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Features - Guide to the Morocco Legal System

By Dahmène Touchent, Published on May 15, 2002

Dahmène Touchent is the manager of the Algerian web site http://www.lexalgeria.fr.fm/. He received his Diplôme d’études supérieures from the Financial National Institute, Algiers, his Master of Law from The Paris XIII University, and his legal higher studies in export law from Paris V University. He teaches law and economics courses to first-years and upper-class students at the Claude Bernard institute and the OCFI Center in Paris. He is an independent journalist at the Journal of Internet Ethics and has written articles and studies on French labour law.


Table of Contents

Introduction
A. The Executive Power: the Government
1. The Prime Minister
2. Ministers
B. The Legislative Power: Parliament
1. House of Representatives
2. The House of Counsellors
C. The Judicial Power
1. Jurisdictions of the 1st degree
First Instance Courts
Trade Courts
Communal and District Courts
2. Jurisdictions of the 2nd Degree: Courts of Appeals
3. Supreme Court
4. Administrative Courts
5. Other Jurisdictions
Special Court of Justice
High Court
The Standing Tribunal of the Royal Armed Forces
The Audit Court
D. Other Authorities
1. The Constitutional Council
2. The Economic and Social Council
E. Administrative
F. Other (Semi) Governmental Institutions
G. Law Faculties
H. Legislation (Laws, Jurisprudence and Treaties)
I. Legal Literature (Textbooks on Civil Law, Administrative Constitutional Law, Criminal Law)
J. Legal Sites
1. Introduction

Morocco is a constitutional and democratic monarchy. The King is the Supreme Representative of the Nation and the Symbol of the unity thereof. He is the guarantor of the perpetuation and the continuity of the State. As Defender of the Faith, He ensures the respect for the Constitution. He is the Protector of the rights and liberties of the citizens, social groups and organisations.

Morocco’s borders are the Atlantic Ocean (2 934 km of coasts) to the West, the Straits of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean Sea (512 km of coasts) to the North, and is separated from the European continent only by 14 km of sea. It has terrestrial borders with Algeria (1, 350 km), Mauritania (650 km) and Spain (12 km) with Ceuta and Melilla.

The native people of Morocco are the Berbers, an ancient race who, throughout history, have seen their country invaded by a succession of foreign powers (Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Vandals, Byzantium, Portuguese and Spanish, French).

Independence was acquired in 1956 after 44 years as a French protectorate.

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A. The Executive Power: the Government

The Government is composed of the Prime Minister and Ministers. The Government is answerable to the King and the Parliament.

1. The Prime Minister

After the appointment of the Cabinet members by the King, the Prime Minister submit the program (about the national activity, namely in economic, social, cultural and foreign affairs) to each one of the two Houses of Parliament. The House of Representatives will validate by vote the program.

Under the Prime Minister's responsibility, the Government ensures the execution of the laws. All public facilities are placed at the Government's disposal.

The Prime Minister has the right to introduce bills, exercise the administrative powers and delegate some of his powers to the Ministers.

The Prime Minister is responsible for the coordination of ministerial activities. Before any relevant decision is taken, the Cabinet is notified of the following:

  • matters related to general policies of the State;
  • declaration of martial law;
  • declaration of war;
  • requesting confidence from the House of representatives to allow the Government to carry out their responsibilities further;
  • draft bills, before they are brought to one of the two Houses;
  • statutory decrees
  • draft plan
  • projects for revising this Constitution
2. Ministers

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B. The Legislative Power: Parliament

The Parliament (http://www.majliss-annouwab.ma; Arabic version) is composed of the House of Representatives and the House of Counsellors.

The King presides over the opening of Parliament’s session that holds its meetings during two sessions a year: the first session begins on the second Friday in October, the second session begins on the second Friday in April.

The Parliament may be convened in special session by two ways:

  • by the request of the absolute majority of the members of one of the two Houses
  • by decree

During parliamentary sessions, no member of Parliament can be subject to prosecution or arrest for criminal charges or felonies without permission from the House.

Outside parliamentary sessions, no member of Parliament can be subject to arrest without permission from the Board of the House.

The imprisonment or prosecution of a member of Parliament can be suspended if so required by the House, except

  • flagrant offence
  • in the case of authorised prosecution
  • final judgement
1. House of Representatives

Members of the House of Representatives are elected for a six- year term by direct universal suffrage. The legal legislative period ends at the opening of the October session in the fifth year following the election of the House.

An organic law set out the rules of:

  • the number of representatives
  • the voting system
  • eligibility requirements
  • incompatibility cases
  • legal contentions concerning elections

The President is elected first at the beginning of the legislative period, then at the April session in the third year of the said period and for the remaining portion thereof.

No member of Parliament can be prosecuted, arrested, put into custody or brought to trial as a result of expressing opinions or casting a vote while exercising office functions, except when the opinions expressed are injurious to the monarchical system and the religion of Islam or derogatory to the respect owed to the king.

2. The House of Counsellors

For 3/5 of its membership, the House of Counsellors consists of members elected in each region by electoral colleges made up of elected members of trade chambers as well as members elected at the national level by an electoral college consisting of wage-earners' representatives.

Members of the House of Counsellors are elected for a nine-year term. One third of the House are renewed every three years. The President of the House of Counsellors and members of the Board are elected at the October session during each renewal operation in the House. Members of the Board are elected in proportion to the size of their respective groups (electoral groups).

Upon the setting up of the first House of Counsellors or upon its election following the dissolution of the preceding House, the President and the members of the Board are elected at the beginning of the session that follows the election. They seek renewal of their term in the office at the beginning of the October session during each renewal operation in the House.

An organic law set out:

  • the number of counsellors
  • the voting system
  • the number of members to be elected by each electoral college
  • the distribution of seats according to regions
  • eligibility requirements
  • incompatibility cases
  • allotting procedures mentioned above
  • legal contentions concerning elections

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C. The Judicial Power

The Morocco’s Constitution claims that “The judicial authority is independent from the legislative power and the executive power”. Magistrates are appointed by Dahir on the proposal of the High Council of the Magistracy.

1. Jurisdictions of the 1st degree

First Instance Courts

They are competent for:

  • all civil affairs relevant to the personal or inheritance
  • commercial or social statute
  • in a first or last instance or in appeal

Trade Courts

They rule the following:

  • Cases between tradesmen, involving commercial activities;
  • Disputes between associates of a trade company;
  • Cases related to trade effects;
  • Disputes related to business
  • Trade courts are competent to judge, on first and last instances, cases that do not exceed 9,000 Dirham (0,09 $). in value and in the first instance all requests that exceed this value.

Communal and District Courts

Communal and District judges are competent to adjudicate all personal estate actions brought against individuals who reside under their jurisdiction. The value of claims must be less than 1000 Dirham (0,09 $).

2. Jurisdictions of the 2nd degree: the Courts of Appeals

They try criminal cases, appeals against judgements passed by Tribunals of Original Jurisdiction and appeals against rulings made by the latter's presiding judges.

3. The Supreme Court

The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is as following:

  • Appeals for cassation of sentences without appeal decided by anyone of the kingdom's courts.
  • Appeals for cancellation of the Prime Minister's decisions.
  • Jurisdiction disputes arising among courts above which there is no high court other than the Supreme Court.
  • Suits for bias filed against magistrates and courts with the exception of the Supreme Court.
  • Proceedings aimed at judge disqualifying because of likelihood of bias.
  • Disqualifying for reasons of public security or for the sake of a good administration of justice.
4. Administrative Courts

They are competent to make initial rulings:

  • on claims for cancellation of acts filed against administrative authorities,
  • disputes related to administrative contracts
  • claims for compensation of prejudice caused by public entities' acts or activities
  • to set up the consistency of administrative acts with legal provisions

5. Other Jurisdictions

The Special Court of Justice

It is competent for cases (corruption, embezzlement....). in which magistrates or Government employees are involved.

The High Court

It is competent for offences or crimes committed by government members during the discharge of their functions. They may be indicted by the two Houses of Parliament and referred to the High Court of Justice for trial.

The Standing Tribunal of the Royal Armed Forces

It is Competent for cases about:

  • unauthorised carrying of firearms
  • offences committed by soldiers

The Audit Court

The Audit Court is responsible for conducting overall supervision of the implementation of the budget. It’s ensure the sound conduct of receipt and expenditure operations and evaluate the management of agencies placed under its control by law. When necessary, The Audit Court takes action against violation of the rules governing such operations. The Audit Court provides assistance to Parliament and the government in its fields of competence.

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D. Other Authorities

1. The Constitutional Council

The Constitutional Council is made up of six members appointed by the King for a nine year tenure. Other six members are appointed for the same period, half of them by the President of the House of Representatives and the other half by the President of the House of Counsellors. A third of each category of members is renewed every three years.

Before their promulgation, organic laws and the Rules of Procedure of each House are submitted to the Constitutional Council.

The King, the Prime Minister, the President of the House of Representatives, the President of the House of Counsellors or one-fourth of the members making up one House or the other can referred to the Constitutional Council before the promulgation of a law.

Also, the Constitutional Council decides on the validity of the election of the Members of Parliament and regarding any referendum operations.

The Constitutional Council has one month to decide upon the special instances. In case of emergency, the deadline is reduced to eight days if so requested by the Government.

Decisions of the Constitutional Council are imposed upon all public authorities, administrative and judicial areas. No unconstitutional provision is promulgated or implemented.

2. The Economic and Social Council

The Economic and Social Council may be consulted by the Government, as well as the House of Representatives and the House of Counsellors on all matters of economic and social nature. It shall give its opinion on the general guidelines pertaining to the national economy and training programmes.

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E. The Administrative Power

The Administrative power in the Kingdom is organised on two layers: local communities and local assemblies. The assemblies have the following competence:

  • Determination of modes and mechanisms for the collection of duties and taxes destined for the prefecture or the province Regional development programs.
  • Industrial decentralisation projects.
  • Rules of establishment for provincial and prefectoral public services.
  • The classification, maintenance and extension of roads.

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F. Other (Semi) Government Institutions

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G. Law Faculties

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H. Legislation (Laws, Jurisprudence and Treaties)

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I. Literature (Textbooks on Civil Law, Administrative Constitutional Law, Criminal Law)

Public Law

  • Michel BOURLEY, Droit Public Marocain, éditions La Porte.

Constitutional Law

  • Cubertafond, Bernard, Le Système politique marocain, L’Harmattan, Paris.

Administrative Law

  • Garagnon, Jean et Rousset, Michel, Droit administratif marocain, Editions La Porte
  • Fathia Sahli et Serge Regourd, Les politiques de décentralisation : études comparées franco-marocaines, Presses universitaires de Perpignan

Status (Law)

  • Collective book, Le code du statut personnel marocain (la Moudawwna), Algiers University
  • Pierre GUILHO, « La nationalité marocaine », éd. Laporte, Librairie de Médicis, 1961.

International Law

  • Ouazzani Chahdi, Hassan, La pratique marocaine du droit des traites, Libr. générale de droit et de jurisprudence, LGDJ
  • Rodriguez-Aguilera, Cesareo, Manuel de droit marocain, Librairie générale de droit et de jurisprudence, LGDJ.

Justice

  • François Paul Blanc, Rédouane Boujemaa, Olivier Devaux et Amal Mourji, La justice au Maroc (Quelques jalons, de Hassan I à Hassan II), Presses universitaires de Perpignan

Trade Law

  • François-Paul Blanc et Ahmed Trachen, Le droit marocain des fraudes sur les marchandises et son adaptation aux marchés extérieurs, Presses universitaires de Perpignan

Export-Impport Law

  • Kacem Taj, Guide Pratique en Commerce International.

Sport Law

  • Abdallah Boudahrain, Le Droit du Sport au Maroc.

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J. Legal Sites

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