Amnesty International Report 1997 - Morocco
|Publication Date||1 January 1997|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1997 - Morocco, 1 January 1997, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a9fe78.html [accessed 18 December 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
MOROCCO AND WESTERN SAHARA
Over 50 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience continued to serve long sentences imposed after unfair trials in previous years. Fifteen political opposition activists were detained for several hours for the non-violent expression of their beliefs. Six Sahrawi prisoners of conscience serving long prison terms were pardoned and released. Torture and ill-treatment continued, particularly of individuals charged with smuggling and drug-trafficking offences. At least eight people died in custody. Hundreds of Sahrawis and Moroccans who "disappeared" in previous years remained unaccounted for. A former prisoner of conscience forcibly exiled in 1991 remained unable to return to Morocco. At least 40 prisoners were reported to remain on death row. No executions were carried out.
In September, a referendum approved constitutional reforms proposing the division of the single-chamber Chambre des représentants (Chamber of Representatives) into two chambers by creating a new upper house, the Chambre des conseillers (Chamber of Counsellors). King Hassan II retained the right to dissolve both chambers.
The UN-sponsored referendum on the future of Western Sahara, originally scheduled for 1992, but postponed several times, was again postponed this time indefinitely. In May, the UN Security Council voted to suspend voter registration in the territory until both parties could resolve a dispute over voter identification procedures. UN observers remained in place but its contingent of civilian police (CIVPOL) was reduced from 91 to nine officers.
More than 50 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, imprisoned after unfair trials in previous years, continued to be detained. They included Abdelkader Cheddoudi, sentenced in July 1995 to three years' imprisonment on charges of insulting the King (see Amnesty International Report 1996), whose sentence was reduced on appeal in July to 18 months. He was released in December on expiry of his sentence. Ahmed Haou, Abdelkader Sfiri, Mustapha Marjaoui and Youssef Cherkaoui-Rbati, arrested in 1983 with other supporters and sympathizers of unauthorized Islamist groups and accused of putting up anti-monarchist posters, distributing leaflets and participating in demonstrations, continued to serve life sentences (see Amnesty International Reports 1995 and 1996).
Non-violent protests against the referendum on constitutional reforms resulted in the short-term detention of a number of opposition party members. In September, five members of the opposition Parti d'avant-garde socialiste et démocratique, Socialist and Democratic Avant-garde Party, were arrested in Mohammedia for distributing leaflets calling for a boycott of the referendum. Two days later, 10 alleged members of the opposition Organisation d'action démocratique populaire, Organization of Popular Democratic Action, were arrested in Rabat, the capital, and Oujda for campaigning for a boycott of the referendum. All were released the same day.
Kelthoum Ahmed Labid El-Ouanat and five youths, all Sahrawi prisoners of conscience who had been sentenced in July 1993 to 20 years' imprisonment by the Moroccan Military Court, were released by royal pardon in May. Eight others, who had been arrested in May 1995 on charges of threatening the external security and territorial integrity of Morocco and sentenced in June 1995 to between 15 and 20 years' imprisonment (reduced to one year by royal pardon in July 1995), were released in August. They had continued to be detained for three months beyond the expiry of their sentences.
Prisoner of conscience Abdessalem Yassine, the spiritual leader of the banned Islamist association al-Adl wa'l-Ihsan (Justice and Charity), remained under administratively imposed house arrest, over six years after its imposition. His house arrest was lifted in December 1995 but reinstated within days by the Interior Ministry.
In January, eight people, including four Algerian nationals, were sentenced to up to 14 years' imprisonment by the Military Court in Rabat. They had been arrested in September and October 1995 on charges of smuggling arms to Algeria (see Amnesty International Report 1996). Trial proceedings fell short of internationally recognized standards for fair trial. Defendants and their lawyers alleged in court that the defendants' confessions had been extracted under torture but the Court failed to investigate these claims. The eight were awaiting a review of their case by the Supreme Court at the end of the year.
Reports of torture and ill-treatment continued to be received, particularly in cases of individuals arrested on charges of drug-trafficking and smuggling. For example, Abdelaziz Al-Yakhloufi, arrested in December 1995, was allegedly subjected to torture including suspension in contorted positions, sexual abuse and being forced to sit on a bottle. The Interior Ministry rejected these allegations, but no investigations were known to have been carried out. The authorities also failed to investigate complaints made in previous years of torture and ill-treatment of detainees during incommunicado detention, sometimes illegally prolonged for weeks, and the use as evidence of confessions allegedly extracted under torture (see previous Amnesty International Reports).
At least eight detainees died in custody, allegedly as a result of beatings and ill-treatment. In most cases, requests by relatives, lawyers and human rights organizations for independent investigations were disregarded by the authorities. However, in the case of Houssein Al-Mernissi, who died in Safi police station in July, an investigation was ordered and was being carried out at the end of the year.
An investigation was ordered into the death of Semmane Bouchta, who died in Khouribga police station in August 1994. However, the two policemen accused of having beaten Semmane Bouchta to death were acquitted in October amid allegations that witnesses against the defendants had been subjected to pressure. No other investigations were known to have been carried out into deaths in custody which occurred in previous years (see previous Amnesty International Reports).
Scores of demonstrators were reportedly injured in clashes with police. In March, a non-violent sit-in by university lecturers and school teachers outside the Ministry of Education in Rabat was violently broken up by police. In May and October, police reportedly used excessive force to break up non-violent demonstrations organized by the Association des chômeurs diplômés, Association of Unemployed Graduates. Scores of demonstrators were reported to have sustained injuries, including broken limbs.
Hundreds of Sahrawis and Moroccans who "disappeared" after arrest in previous years remained unaccounted for (see previous Amnesty International Reports). They included Abdelhaq Rouissi, a trade unionist who "disappeared" in 1964; Abdallah Cherrouk, a student who "disappeared" in 1981; and Mohamed-Salem Bueh-Barca and Tebker Ment Sidi-Mohamed Ould Khattari who "disappeared" in Laayoune in 1976.
No steps were taken to investigate the "disappearance" of hundreds of Sahrawis and Moroccans who were released in 1991 after up to 18 years in secret detention and the deaths of scores of others or to bring to justice those responsible. Neither those released in 1991 nor the families of those who died in secret detention received any compensation. Gleimina Ment Tayeb Yazidi, a former "disappeared" who had been released from the secret detention centre in Qalat M'Gouna in 1991 and who had been rearrested in November 1995 in Laayoune, was believed to have been released at the beginning of the year.
Christine Daure-Serfaty, President of the Observatoire international des prisons, International Prisons Watch, was arrested by police in July at a public ceremony organized by the opposition political party Union socialiste des forces populaires, Socialist Union of Popular Forces, in Casablanca. She is the wife of Abraham Serfaty, a former prisoner of conscience who was forcibly expelled to France on his release in 1991 and who remained unable to return to Morocco. She was detained for one night in Casablanca police station and sent back to France the following day without explanation.
In December, the Supreme Court in Rabat upheld the sentences on Stéphane Ait Iddir, Radouane Hamadi and Hamal Marzoug, who were sentenced to death in January 1995 for allegedly having carried out armed attacks on behalf of armed opposition groups, including the armed attack on a hotel in Marrakech in August 1994 (see Amnesty International Report 1996). The Supreme Court only rules on procedural matters and does not re-examine the facts of a case. At least 40 people were reported to remain on death row at the end of the year. No executions were carried out.
Amnesty International wrote to the authorities requesting information about cases of allegations of torture and ill-treatment and deaths in custody, and calling for independent investigations to be carried out. The organization also called on the authorities to release all prisoners of conscience. No response was received. A list of the names of "disappeared" Sahrawis was sent to the government's human rights body, the Conseil consultatif des droits de l'homme, Consultative Council for Human Rights, and information was sought on the fate and whereabouts of the "disappeared", but no reply was received.
In April, Amnesty International issued a report, Morocco/Western Sahara: Human rights violations in Western Sahara. The report detailed human rights violations committed by Moroccan security forces in Western Sahara despite the presence, since 1991, of observers of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara. In the report Amnesty International called on the UN to ensure respect of human rights safeguards included in the Implementation Plan and full deployment of CIVPOL. The report also detailed Amnesty International's concerns about past abuses committed in the Sahrawi refugee camps administered by the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el-Hamra y Rio de Oro, Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (known as the Polisario Front), in southern Algeria.