By Amina El Hajjami,
HAF Director of University Programs
It is said that attendance and collective participation in various fields makes a person aware of the value of diverse opinions and attitudes, helps them gain experience and expertise, and leads them to understand ways of presenting ideas. Today, in the center of Souihla, Marrakech, representatives from various associations attended and participated in the activities of a meeting organized by the Adalah Association in partnership with Lawyers Without Borders (Brussels) and the United Nations Women with the joint support of the Belgian Cooperation Agency (DGD) and the Embassy of Canada. The meeting was held on 7,8, and 9 January 2022. The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) was present, represented by Ms. Amina El-Hajjami, Director of the Legal Clinic project in Marrakech, within the framework of the partnership between Cadi Ayyad University, Faculty of Legal, Economic, and Social Sciences, the Legal Clinic Association for Studies and Research, and with the support of the National Fund for Democracy (NED). The project aims to train 67 research students with a master’s or doctoral degree in law, and will extend from October 2021 to September 2023.
The purpose of the meeting was to develop an action plan to activate the dynamic of the “right of access to justice” for the benefit of vulnerable groups of children in conflict with the law and in difficult situations, male and female migrants, asylum seekers, male and female prisoners, and women and girls who are victims of violence. This action plan is meant to provide legal support, judicial assistance, and accompaniment within the framework of the legal clinic mechanism. It was created in cooperation with universities to guide and sensitize them and their awareness of legal practices in order to ensure a high quality of legal services.
The meeting was attended by various institutions and associations, including legal clinics, health clinics, care cells, listening centers and shelters, as well as multidisciplinary centers. The importance of defining a joint action strategy to facilitate access to justice for women victims of violence and vulnerable groups was embodied in the establishment of a network of national legal clinics. This network creates cooperation in order to activate the dynamism of the right to access to justice between the listening and guidance centers and the legal clinics and helps develop a road map for further cooperation between the relevant associations and institutions.
Introductory speeches on January 7 were initiated by Mrs. Jamila Al-Siuri, President of Adalah Association, and she welcomed the attendees, whether institutional representatives or association representatives, expressing her consideration that this meeting was an educational meeting for the work of civil and institutional actors in the field of facilitating the right of access to justice and the most important reasons and problems that impede this access. It was highlighted that what distinguishes the Legal Clinic established by Adalah and its partners is that it combined two approaches: a pedagogical approach that relies on the sensitization aspect and the mobilization of students of Law faculties. This curriculum has organized several continuous training sessions of interest to students of legal clinics in the field of human rights in order to bring issues closer to the community. The curriculum also includes the service aspect so that it provides services within the framework of legal advice, accompanying and escorting, and other legal aid. The basis of this is to provide credible logical knowledge and introduce legal procedures, especially with regard to directing women how to benefit from the legal aid system.
These were followed by the words of Mrs. Nisreen Al-Haskouri, coordinator of the Legal Clinic program, “Justice for All,” where she began her speech considering that the “Justice for All” program came within the framework of a project to improve access to justice for the most vulnerable groups, especially battered women and immigrant women. The statistics of the High Commissioner for Planning presented the percentage of violence against battered women and girls in 2019, showing that 13.4 million women are directly or indirectly subjected to violence and that more than 7.6 million women between the ages of 15 and 74 have experienced at least one violent act.
Therefore, the aim of establishing legal clinics is to contribute to achieving sustainable development goals, to enhance the access to survivors of violence information about their rights and legal remedies, as well as building the capacities of male and female students in caring for survivors of gender-based violence. The beneficiaries of the legal clinic’s project are the most vulnerable groups. Therefore, the dual orientation of legal clinics is interactive because it provides a self-service quality for the target groups and legal advice from the lawyers of the Legal Clinic. Furthermore, it is educational as it is represented in the formation of students through coaching classes framed by the professors of the Legal Clinic.
Mrs. Nasreen shared an overview of some of the activities of the Legal Clinic’s program, “Justice for All,” represented in providing legal aid services (consultation, guidance, legal aid…) and organizing awareness campaigns and awareness convoys. After that, ice-breaking sessions started for participants to get acquainted, exchange experiences between the various clinics and listening centers, and set expectations and present the objectives for the meeting. The experience of legal clinics was revealed in three interventions, all of which centered on the experience of legal clinics in Fes, Marrakech, Nador and the city of Lille in France. At night, Mr. Morgan Peugniez presented the experience of the Legal Clinic and the most important activities it works on, which can be summarized as follows:
Then, Mr. Abdelhak El-Masawi, the coordinator of the Legal Clinic in Nador, presented a simple overview of the experience there as an initiative launched in the years 2020-2022, targeting 30 students each year and carried out in partnership with the Mediterranean Political and Legal Studies Laboratory, the Anwal Forum for Development and Citizenship, and with the support of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The Legal Clinic in Nador’s purpose is to find practical training for a group of male and female students and keep pace with the process of developing technical capabilities and knowledge, acquiring legal skills related to fundamental freedoms and human rights, and providing legal information to citizens, especially battered women and people in vulnerable situations, while enabling them to learn about the legal options available to them. In fact, the clinic has conducted several training courses, led by university professors and lawyers belonging to the province of Nador, on subjects related to the international and national mechanisms for the protection of human rights, the technique of trial and observation tools, standards for fair, independent and impartial trials, preparing reports and legal memoranda, and finally pleading and advocating for cases in which human rights have been violated. In addition, the clinic assisted women in filing complaints and organizing electronic campaigns to raise awareness of the phenomenon of violence against women and children, while collecting data and completing reports on the phenomenon of violence in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling students to provide legal advice to a group of people through legal experts. Perhaps the eloquent lesson from the clinic is to extract the trends of the judiciary and the extent to which it respects the standards of fair trials.
At that time, Mrs. Basma Okbi, responsible for the Legal Clinic program at the Faculty of Legal, Economic and Social Sciences in Fes, went on to give an overview of the experience of the Legal Clinic in Fes as an initiative launched in October 2019, presented by volunteer students from the Department of Legal Sciences, in partnership with the High Atlas Foundation and funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the US-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI). She continued the hadith on the fact that the Legal Clinic in Fes has several axes, including: migration, seek refuge; trafficking in human beings; family mediation; leading businesses. It also has an educational purpose, which is to supervise students by allowing them to apply any concept they learned during their studies and also to support and strengthen their abilities through a variety of training courses offered throughout their integration in this clinic in order to provide legal advice and legal assistance to the community. She announced that the organizational structure of the Legal Clinic in Fes is headed by the President Radwan Al-Mrabet of the University of Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdullah in Fes, Dean Mohamed Bouzlafa of the Faculty of Legal, Economic and Social Sciences at University of Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdullah in Fes, and President Yossef Ben-Meir of the High Atlas Foundation in Marrakech. She acknowledged that the Legal Clinic has a pure vision of contributing to the social and economic empowerment of the beneficiaries, and the clinic has contributed to signing several agreements with various actors involved in the clinic’s field of operation, whether in the public or private sectors. And accordingly, it should be remembered that such meetings and people are drawn towards them to learn more opinions and interact around the idea of activating the dynamic of the right to access to justice. The truth is that the Legal Clinic at the present time has begun to reap the fruits of legal awareness and that what it aspires to is societal awareness.
Within the framework of the discussion, the meeting proceeded in the approach of presenting the experiences of the listening and accommodation centers by Mrs. Khadija Al-Idrisi, a lawyer in the Marrakech Authority and the President of the Al-Shorouk Association; Director Souad Deby of the Feminist Good Association Essaouira; President Najat Olmin of the Basma Association; and President Khaled Mesbah of the Twiza Movement Association. All discussions were within the scope of sheltering and health monitoring of battered women; empowering and raising the capabilities of women, both at the economic and educational levels (literacy eradication); guiding and supporting female victims of violence and survivors of violence; sensitizing and raising awareness and contributing to combating violence against women; contributing and legal accompaniment to the promotion of women’s rights through the implementation of the Family Code; and working to raise the standard of living for women in all areas of public life. Ms. Amina Al-Hijami, Legal Clinic Project Manager with the High Atlas Foundation, participated in the discussion and interventions in presenting the experience of the Legal Clinic at Cadi Ayyad University, Faculty of Legal, Economic and Social Sciences, and acknowledged that working on the participatory approach methodology is one of the foundation’s most important goals. It was also stated that the role of the Legal Clinic lies in the formation of students on the personal and legal side in order to work on providing legal aid to the community.
On its second day, January 8, the meeting’s purpose was to review the mechanisms directed to the care of women and girls who are victims of violence. The representative of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare presented the services provided in hospitals within the framework of the cells that care for female victims of violence. This was followed by a presentation given by the Head of the Regional Committee, Mr. Moulay Hassan Al-Suwaidi, to take care of these women through the mechanisms of cells in the courts, and in activating the role of the Regional Committee for taking care of women victims of violence under Law 103.13.
Then, the meeting began its group discussion about points of convergence and integration between the various parties involved in thinking about a work strategy through which the mechanisms adopted between legal and health clinics, care cells, listening and accomodation centers, as well as multidisciplinary centers can be improved and solidified.
Thus, the meeting concluded for the second day regarding the right to access to justice, and the outcomes of the third day of the meeting on January 9 became a reminder of the most important things that were circulated on the first and second days. Some of the challenges that impeded working on combating violence against women were addressed, whether due to the lack of human, material, and financial resources; lack of coordination and communication between the various actors; difficultly earthing public policies; the difference in the appropriate ground between the participants; weak formations (strengthening capabilities); and the lack of databases related to listening centers’ accommodation; absence of specifying who has the functional and legal capacity to transfer battered women from police stations and shelters. Therefore, it is easy to unify the working mechanisms with the stakeholders in order to integrate services, develop a unified path, and create a common guide to unify procedures and methods of work; strengthening the capacities of male and female workers and members of the support cells in the field of supporting female victims and survivors of violence. And accordingly, it was agreed to draw up a road map to work jointly among the various actors in the field of caring for female victims of violence. The challenges facing legal clinics are represented in the lack of independence of some legal clinics to operate freely from the responsible authorities, the lack of constituent frameworks that provide legal services on a voluntary basis, the difficulty in obtaining the information necessary for the clinic to carry out its tasks, as well as the difficulty of accessing clinics stationed within the university campus. Additionally, poor communication and coordination between the various legal clinics or with other actors can also pose a challenge.
In general, the meeting resolved the balance of power in explaining the interest in the legal reality as it is a development of society. We have to understand that this development is an embodiment left to the younger generations.