Morocco’s judges donned red armbands on Tuesday in a symbolic week-long protest calling for greater independence for the judiciary.
The Judges’ Club, a banned but tolerated association that includes more than half of the country’s nearly 3,000 judges, said the protest was in response to the silence of the government over reform.
Morocco’s courts have historically been weak and under the control of the king and his Justice Ministry, which determines judges’ salaries and appointments so that they will often rule as instructed for the sake of their careers.
Constitutional amendments passed in 2011 elevate the judiciary to the status of a branch of the government on par with the executive and legislature and give it greater independence from the Ministry of Justice.
“The new constitution is very clear: the judiciary will become a power and judges will have the right to organize. We are within our rights,” said Nizar Aziz, a prosecutor at the Sale court near the capital, Rabat, and an active member of the club.
On May 8, the king nominated a 40-person commission to begin the dialogue on judicial reform. No member of the Judges’ Club was named to the commission.
“It is very good that a discussion has been opened on this difficult question. But I ask why no one from our association was included in this commission,” Aziz said to The Associated Press.
Protesters involved in pro-democracy demonstrations in 2011 made the reform of the judiciary and increasing its independence a key demand.