UPDATE: Introduction to the Moroccan Legal System


By Netty Butera and Kevashinee Pillay



Netty Butera is a Rwandan national. She is a Project Manager at the South African Institute of International Affairs.  She received her Masters degree in Project Management from Maastricht School of Management (Netherlands) in 2010. She has been working in Rwanda, London, Kenya and South Africa.


Kevashine Pillay is an admitted attorney of the Republic of South Africa. She is a holder of an LLB (Bachelor of laws) from the University of KwaZulu Natal and an LLM in Human Rights and democratization in Africa from the University of Pretoria. She is currently based at the Centre for human rights (University of Pretoria) as the senior researcher.


Published October 2013
See the Archive Version


Table of contents

1.     Introduction

2.     The Executive Power: The Government

2.1.   The Prime Minister

2.2.  Ministers and Ministries

3.     The Legislative Power: Parliament

4.     The Judicial Power

4.1.1.     First Instance Courts

4.1.2.    Neighborhood Courts

4.2.  Jurisdictions of the 2nd Degree: The Courts of Appeals

4.3.  Court of Cassation

4.4.  The Administrative Courts

4.4.1.    Administrative Court of Appeals

4.5.  The Standing Military Tribunal of the Royal Armed Forces

5.     Other Authorities

5.1.   The Constitutional Council

5.2.  The Economic and Social Council

6.     Administrative Set-Up

7.     Other (Semi) Governmental Institutions

8.     Law Faculties

9.     Legislation (Laws, Jurisprudence, and Treaties)

10.  Law Libraries

11.   Literature (Textbooks on Civil Law, Administrative Constitutional Law, Criminal Law)

1.     Introduction

Morocco is a constitutional, democratic, parliamentary[1] and social monarchy. It is bounded to the West by the Atlantic Ocean (2 934 km of coasts), in the North by the Straits of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean (512 km of coasts) and is separated from the European continent by only 14 km of sea.  It has common terrestrial borders with Algeria (1,350 km), Mauritania (650 km) and Spain (12 km) (Ceuta and Melilla).  The native people of Morocco are an ancient race called the Berbers. .After 44 years as a French protectorate, Morocco attained independence in 1956.


Since independence, Moroccan law has been shaped by French Civil Law and a combination of Muslim and Jewish traditions.  The Constitution of Morocco has also played a pivotal role in shaping the law and legal systems in Morocco. The most recent constitutional developments took place following the ‘Arab Spring’. Following this uprising, Morocco drafted and adopted a new Constitution in July 2011.[2] The Moroccan political and constitutional context represents an interesting situation in that it has a reigning monarch that has been in power for more than three centuries.[3] This article will provide an introduction to the Moroccan legal system since the adoption of its new Constitution in 2011. 

2.     The Executive

The Government is composed of the Prime Minister and Ministers. The King presides over the Council of Ministers composed of the Head of Government and of Ministers.[4] The Government is accountable to the King and the Parliament.


2.1.  The Prime Minister

The King appoints the Head of Government from within the political party arriving ahead in the elections of the members of the Chamber of representatives, and with a view to their results. On proposal of the Head of Government, He appoints the members of the government.[5] After the appointment of the Cabinet members by the King, the Prime Minister submits the program (about national activity, namely in economic, social, cultural and foreign affairs) to each one of the two Houses of Parliament. At the House of Representatives, the program must be put to the vote.


Under the Prime Minister's responsibility, the Government ensures the execution of the laws. All public facilities are placed at the Government's disposal.


The Prime Minister has the right to introduce bills, exercise the administrative powers and delegate some of his powers to the Ministers.  The Prime Minister is responsible for the co-ordination of ministerial activities. The Council of Ministers deliberates on the following questions and texts:[6]


·       The strategic orientations of the policy of the State;

·       The bills of revision of the Constitution;

·       The bills of organic laws;

·       The general orientations of the bill of the law of finance;

·       The bills of framework law provided for by Article 71 of the Constitution;

·       The bill of law of amnesty;

·       The bills of texts relative to the military domain;

·       The declaration of the state of siege;

·       The declaration of war;

·       The bill of decree provided for by article 104 of the constitution.


Before any relevant decision is taken, the Cabinet is notified of the following:

·       matters related to general policies of the State;

·       declaration of martial law;

·       declaration of war;

·       requesting confidence from the House of representatives to allow the Government to carry out their responsibilities further;

·       draft bills, before they are brought to one of the two Houses;

·       statutory decrees;

·       draft plan;

·       projects for revising this Constitution.


2.2.  Ministers and Ministries[7]

·       Premier Ministre Prime Minister)

·       Ministère de l'Aménagement du Territoire, de l'Eau et de l'Environnement (Ministry of Internal Affairs, Water and Environment)

·       Ministère des Finances et de la Privatisation (Ministry of Finance and Privatization)

·       Ministère de l'Agriculture et du Développement rural et des Pêches Maritimes (Ministry of Agriculture, Rural development and Fisheries)

·       Ministère de l'Emploi et la Formation Professionnelle (Ministry of Labour, Employment and Vocational Training)

·       Ministère de l'Éducation Nationale, de l'enseignement supérieur, de la formation des cadres et de la recherche scientifique (Ministry of Education, high learning institutes and scientific research)

·       Ministère de la culture (Ministry of Culture)

·       Ministère de l'Équipement et du Transport (Ministry of Transport)

·       Ministère Chargé de la Modernisation des Secteurs Publics (Ministry of Labour)

·       Ministère de l'Industrie, du Commerce et de la Mise à Niveau de l'Économie (Ministry of Industry and commerce)

·       Ministère du Tourisme, de l'Artisanat et de l'Économie Sociale (Ministry of Tourism and Social Economic)

·       Ministère de la Santé (Ministry of Health)

·       Ministère des Relations avec le Parlement (Ministry in charge of relations with Parliament)

·       Ministère de l'Energie et des Mines (Ministry of Energy and Mines)

·       Ministère de la Communication (Ministry of Communication)

·       Ministère du Commerce Extérieure (Ministry of exterior Commerce)

·       Ministère des Affaires Économiques et Générales (Ministry of General Economic Affairs)

·       Ministère délégué auprès du Ministre des Affaires Étrangères et de la Coopération chargé de la Communauté Marocaine Résidant à l’Etranger (Ministry in charge of the Morroccan Diaspora leaving abroad)

·       Ministère délégué auprès du Premier Ministre Chargé du Logement et de l'habitat (Ministry in charge of shelter and resettlement)

·       Secrétaire d'Etat auprès du Ministre du Développement Social, de la Famille et de la Solidarité, chargée de la Famille, de l'Enfance et des Personnes Handicapées  (Secretary of State in charge of Social development, Family, children and disability and solidarity)

·      Secrétariat d'Etat auprès du Premier Ministre, chargé de la Jeunesse (Secretary of State in Charge of Youth)

3.     The Legislative Power: Parliament

Parliament exercises the legislative power. It votes the laws, controls the action of the government and evaluates the public policies.[8]


The Parliament is composed of two Chambers Houses: the Chamber of Representatives and the Chamber of Counselors. The members of the Chamber of Representatives are elected for five years by universal direct suffrage.[9] The members of the Chamber of the House of Counselors are elected for six years by indirect universal suffrage.


The King presides over the opening of parliament sessions which hold its meetings during two sessions every year. The first session begin on the second Thursday in October, the second session begin on the second Thursday in April.[10]


The Parliament may be convened in an extraordinary session by two ways:[11]

·      demand of one-third of the members of the Chamber of Representatives or of

the majority of those of the Chamber of Counselors

·       by decree. 

·       or by the majority of the Chamber of Counselors


Members of the Parliament may not be arrested in the exercise of their functions, except in case where the opinion expressed challenges the monarchic form of the State, the Muslim religion or constitutes an infringement of the due respect for the King.[12]

4.     The Judicial System

Morocco’s constitution proclaims that “the judicial authority is independent from the legislative power and the executive power”. The King is the guarantor of the independence of the judicial power.[13]


Courts in Morocco are regulated by the Decree-Law of 15 July 1974 on the organization of the courts as amended and modified. 


The different courts are:

·      Court of Cassation (formerly the Supreme Council),

·      the appeal courts,

·      the courts of first instance,

·      the Standing Tribunal of the Royal Armed Forces, the administrative courts,

·      Neighborhood courts (formerly community and district courts).


4.1.  Jurisdictions of the First Degree


4.1.1.    Court of First Instance

Each court of first instance is composed of a president, judges, prosecutors and a clerk of the court.[14]

They are competent for:

·      All cases concerning all litigants except those that are assigned by law to another judicial body

·      civil, real estate, criminal, social and personal status  cases

·      criminal matters

·      consider marriage, divorce and inheritance cases

·      employment disputes, industrial accidents and occupational diseases in social cases,

·      civil transactions of sale, purchase, rent and mortgage, except those relating to commercial transactions, which are within the jurisdiction of the commercial courts

4.1.2.    Neighborhood Courts (Replaced the Communal and District Courts)[15]


In 2011 the neighborhood courts replaced the communal and district courts under Act No. 42.10.


They are competent for:


·       civil cases up to 5,000 dirhams, with the exception of disputes under the Family Code, Real Estate Code, social and rent cases.

·       criminal cases, but the penalty they may impose may not exceed a fine of 1,200 dirhams.


4.2.  The Court of Appeals

They are composed of a president, judges, prosecutors and the clerk of the court, and consider appeals in cases for which the first instance courts have jurisdiction and appeals concerning orders issued by the presidents of those courts. Through their first instance chambers, they also consider felonies, and hear appeals concerning the decisions of investigating judges and others.[16]


4.3.  Court of Cassation (replaced the Supreme Council)[17]

The Court of Cassation replaced the Supreme Council.  It was established by Act No. 58/11, promulgated under Royal Decree 1.11.170 of 25 October 2011, amending Royal Decree No. 1.57.223 of 27 September 1967 on the Supreme Council. It is composed of a first president, chambers, the Prosecutor-general, assistant prosecutors and the clerk of the court.


The court of cassation is competent for:

·       Appeals for cassation of sentences without appeal decided by anyone of the kingdom's courts.

·       Appeals for cancellation of the Prime Minister's decisions.

·       Jurisdiction disputes arising among courts above which there is no high court other than the Supreme Court.

·       Suits for bias filed against magistrates and courts with the exception of the Supreme Court.

·       Proceedings aimed at judge disqualifying because of likelihood of bias.

·       Disqualifying for reasons of public security or for the sake of a good administration of justice.


4.4.  Administrative Courts

Administrative courts are competent to make initial rulings on:

·       claims for cancellation of acts filed against administrative authorities,

·       disputes related to administrative contracts

·       claims for compensation of prejudice caused by public entities' acts or activities.

·       to set up the consistency of administrative acts with legal provisions.


4.4.1.    Administrative Courts of appeal[18]

The administrative courts of appeal were established under Act No. 80-03 in 2007 and are composed of a first president, the presidents of the chambers, councillors, the commissioner royal to uphold the law, and the clerk of the court. It is competent to hear appeals concerning judgments of the administrative courts and the orders of their presidents.


4.5.  The Standing Military Tribunal of the Royal Armed Forces[19]

It is competent for cases for:

·      Crimes committed by members of the military under the Military Justice Act

·      Crimes under the Criminal Code

·      Crimes committed by civilians against members of the Royal Armed forces or against the external security of the country.


5.     Other Authorities


5.1.  The Constitutional Council


The Constitutional Council exercises the powers vested in it under the Constitution and the provisions of the Act establishing the Council,[20] pending the establishment of the Constitutional Court provided for in the current 2011 Constitution


The Constitutional Council is made up of six members appointed by the King for a nine -year period, six other members are appointed for the same period, half of them by the President of the House of Representatives and the other half by the President of the House of Counselors. A third of each category of members is renewed every three years.


Before their promulgation, organic law and the Rules of Procedure of each House are submitted to the Constitutional Council. Further, it examines the validity of the election of Members of Parliament, referendums, and the constitutionality of regulatory laws and ordinary law.


The King, the Prime Minister, the President of the House of Representatives, the President of the House of Counselors or one-fourth of the members making up one House or the other can referred to the Constitutional Council before promulgation of the law.


The Constitutional Council have one month to decide upon the special instances. In case of emergency, the deadline is reduced to eight days if so requested by the Government.


Decisions of the Constitutional Council are imposed upon all public authorities, administrative and judicial sectors. No unconstitutional provisions are promulgated or implemented. 


5.2. The Economic and Social Council

The Economic and Social Council was officially inaugurated in 2011. It may be consulted by the Government, as well as the House of Representatives and the House of Counselors on all matters of economic or social nature. It shall give its opinion on the general guidelines pertaining to the national economy and training programs.

6.    Administrative Set-up

The administration in the Kingdom is organized by two assemblies: local communities and local assemblies. The assemblies have the following competence:

·       Determination of modes and mechanisms for the collection of duties and taxes destined for the prefecture or the province Regional development programs:

·       Industrial decentralization projects.

·       Rules of establishment for provincial and prefectoral public services.

·       The classification, maintenance and extension of roads.

7.     Other (Semi) Governmental Institutions

a.    Customs Administration

b.    National Agency of Telecommunications Regulation (ANRT)

c.     Foreign exchange bureau

d.    Office Of Exploitation of Ports (ODEP)

e.     National office Of the Airports


                  Other Important institutions:[21]

·       The Inter-ministerial Unit on Human Rights(2011)

·       The National Human rights council, which replaced the consultative council on human rights  

·       Office of the Ombudsman established in March 2011-National UPR report

·       the High Authority for Audio-Visual Communication

·       the Higher Council for Education,

·       the Central Anti-Corruption Authority12 and the Competition Council

·       the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture,

·       the Royal Advisory Council for Saharan Affairs,

·       the National Observatory for Human Development

·       the National Commission for the Control and Protection of Personal Data

·       the National Commission on International Humanitarian law

·       Equity and Reconciliation Commission

8.    Law faculties

·       University Mohammed V - Agdal – Rabat

·       University Mohammed V - Souissi – Rabat

·       University Hassan II - Ain Chok – Casablanca

·       University Hassan II – Mohammedia

·       University Hassan Ier - Settat

·       University Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah – Fès

·       University Quaraouiyine – Fès

·       University Mohammed Ier - Oujda

·       University Cadi Ayad – Marrakech

·       University Moulay Isamïl – Meknès

·       University AbdelMalek Saadi - Tetouan

·       University Chouaib Doukali - El Jadida

·       Université Ibn Toufail – Kénitra

·       University Al Akhawayn - Ifrane

9.    Legislation (Laws, Jurisprudence and Treaties)

·       French and Morocco treaties

·       Legal resources on the Ministry of Justice web site: constitution, codes, law (also available in French)


Commercial Code:

·       Cabinet Conseil CCMLA

·       ACTA, Casablanca

10. Law Libraries

·       Bibliothèques nationales de la francophonie: Maroc

·       Espace droit

11.  Literature (Textbooks on Civil Law, Administrative Constitutional Law, Criminal Law)

Public Law:

-       Michel Bourley, Droit Public Marocain, éditions la porte


Constitutional Law:

-       Cubertafond, Bernard, Le Système politique marocain, L’harmattan, Paris


Administrative Law:

-       Garagnon, Jean et Rousset, Michel, Droit administratif marocain, Editions La Porte

-       Fathia Sahli et Serge Regourd,  Les politiques de décentralisation : études comparées franco-marocaines, Presses universitaires de Perpignan


Status (Law):

-       Collective book, Le code du statut personnel marocain (la Moudawwna), Algiers university

-       Colomer, André, le Droit Musulman

-       Pierre Guilho, « La nationalité marocaine », éd. Laporte, Librairie de Médicis, 1961.


International Law:

-       Ouazzani Chahdi, Hassan, La pratique marocaine du droit des traites, Libr. générale de droit et de jurisprudence, LGDJ

-       Rodriguez-Aguilera, Cesareo, Manuel de droit marocain, Librairie générale de droit et de jurisprudence, LGDJ.

-       -Marie-Luisa Frick & Andreas Th Muller(eds), Islam and International Law: Engaging Self-Centrism from a Plurality of Perspectives



-       François Paul Blanc, Rédouane Boujemaa, Olivier Devaux et Amal Mourji, La justice au Maroc (Quelques jalons, de Hassan I à Hassan II), Presses universitaires de Perpignan

-       -Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, Daniel Zisenwine (eds)Contemporary Morocco: State, Politics and Society Under Mohammmed VI


Trade Law

-       François-Paul Blanc et Ahmed Trachen, Le droit marocain des fraudes sur les marchandises et son adaptation aux marchés extérieurs, Presses universitaires de Perpignan

-       International Business Publications, Routledge, USA Morocco Investment and Trade Laws and Regulations Handbook


Export-Import Law :

-       Kacem Taj, guide pratique en commerce international,


Sport Law :

-       Abdallah Boudahrain, Le droit du sport au Maroc,


Other Important Texts :

-       Revue Marocaine des Contentieux,  Vol5/6, 2007, 85dh

-       Revue Marocaine de Contentieux,Vol 7/8,2008,95dh

[1] Article 1 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Morocco 2011.

[2] M Madani, D Maghroui, S Zerhoui, ‘The 2011 Moroccan Constitution: A critical analysis’(2012) at 111

[3] Ibid at 9.

[4] Supra note 1 at article 48.

[5] Ibid at article 47.

[6]Supra note 1 at article  49.

[7] Translation from French to English

[8] Supra note 1 at Article 70.

[9] Ibid at Article 61&62.

[10] Supra note 1 at article 65

[11] Ibid at article 66 .

[12] Ibid at article 64 .

[13]Ibid at article 107.

[14] Common core document forming part of the reports of States parties(Morocco)HRI/CORE/MAR/2012 at para 66 available at <www2.ohchr.org/English/bodies/.../coredocs/HRI.CORE.MAR.2012_E.d>

[15]Ibid at para 70.

[16] Supra note 14 at para 67.

[17] Supra note 14 at para 65.

[18] Ibid at para 69.

[19] Supra note 14 at para 68.

[20] Supra note 14 at para 64.

[21] National report submitted in accordance with paragragh 5 of the annex to the Human rights council resolution 16/21 , Morocco, A/HRC/WG.6/13/MAR/1 at para 19.