The ICJ today called for the reversal of last Thursday’s decision removing Judge Mohamed Al-Haini from office with suspension of his pension rights.
Judge Al-Haini, together with his colleague Amal Homani, was referred to the High Judicial Council by the Minister of Justice on unwarranted allegations of “violating the duty of discretion” and “expressing opinions of a political nature” following social media comments and media articles written by the judges in which they criticized the government’s Draft Laws on the Conseil Supérieur du Pouvoir Judiciaire and on the Statute for Judges.
The ICJ stresses that it is entirely appropriate for a judge to comment on matters of public interest that go to the organization and governance of the legal profession.
The ICJ, as well as Moroccan professional associations of judges and civil society organizations, has previously called on the Moroccan authorities to revise these same two draft laws to fully comply with international standards on judicial independence.
The ICJ is concerned both at the unfair and arbitrary nature of the proceedings against Judge Al-Haini. He was only granted two hearings before the High Judicial Council’s decision to dismiss him was taken.
Furthermore, several flaws in the proceedings curtailed Judge Al-Haini’s right to defense.
In particular, the High Judicial Council refused to strike the Minister of Justice from the disciplinary panel.
The Minister clearly had a conflict of interest, given his role in initiating the proceedings against the two judges.
As a result, Judge Al-Haini’s defense team withdrew from the case in protest.
At the second hearing the proceedings were carried out in the absence of any defense counsel.
“Despite recurring breaches of due and fair process standards, the disciplinary proceedings against Judge Al-Haini continued leading to the harshest disciplinary sanction possible in violation of principles governing the independence of the judiciary,” said Theo Boutruche, Legal Adviser of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme.
According to international standards members of the judiciary facing disciplinary proceedings have the right to an independent and impartial authority or court with all the guarantees of a fair trial.
The ICJ is further concerned that under the current legal framework in Morocco, the decisions of the High Judicial Council are not subject to any form of review.
This is clearly inconsistent with international standards that require that any disciplinary decision should be subject to an independent review.
“The absence of any possibility to challenge the decision of dismissal deprives Judge Al-Haini of a safeguard against the improper use of disciplinary proceedings, which is clearly the case here,” Boutruche warned.
The ICJ had previously called on the Moroccan authorities to end the unwarranted and arbitrary disciplinary proceedings against Judges Al-Haini and Homani.
The ICJ stressed that members of the judiciary, like other persons, enjoy the rights to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly in consonance with the dignity of their office and the impartiality and independence of the judiciary.
“This decision should be nullified and the proceedings against the two judges themselves should be terminated,” Boutruche added.
“This case is a stark reminder of the need for the Moroccan authorities to revise the two draft laws, that were adopted last Wednesday by the parliament, to properly strengthen the judicial independence and create a truly independent Conseil Supérieur du Pouvoir Judiciaire in line with international standards,” he concluded.
Theo Boutruche, Legal Adviser of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, tel: +961 70 888 961, e-mail: email@example.com
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