennabaoui, President of the Office of the Public Prosecutor and Prosecutor General of the Cassation Court; and representatives of civil society.

This Press Release is also available in Arabic (in PDF format), here: MOR Mission Dec PR ARABIC

The memorandum Morocco: ensuring the effective investigation and prosecution of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls is available (PDF format):

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