Morocco/ 5.1 General legislation  

5.1.1 Constitution

Note: The legal texts mentioned in this chapter are arranged chronologically and may be referenced in the table at the end of the chapter by the parenthetical number (i.e. [1]).

Legal codes in Morocco are of three main types: “dahir” or royal decree, law and decree.

The dahir bears the royal stamp, which indicates that it deals with a subject voted on by parliament and endorsed by the King. The dahir may have other functions such as the appointment of a person in a high position. A dahir may be signed on behalf of the prime minister via referral.

Under the constitution, laws may only be issued after being voted on in parliament. The Moroccan law requires the government in certain circumstances and for a limited period to take specific measures by virtue of decrees. These decrees may only enter into force after they are published in the official gazette (OG) and after endorsement by parliament.

Laws enter into force by virtue of a dahir, and they may only be published in the official gazette after the issuance of the relevant dahir.

General Legislation

Before the French protectorate, there was no need for administrations, institutions or laws to regulate cultural activities. When the protectorate was declared over Morocco, the process of institutionalising the cultural sector began through the creation of various departments, directorates and sections. The country's cultural activities and cultural life as a whole became subject to certain rules pertaining to management, operation, funding and rights. All this of course required a legal framework to organise and regulate cultural work.  The legislations pertaining to Moroccan culture issued over the past fifty years show the level of importance Moroccan public authorities dedicated to the cultural field.


The foundation of the Moroccan monarchy and its constitutional law is a

Caliphate and
Imarat Al-Muminin system, or the “commandment of the faithful”: the regime’s source of religious legitimacy. The king is the cornerstone of the regime and is the heir apparent of the sultan (supreme authority), an institution originating directly from an old Islamic law rich in its diverse doctrinal accumulations over many centuries. The sultanate in Morocco has been solidly in place since the 9th century; from the first line of the Idris dynasty. From the Idris dynasty Morocco began to organise historically, bearing with it the seeds of the current structure in the framework of three virtually simultaneous movements: the dawn of Islam, national cohesion and the foundations of the Moroccan state. The Moroccan monarchy, which is historically derived from the Baghdad Caliphate, has always been a key element organising the country's religious and political fields. All the successive dynasties were always keen to derive their legitimacy from religious authority, and the sultan was always the caliph or amir al muminin (commander of the faithful).

The contemporary notion of constitutional monarchy began slowly taking shape during independence in 1956; Morocco gradually engaged in the institutional modernisation process. The first constitutional movement was born at the beginning of the 20th century, before the declaration of French protectorate over Morocco. In 1908 the first draft of the Moroccan constitution was published in Lisan Al Maghreb newspaper in Tangier, but the project was promptly terminated by the French.

Development of the Moroccan Constitution
At the beginning of 1956, the National Advisory Council (the nucleus of the Deliberations Council that paved the way for the birth of the first Moroccan constitution in 7 December, 1962, under the reign of King Hasan the Second) was created by King Mohammed the Fifth.

Since independence, Morocco has had five constitutions: 1962, 1970, 1972, 1992, 1996 and 2011 [54].

The 1962 and 1992 constitutions are considered the country’s foundational constitutions today, despite the disturbed political and constitutional life witnessed by Morocco during those periods.

The first is considered the constitution of the modern state in post-independence Morocco, which laid the foundation for a harmonious structure. This constitution was slightly amended in 1970 and 1972 with regard to some technical aspects but the general economic system defined in 1962 remained unchanged.

On the other hand, the 1992 constitution is considered more than just an amended copy of the 1962 constitution; it incorporated modernised parliamentary items, and although it officially abrogated the system stipulated in the earlier constitution, it maintained the historical legitimacy standards for the monarchy.

The 1996 constitution only added a bicameral parliament to the 1992 version, during which the drafting of a new constitution was seen by observers of constitutional life as the birth of a new era for the Kingdom of Morocco. 

Rights and Freedoms Stipulated in the Constitution
The constitutional and legal provisions mentioned in this chapter are of paramount importance. If Morocco intends to improve human rights and freedoms, it will do so by enforcing the legal provisions already laid out, not by accounting for legislative shortcomings. 

The democratic powers in Morocco—national parties, progressive civil society and human rights associations—have always strongly demanded the harmonising of legal provisions with global human rights culture.

Regarding the issue of language and culture, Article 5 of the constitution notes:

Arabic is the official language of the State.

The State works for the protection and for the development of the Arabic language, as well as the promotion of its use.

Likewise, Amazigh constitutes an official language of the State, being common patrimony of all Moroccans without exception.

An organic law defines the process of implementation of the official character of this language, as well as the modalities of its integration into teaching and into the priority domains of public life, so that it may be permitted in time to fulfil its function as an official language.

The State works for the preservation of the Hassaniya language, as an integral component of unified Moroccan cultural identity, as well as the protection of Hassaniya speakers and its practical cultural expression of Morocco. Likewise, it sees to the coherence of linguistic policy and national culture and to the learning and mastery of foreign languages of greatest use in the world, as tools of communication, of integration and of interaction with the knowledge society, and to be open to different cultures and to contemporary civilisation.

A National Council of Languages and of Moroccan Culture is created and charged with the protection and the development of the Arabic and Berber languages and of the diverse Moroccan cultural expression, which constitute one authentic patrimony and one source of contemporary inspiration. It brings together the institutions concerned in these domains. An organic law defines it attributions, composition and the modalities of its functioning.

Part I of the constitution is dedicated to basic human rights and freedoms: freedom of speech and belief, of movement and residence, of thought and conscience, of opinion and expression, of peaceful assembly and association. These freedoms are guaranteed by constitution and may only be revoked by law, thus personal homes may only be entered and searched according to the conditions set by law and secrecy of personal correspondence may not be violated.

This part also dedicates a chapter to religion and stipulates that Islam is the religion of the state, which guarantees that each person is free to exercise their religious rituals in the framework of the boundaries of Islam and consequently prevents apostasy.

Moroccan constitutional law is rich and characterised by constant development on two parallel courses: continuity of the systems that guarantee stability in an unstable regional climate, and an irreversible move towards modernisation. This dialectic between modernisation and renewal summarises the country's contradictions and complexities. But it appears that Morocco is realising its constitutional mission, despite the sometimes heavy social, economic and political costs.

Chapter published: 05-05-2016