In a previous blog we looked at judicial independence in Papua New Guinea. Now, we turn our attention to judicial politics in Morocco and also in Nepal. The two nations are both facing constitutional upheaval, Nepal is currently ‘in-between Constitutions’ and Morocco has been in the process of wide-ranging reforms since July 2011, when a new constitution came into force.
Nepal: The caretaker Maoist government and opposition parties have recently been struggling to agree a new Constitution. Indeed, the Constituent Assembly was dissolved without a new Constitution in place. This was good news for Supreme Court judge Rana Bahadur Bam who was the subject of impeachment proceedings at the time – without a legislature the impeachment had to be abandoned. Mr Bam was allowed to remain as a sitting judge.
Rana Bahadur Bam had been accused of taking bribes in 2010 from suspects charged with abduction in exchange for giving them light sentences.
On 31st May 2012 gunmen on motorcycles attacked Mr Bam’s car as he left the Bagamukhi temple to drive to court in Kathmandu. Mr Bam was shot six times and later died in hospital. Without a Constitution it could be argued that the judiciary are truly independent. However, without a legislature (to make law) and an executive (to enforce that law) the judiciary are left dangerously exposed to those in society who care little for justice, as was evidenced by the murder of Judge Bam.
Morocco: In May 2012 the Club of Moroccan judges, which represents more than half of the judiciary, launched a campaign to demand greater judicial independence. The Moroccan royal family and government currently have control of judicial promotions and salaries.
Approximately 2,900 judges then wore a red armband for a week as a form of protest.
King Mohammed VI announced a new government panel, called the ‘supreme body for national dialogue on the reform of justice’. The panel is led by the Minister of Justice, Mustapha Ramid, and comprises forty members (including eight women). The aim is to draft a national judicial charter.
The panel did not get off to the most auspicious of starts when Taieb Nassiri (a former justice minister) suffered a heart attack at one of the panel’s first meetings. On a more positive note, the panel have already established a work schedule – seven topics to discuss and visits to ten cities, starting in Rabat on 7th & 8th June.
King Mohammed VI noted that “the independence of the judiciary, relative to the legislative and executive branches” is specified in the constitution. The monarch is the guarantor of judicial independence (see Article 107 Moroccan Constitution 2011).
Choosing the monarch as guarantor for judicial independence is an interesting concept. On one hand selecting the monarch is a wise choice; it provides a way to protect the judiciary without overtly politicising them – particularly as the integrity of the Monarch is taken as ‘inviolable’ by Article 46 Moroccan Constitution 2011.
At the same time, won’t the wave of democrats that have emerged in the Maghreb since the Arab Spring be troubled by the fact that the unelected judiciary is guaranteed by an unaccountable King?