By: Judge Mina Sougrati
Judge Mina Sougrati is president of the Administrative Tribunal of Casablanca, Morocco. She is also currently serving as the President of the Union of Moroccan Women Judges and as the Secretary and Treasurer of the International Association of Women Judges. Judge Sougrati recently shared her views on corruption reporting mechanisms with UNODC, as part of the Organization's on-going work to prevent corruption in the judiciary. All opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author as an external expert and do not necessarily reflect the official position of UNODC.
As an International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) member and as a Moroccan magistrate, I strongly believe that corruption and unethical practices significantly affect development and progress, in addition to hindering the stability of states. Preventing judicial corruption requires synergy to consolidate the principle of integrity and the moralization of public life, as well as link responsibility to identifying and combating corruption. In this vein, the Moroccan judiciary has been improving both its corruption reporting mechanisms, as well as targeting corruption within the judiciary itself.
The Moroccan judiciary system, for instance, has been continuously modernizing and ameliorating its practices for addressing corruption in general. In this respect, new contemporary reporting mechanisms have been created to complement classic reporting methods (i.e. the police and prosecution open an investigation after a complaint is filed). These mechanisms are supported by the promulgation of a new law for the protection of witnesses, whistle-blowers, victims and experts (law number 10/37) and the launch of a toll-free Ministry of Justice hotline in June 2015. The reporting hotline, known as the 'Green Line', provides a quick and easy mechanism to control the perpetrators in case of flagrante delicto. The Ministry also invested in making its web portal as optimal and efficient as possible, making it an ideal source of information for the public.
It is also critical to make sure that any procedural success is a milestone towards a higher achievement, because unethical behaviour evolves as well.
In 2018, a new entity was born - the Center for Reporting Corruption and Bribery (CRCB). It is a dedicated team of 12 agents who enable even more direct interaction with the citizens, and consequently an even more efficient response time. The direct phone line has been made public and the fax line has been established for citizens who are more comfortable with that medium. The CRCB receives calls that report any financial corruption offenses (blackmailing, embezzlement, exploiting influence, treason, etc.). When the reception centre receives a call, it refers it to the appointed judge, who coordinates with the public prosecutor in the city where the citizen is located to arrest the suspect.
There have also been advancements in Morocco in the reporting of gender-related corruption. In the framework of empowering women to defend their rights, and in order to restore trust in the judiciary, the Union of Moroccan Women Judges is implementing the project "New Standards for Integrity and Accountability: Recognizing Corruption's Impact on Women."
On this basis, we organize workshops for judges in different judicial departments in Morocco to introduce the phenomenon of sexual corruption where sexual favours are requested in exchange for services. This form of sexual corruption, labelled by the IAWJ as 'sextortion,' manifests itself in universities, employment settings (both in the public and private sectors) and in courts. Through discussions between judges and prosecutors during the workshops, it became clear that the most important challenge is reporting. Shame and fear of stigma, in addition to the lack of laws, lack of witnesses and difficulty to prove claims make the victims bear their harm and keep silent instead of reporting.
Among the recommendations proposed at the end of the workshops was the need to address corruption within the judiciary itself. It was suggested that sextortion be added as an immoral act in the Code of Judicial Conduct and in the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct specifically under the commentary on the principle of integrity.
Finally, thanks to all the means of reporting that have become available to Moroccan women victims of corruption, I can only tell them: "do not be ashamed, do not be afraid to report, defend yourselves and denounce those who exploit you, in the judiciary we seek integrity!"