Minister of Justice Abdellatif Ouahbi said that he will no longer engage in further dialogue with the Moroccan Bars Association and its president, Abdelouahed Al Ansari.
Ouahbi spoke on a number of issues plaguing the judicial sector on Tuesday, during a discussion on the sub-budget of the Ministry of Justice within the Justice and Legislation Committee of the House of Representatives
Ouahbi revisited the issue of his troubled relationship with the association, due to ongoing disagreements on his proposed draft law concerning the legal profession.
The minister said that his stance is not against lawyers as a whole but rather against the president of the association.
The minister emphasized that he has maintained communication with practicing lawyers but has refrained from further discussions with the Bars Association and its president.
Ouahbi explained that legally, “the head representative of the regional bar association is the official responsible, and the association was established under Decree 58 for public freedoms. We gave them a chance, but they didn’t understand me, so I decided not to sit with them because I cannot discuss the lawyers’ law for 30 years.”
Ouahbi further said that the law in question does not exclusively pertain to lawyers but encompasses judges, civil servants, and other professionals. Ouahbi argued against the notion that the law should be drafted by lawyers themselves.
“I practice law, but I will not tailor the law to the lawyers; I will craft a law for the profession and not to please anyone,” said the minister. He added “There are judges, magistrates, and notaries in this country, so everyone brings the law they want, I suppose, and I’m expected to convey it! Have I become a mail carrier in my last days? With all due respect to mail carriers.”
The minister explained that they have considered the views of the Bar Association but emphasized that there are other institutions whose perspectives should also be taken into account.
Ouahbi stated that holding further meetings with the Bar Association would not yield new insights as they would likely reiterate previous comments.
Regarding the procedure for the draft law, Ouahbi clarified that it involves the Ministry drafting the law, which is then submitted to the government’s general secretariat for approval before being presented to Parliament for final approval.
Ouahbi made it clear that lawyers do not have a special procedure allowing them to influence this process. He stated that “I listened to them, and that’s it; they won’t be the ones to legislate.”
In terms of legal education, Ouahbi discussed the establishment of a dedicated institute that would annually produce 160 lawyers.
The minister also proposed expanding the profession to include legal notaries with a Ph.D. who have worked in the field for a decade, as well as legal officials in the government secretariat. The aim is to enrich the legal profession and open it up to a broader pool of candidates.
Ouahbi further emphasized that lawyers who cannot accept competition will not succeed in the field, and those who misuse the law for personal or closed-circle interests do not represent true lawyers.
Regarding the alternative sanctions law that faced sharp criticism from the General Delegate of Prison Administration and Rehabilitation, Ouahbi firmly stated “If alternative sanctions help just one Moroccan, I’ll implement them.”
The minister continued, “It doesn’t matter if the results are positive or not; it depends on our ability to be creative and find ways to ease the burden on people. It’s a challenge.”
Ouahbi made it clear that he didn’t introduce alternative sanctions to relieve pressure on people. “It’s just one of the means,” he said.
Ouahbi questioned the members of the parliament, asking them “why are there so few pardon requests at my ministry, and so few conditional release requests at my disposal? We search for requests to process, but we can’t find them.”
The minister pointed out, “The law has given the Public Prosecution the right to request, and prison directors have the right to request, so why don’t we receive the requests?”
The minister acknowledged that the Ministry of Justice faces significant challenges in terms of human resources, noting that many first-instance courts will open next year due to the simultaneous graduation of a new cohort of judges in July.