Belgian lawyers hail "exemplary" conditions of Morocco’s Gdim Izik trial

Defendants have the right to a fair trial

RABAT - Belgian lawyers hailed the climate and the "exemplary" conditions in which the trial of Gdim Izik which opened last month before the Criminal Chamber in the Moroccan city of Salé.
For André Martin Karongozi, a barrister in Brussels and Rwanda, who is among the international observers of this trial, the impression that emerged from the first hearing is that the Moroccan government “is showing a genuine desire to give the opportunity to all parties, including the accused, despite the gravity of the crimes committed, to be tried before a court of ordinary law which guarantees the full rights of defence, conflicting debates and all conditions of a fair trial.”
"What we saw at the opening of this trial shows that there is a genuine desire to give every opportunity to all parties to be assisted, to be heard," Karongozi told the Maghreb Agence Presse (MAP).
He noted the "excessive" freedom sometimes enjoyed by the defendants in the courtroom and the "provocations" they use in order to "disrupt" the course of the hearing, praising "patience” of the judge who led the proceedings and stressing the need to respect the victims’ rights.
"There are also victims. They must be respected because life has been snatched from people and this is not insignificant," he said, adding that he had the opportunity to see first-hand the "exemplary” conditions of the hearing.
Belgian barrister Sofie Michez told MAP that the referral of the Gdim Izik case to a court of ordinary law constituted in itself "the best guarantee of a fair trial which respects the rights of the defence, the civil parties, the presumption of innocence and the conflicting debate.”
"The first advantage of this procedure is that the civil parties can be constituted and for the defendants it is the guarantee of a fair trial," she said.
The Criminal Chamber at the Annexe of Salé Court of Appeal postponed until 23 January 2017 the hearing into the case of the prosecuted in connection with the deadly events of Gdim Izik.
In November 2010, Moroccan authorities dismantled a camp in Gdim Izik inhabited by around 10,000 Sahrawi dissidents in the outskirts of Laayoune in southern Morocco.
The move to break up the camp degenerated into clashes around the camp and in Laayoune, where a number of government offices and businesses were sacked and burned. At least 13 people died, including 11 members of the security forces
In February 2013, the Rabat Military Court sentenced those involved in the case between 20 years to life imprisonment for "forming criminal gangs and violence against the security forces causing death with premeditation and complicity."
The Court of Cassation subsequently quashed last July the verdict pronounced against the 24 people convicted in this case and ordered the case to be referred to the Court of Appeal.