Published On: Fri, Feb 1st, 2013

Human Rights Watch report 2013 on Morocco

By Mourad Anouar

Morocco News Tribune


Oklahoma City, U.S.A–Human Rights Watch said Thursday in its World Report 2013 “Human rights conditions were decidedly mixed in Morocco, as a 2011 constitution containing strong human rights provisions did not translate into improved practices”

The report started by talking about despite the fact that there are rights given to Moroccans in order to exercise” their (right) to protest in the streets, the police often dispersed them violently, and protest leaders and dissidents risked imprisonment after unfair trials, sometimes based on the many laws repressing speech that have yet to be revised in light of the new constitution

For this particular case, the report commented on Moustapha Ramid, justice minister, who said in an interview that among Morocco’s 65,000 prisoners there were no “prisoners of opinion,” but, according to the report, Ramid’s statement was “contradicted by the incarceration of rapper al-Haqed and student Abdessamad Haydour for their peaceful speech

Also, the report mentioned the case of Seddik Kebbouri, president of the Bouarfa section of the independent Moroccan Association for Human Rights, who was put behind bars for eight months “following his conviction in an unfair trial for his alleged role in a May 2011 demonstration that ended in rock-throwing and property damage”. Mr. Kebbouri was to be granted a royal pardon afterwards.


As for the issue of Terrorism and Counterterrorism, the reported talked about hundreds of suspected Islamist extremists, who were arrested following the aftermath of the Casablanca bombings of May 2003 and further terrorist attacks in 2007, many of whom were convicted and imprisoned, “not for having committed acts of terrorism, but for belonging to a “terrorist network” or preparing to join the jihad in Iraq or elsewhere”. In addition to that, Watch said that “Moroccan courts continue to impose the death penalty, but Morocco has not executed anyone since the early 1990s

Prison conditions

In this regard, Watch cited United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez who was reported to say that even if” he was granted unimpeded access to prisons and prisoners, he noted that there is a “political will” among authorities “to build up an institutional culture that prohibits and prevents torture and ill-treatment.” However, he said also he had received “credible reports of beatings [by police] (with fists and sticks), application of electric shocks, and cigarette burns. In practice, the safeguards against torture do not effectively operate because ‘there is no evidence’ torture has happened and so the confession or declaration remains on the record and no serious effort is made to investigate, prosecute, and punish perpetrators.”

Defendants’ rights and prison conditions

Courts deprived defendants in political cases of the right to fair trials, according to Watch report. In a number of cases they “were ignored their requests for medical examinations following their allegations of torture, refused to summon exculpatory witnesses, and convicted defendants based on apparently coerced confessions”, Watch said.

Prison conditions, on the other hand, are harsh, due in large part to severe overcrowding, a problem aggravated by the frequent resort to pretrial detention by judges”, Watch stated.

Also, the report cited incidents of police abuse of sub-Saharan migrants in 2012, many of whom live in precarious conditions along the Mediterranean coast.” For example, on August 24, police reportedly raided an abandoned house inhabited by migrants on the outskirts of Nador, destroying or confiscating property, and putting migrants on buses and dumping many of them at the Algerian border”, the reported said.

The reported concluded in this particular issue that,” generally, Morocco has refrained from expelling migrants who have documents proving that they have applied for or received recognition as refugees from the UN High Commission for Refugees

Freedom of Association

Watched wondered that even if the 2011 constitution protects for the first time the right to create an association,” officials continued to arbitrarily impede the legalization of many associations, undermining their freedom to operate. Groups affected include some that defend the rights of Sahrawis, Amazighs (Berbers), sub-Saharan migrants, and the unemployed, as well as charitable, cultural, and educational associations whose leadership includes members of al-Adl wal-Ihsan

Women’s Rights

Even if the new constitution guarantees equality for women as Watch stated, the new family code preserved “discriminatory provisions with regards to inheritance and the right of husbands to unilaterally divorce their wives”. To illustrate that, the report included the case of 16-year-old Amina Filali, who apparently took her own life on March 10. Filali’s case “focused attention on article 475 of the penal code, which provides a prison term for a person who “abducts or deceives” a minor, but prevents the prosecutor from charging him if he then marries the minor. That clause, say women’s rights activists, effectively allows rapists to escape prosecution”

Domestic Workers

The conditions of child domestic workers are very poor, according to Watch’s report. And even though there are laws prohibiting the employment of children under the age of 15, thousands of children under that age—predominantly girls—are believed to work as domestic workers. This is confirmed by the UN, nongovernmental organization, and government sources, according to the report. The reported also stated that girls as young as 8 years old still work in private homes for up to 12 hours a day for as little as US$11 per month, where they would be beaten, verbally abused denied education and refused adequate food by their employers.

Freedom of Expression

On the issue of media freedom, the latter seems to be enjoying some sort of “glory days” compared to years before. But, this freedom has though some limits and certain red lines, Watch said.

In fact, the press law includes, the report said, “prison terms for “maliciously” spreading “false information” likely to disturb the public order or for speech that is defamatory, offensive to members of the royal family; or that undermines “Islam, the institution of the monarchy, or territorial integrity,” that is, Morocco’s claim on Western Sahara”

Rachid Nini, a Moroccan famous columnist and editor, was cited for his famous case. Mr. Ninib had to serve a one-year prison sentence on charges, “based on his articles, of attempting to influence judicial decisions, showing contempt for judicial decisions, and falsely accusing public officials of crimes”

Also, the report pointed to the case of rap musician Mouad Belghouat (known as “al-Haqed”—the sullen one) who was convicted and sentenced to one year in prison for insulting the police in the lyrics of one of his songs.

Foreign Aids and human rights

Last part of the report talked about the fact that EU, by giving morocco US$757 million, urged the latter “to protect freedom of expression by, among other things, adopting a new press code, and to “put into effect the principles contained in the new constitution, notably the adoption of organic laws … and formulate a strategic plan for reforming the justice sector with a view toward consolidating its independence.”

The report pointed out also that even though France, on the other hand, Morocco’s leading trading partner and source of public development aid and private investment, increased its Overseas Development Assistance to $783 million for 2010 to 2012, it rarely publicly criticized Morocco’s human rights practices and openly supported its autonomy plan for “Western Sahara”.

The United States is also one of Morocco’s financial providers with a five-year $697 million grant beginning in 2008 from the Millennium Challenge Corporation” to reduce poverty and stimulate economic growth. Concerning human rights, the report cited Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ‘statement about Morocco at the first bilateral “strategic dialogue” on September 13, in which reservations on human rights was voiced.

Human Right Watch report can be found here link


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