The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute(IBAHRI) and senior members of the Moroccan legal profession, together with civic organisations supporting abolition of the death penalty, have held a closed consultation meeting, at the British Embassy in Rabat. They discussed the role of lawyers, and in particular bar associations, in advocating for abolition de jure of the death penalty in Morocco.
The Deputy Head of Mission of the British Embassy, Alan Gogbashian, opened the meeting, on 11 July 2012, by emphasising the important role lawyers can play in achieving the abolition of the death penalty. Shirley Pouget, IBAHRI Programme Lawyer, moderated the discussion between bar leaders, members of the Moroccan abolitionist civil society and 12 lawyers. Representatives of the French abolitionist organisation Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort (ECPM) were also in attendance, contributing to a fruitful discussion on the practical ways of engaging the Moroccan legal profession in becoming more proactive in its efforts to abolish the death penalty in Morocco.
Sternford Moyo, IBAHRI Co-Chair said: ‘We very much welcomed the interest of, and the opportunity to engage with, Moroccan lawyers on the issue of abolishing the death penalty in Morocco.’ Stressing the importance of the involvement of the legal profession in bringing about abolition, he said, ‘Lawyers and bar associations hold privileged knowledge of the national justice system and play an influential role in legal reform, therefore it is vital that lawyers and bar associations engage in efforts to abolish the death penalty. We are in the very early stages of discussion, and are looking forward to working closely with all parties to reach our common aim.’
The meeting precedes the regional congress about the death penalty, to be held 18-20 October 2012, in Rabat. The event is being organised by the ECPM in partnership with the Organisation Maroccaine des Droits de l’Homme, the IBAHRIand in association with the Coalition Marocaine Contre la Peine de Mort. During the congress the IBAHRI will hold a seminar on the legal profession and the abolition of the death penalty.
For more information on the regional congress on the abolition of the death penalty in October, please contact Shirley.email@example.com
The death penalty in the Arab region
Morocco is one of five Arab states which have observed an unofficial moratorium on executions for over a decade (others include Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania and the Comoros). Djibouti is currently the only Arab state to formally abolish the death penalty (ECPM 2009 www.abolition.fr/ecpm/french/article.php?art=652).
Status quo of the death penalty in Morocco
The last execution in Morocco was in 1993. The current King Mohammed VI has not signed any execution decrees since coming to power in 1999, however death sentences continue to be handed down and, as of 25 June 2011, there are 103 prisoners on death row (World Coalition against the Death Penalty 2011 www.worldcoalition.org/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=497).
Morocco did not vote in favour of the 2007 and 2008 UN General Assembly resolutions calling for a moratorium on the death penalty and Morocco abstained from voting on the third moratorium in December 2010 (Amnesty International 2010
Morocco has a strong abolitionist movement, mostly led by the Moroccan Coalition Against the Death Penalty, established in 2003, and has seven member organisations, including the Moroccan Bar Association.In 2004 the government held an official forum to discuss gradual abolition of the death penalty. In 2007 a bill proposing the abolition of the death penalty was brought before the parliament; however it is believed that the terrorist bombings that took place in March and April of that year caused the government to shelve the bill and the number of crimes to which the death penalty can be applied was increased to include crimes of terrorism. Since 2007, rather than focusing on absolute abolition, the government has focused more on incremental changes designed at limiting the application of the death penalty. (World Coalition against the Death Penalty 2011 www.worldcoalition.org/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=497).
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