Minister Hirsch Ballin signs a treaty on mutual legal assistance with Morocco

Today, Minister of Justice Hirsch Ballin signed a treaty on mutual legal assistance between the Netherlands and Morocco during a visit to his Moroccan counterpart, Minister of Justice Naciri. This treaty will make it easier for the public prosecutors and examining magistrates of both countries to help each other investigate and prosecute concrete criminal cases. The treaty is intended to expand the possibilities of criminal-law cooperation between Morocco and the Netherlands.

During a visit in May, 2009, Minister Hirsch Ballin agreed with Minister Naciri to effect this treaty. The negotiations were finalised this summer. Minister Hirsch Ballin subsequently informed the Lower House that it would be possible to sign the bilateral treaty on mutual legal assistance within the foreseeable future[1].

The Netherlands and Morocco have previously asked each other for assistance in the processes of investigation and prosecution in criminal cases. This concerns several hundred cases each year. These cases mainly involve the investigation and prosecution of offences such as drug trafficking, money laundering, violent offences and terrorism. Mutual requests for the transfer of criminal proceedings are also made.

The treaty on mutual legal assistance contains clear rules for the various forms of cooperation. This has a clear added value when compared with the current situation. This legal framework means that in future it will no longer be necessary to assess, for each separate request, whether the law of Morocco or that of the Netherlands allows for the granting of the requested assistance. From now on, assessment in both countries will be based on the rules of the treaty. This will simplify matters and will save time. Pursuant to both Dutch and Moroccan law, certain forms of assistance require a treaty in which said assistance has been laid down. This applies for example to the performance of searches, the confiscation of objects, or the seizing of criminal assets.

The treaty is an expression of the will to cooperate. This is not just relevant at the level of government, but also to every public prosecutor and examining magistrate in both countries. They can invoke the treaty to request the assistance they require.

During the working visit, Minister Hirsch Ballin furthermore discussed developments in the field of the law on surnames and family law. The Netherlands is preparing a legislative proposal intended to prevent forced marriages as much as possible. The subject of intercountry adoption was also discussed. Intercountry adoption from Morocco is currently not possible.

[1] Letter concerning marriage and family migration from the Ministers of Housing, Communities and Integration and of Justice, dated 30 June 2010 (Parliamentary document 32 175 no. 10)