Kingdom of Morocco





Ancient Moroccan History


The Berbers, an ancient civilization of nomadic Christian and Pagan tribal people, inhabited the western coast of North Africa many centuries before being driven inland to the Sahara desert and Atlas Mountain regions by the invasion of the Arabs in the 7th century A.D.  There had been other invaders –



-- but it wasn’t until the Arab invasion that the Christian and Pagan Berbers were converted to Islam. 


Between 1062 and 1544 A.D., the Berbers once again ruled over Morocco with the exception of a brief period between 1212 and 1250 A.D. when the country was invaded by Spain and civil war broke out in between the Berber and the Arab factions. 



In 1544 A.D., the Arabs won their struggle for supremacy, and the descendants of the prophet Mohammed ruled Morocco until parts of the country and the Western Saraha came under Portuguese, Spanish and French influence in the 15th century.



Morocco in the Twentieth Century


By 1904, parts of Morocco were divided between France and Spain.  This spawned Germany to instigate a rebellion by the Moroccans against the French.  By 1906, French and German negotiations enabled Germany to join the other major European powers in recognizing Morocco as a French Protectorate.  During the 1920s, Spain and France formed an alliance to recapture territories lost during a rebellion in the Spanish segment of Morocco. 


In 1956, under the rule of King Mohammed V, Morocco gained independence from France and Spain.  King Mohammed V ruled Morocco until his death in 1961when he was succeed by his son, King Hassan II.  King Hassan II proposed the establishment of a constitutional monarchy and held the first general elections for Parliament.  However, parliamentary rule proved unsuccessful and King Hassan II was compelled to suspended and rule without parliament for seven years from 1963.  In 1975, King Hassan II organized “The Green March” in which 350,000 unarmed Moroccans marched into the Sahara and successful liberated parts of the Sahara still under Spanish rule.  King Hassan II died July 23, 1999 and was succeeded by his son, King Mohammed VI who currently rules Morocco.


The government


The monarchy


Morocco is a democratic, social and constitutional monarchy.  The monarchy is hereditary; the crown is passed from the King to his direct male descendents or should there be none, to the closest male of consanguinity.  The King, however, reserves the option to designate during his lifetime a son other than the eldest to succeed him.  The King of Morocco is the head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces as well as supreme spiritual leader of his country.  The King is “the Protector of the rights and liberties of the citizens, social groups and organizations.” (Article 19)  The reigning King of Morocco is Mohammed VI who was born August 21, 1963.


The King





The Government of Morocco is comprised of  the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers.  The Prime Minister, who is appointed by the King, nominates members of the Council of Ministers for the King’s appointment.  The King, however, has the authority to replace any minister with one of his own choosing.  The current Prime Minister of Morocco is Abderrahmane YOUSSOUFI of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP).  Prime Minister Youssoufi was appointed by the late King Hassan II in February 1998.


The Prime Minister





Morocco’s bicameral Parliament comprises the Chamber of Counselors and the Chamber of Representatives. 


The Chamber of Counselors is the Upper House of the Parliament and is comprised of individuals elected by an electoral college consisting of elected members of trade and wage-earner organizations for a nine-year term.  The Chamber of Counselors is presided over by an elected President and members of an elected Board.  One-third of the Upper House is elected every three years.


The Chamber of Representatives is the Lower House of Parliament and is comprised of individuals directly elected by the people of Morocco for a six-year term.   The Chamber of Representatives is presided over by an elected President and members of an elected Board.  





The Constitutional Council


The Constitutional Council comprises six members appointed by the, three members appointed by the President of the Chamber of Representatives, and three members appointed by the President of the Chamber of Counselors King for a non-renewable nine-year period – one-third being renewed every three years.  The Chairman of the Constitutional Council is selected by the King from his appointees.  The Council screens laws before their promulgation to ensure their consistency with the Constitution.  The Council is also responsible for overseeing elections of members of Parliament and the operation of referendums.  The decisions of the Constitutional Council are final and binding on all public authorities.


The Judiciary


The independence of the Judiciary is guaranteed in Morocco’s Constitution (Article 82).  The authority of the judiciary is administered by the Supreme Council of the Judiciary which is presided over by the King.  Members of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary include:



Administration of the court system including budgetary matters is carried out by the Ministry of Justice.  The 1974 Code of Civil Procedure limits the role of the judiciary forbidding judicial review of laws or decrees.  The judicial review of administrative acts is rare.


There are three levels of courts of general jurisdiction: 


Communal, District and Primary Courts


Communal and District Courts were established to settle minor criminal offences.  These courts may not imprison offenders but may only impose monetary penalties.  There is no appeal from these courts.




Courts of Appeals


There are nine Courts of Appeal that hear appeals from the regional courts and also exercise preliminary jurisdiction in felony cases.


Supreme Court


The Supreme Court is a court of cassation and is a constitutional court, but only in regard to actions of administrative bodies; royal legislation is not subject to judicial review.  The Supreme Court may review the decisions of all lower courts and tribunals.  The Supreme Court is divided into five chambers: 


Courts with Special Jurisdiction


·         Special Court of Justice hears cases involving judges and government officials

·         Permanent Court of the Royal Armed Forces

·         The High Court of Justice tries cases involving crimes committed by government officials in the performance of their duties after they have been indicted by a 2/3 majority of Parliament.  The President of the High Court is appointed by the King and each chamber of Parliament may elect representatives equal to the other chamber.

·         Audit Court monitors and controls government finances

·         Labor Tribunal hears labor disputes and settles them by means of conciliation.  This court is headed by the President of the Labor Tribunal and includes members chosen from among employers and workers.




Moroccan law is a body of legislation combined with religious and traditional customs.   Moroccan law is based on the Shari’a, the body of Islamic law and practices based on the Holy Qur’an.  However, Moroccan law has been influenced by customary Berber law as well as French and Spanish legislation enacted during the protectorate.  Because of the colonial influence, a commercial law has been separated from the Shari’a.  This separation is manifested by two separate bodies of law, modern law and Islamic law.  The modern law is based on the French civil law codes and practices.  In fact, some French codes written in the early 1900s have survived, and other laws have been inspired by French codes of other nations such as the Commercial Code, the Code of Obligations.  Islamic law governs personal status, family law, criminal law and some areas of property law.

All laws and legislation must be promulgated by Dahir (royal pronouncement) and published, usually in the Bulletin Officiel in both French and Arabic.  The hierarchy of Moroccan legislation is somewhat confusing; while codes are clearly superior, inferior laws or regulations may trump those laws appearing to have supremacy, including acts of Parliament.


The Moroccan Constitution


Several constitutions and amendments were promulgated under King Hassan II.  The first constitution was adopted in 1962 and was replaced by the constitutions of 1970 and 1972 with major amendments in 1980. Another constitution was promulgated in 1992, with major amendments in 1996 after the referendum in September 1996.


The Moroccan Constitution is organized as follows:



Other Major Codifications of Moroccan Law



There is no current listing or index of Moroccan laws in force in a Western language.

Human rights

Since the 1990s, Morocco has made great strides toward the advancement of human rights.  The creation of the Advisory Council on Human Rights and the Ministry of Human Rights along with the adoption of the 1996 amendments to the Constitution reflect the Government’s commitment to complying with international law on human rights.  Despite these actions, there are still areas of great concern: 

·         the practice of enforced or involuntary disappearances continues in Morocco;

·         the Government’s closure of the weekly newspapers Le Journal, Assahifa and Demain accusing them of “threatening the stability of the State in connection with the publication of a letter from Mohamed Basri, a political opponent, which allegedly implicated the current Prime Minister in the attempted coup d’état of 1972 against King Hassan II.”

·         the widespread physical and sexual abuse of young girls (many under the age of 10) working outside the home as maids

·         the prevalence of child prostitution and pornography in Morocco;

·         the treatment of children in prison between the ages of 16 and 18 as adults;

·         the practice of torture during interrogation and incommunicado detention;

·         Women’s personal status is governed by a code based on Islamic law that discriminates against women in matters of divorce and inheritance

Legal Profession


Judges are appointed by royal decrees on the recommendation of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary and are irremovable.  Judges hearing family law cases (marriage, divorce, child custody, child support, inheritance) are trained in Islamic law.  Judges hearing criminal cases or civil law cases are trained in the French legal tradition.  The National Institute of Judicial Studies was established to provide a three-year training program for new judges with concentration in human rights and the rule of law.  It is not necessary for a Judge to be a lawyer; in fact judges are usually not lawyers.


There are three main law schools in Morocco – The University Mohammed V Law School, the University Qarawiyine’s Law School at Fes and the Ecole Marocaine d’Administration at Rabat.  The organization and operation of the legal profession is governed by a law promulgated in August 1996.  





Central Intelligence Agency – World Factbook:  Morocco



Ministry of Communication – History of Morocco

ArabNet – Morocco History

The International Magazine on Arab Affairs – Special Report:  King Muhammad V



King Hassan II 

BBC Online Network - Saturday, July 24, 1999 Published at 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK - World: Africa Obituary: King Hassan II, ,

BBC Online Network - Saturday, July 24, 1999 Published at 08:05 GMT 09:05 UK – World:  Africa King Hassan:  A Life in Pictures


The Government

Ministry of Communications - Government, 

Central Intelligence Agency – World Factbook:  Morocco

The Prime Minister



Ministry of Communications – The Two Houses of Parliament

Program on Governance in the Arab Region – Morocco:  Legislature


The Judiciary

Ministry of Communications – Judiciary Setup

Emory School of Law – Country Profiles:  Morocco

Program on Governance in the Arab Region – Morocco:  Judiciary

Info-Prod Research Middle East Ltd. – Morocco:  Legal Review

Audit Court



Sources of Law

Holy Qur'an Resources on the Internet

Moroccan Constitution, 1992

Moroccan Constitution, 1996

Foreign Law Guide:  Morocco


Human Rights

Human Rights Watch - Morocco: Action Urged on Legal Code Reform, New Royal Commission Must Include Women's Rights Activists

MEDA Democracy Evaluation - Final Report:  Human Rights & Democracy in Morocco

For the Record 2001:  The UN Human Rights System:  Morocco

Freedom in the World – 2001-2002:  Morocco