Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 December 2014, 20:05 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Morocco

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1995
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Morocco, 30 January 1995, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa4620.html [accessed 18 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis 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.
 

 

The Constitution of Morocco provides that the country shall be governed by constitutional monarchy with a representative Parliament and an independent judiciary. However, the ultimate authority rests with the King, who retains the discretion to terminate the tenure of any minister and dissolve Parliament to rule by decree. The current Parliament was formed in 1993 by a two-stage process: the election of 222 deputies by direct universal suffrage and selection of the remaining 111 deputies by labor organizations and other constituency groups. International observers found the direct elections to be generally fair with some irregularities. However, the second stage was marred by credible reports of widespread manipulation and fraud. When three major political parties refused to participate in the Government without a far-reaching shift in power in favor of the Parliament, the King appointed a government of technocrats who, with minor changes, remained in office in 1994.

The security apparatus comprises several overlapping police and paramilitary organizations. The Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire, Surete Nationale, and the judicial police are departments of the Ministry of Interior and Information. The Gendarmerie Royale reports directly to the royal palace. Security force abuses continued in 1994, especially in cases involving perceived threats to state security.

Morocco's mixed economy is based on agriculture, fishing, light industry, phosphate mining, tourism, and remittances from overseas workers, with illegal cannabis production a significant factor. Since the early 1980's, the Government has pursued an economic reform program that has contributed to generally strong economic growth, low inflation, and low fiscal and external deficits. The Government has embarked on a program of privatizing state-owned enterprises.

In 1994 the Government made substantial progress on several human rights fronts. The King granted amnesty to 424 political prisoners; the Government began paying stipends to former inmates who survived incarceration at the notorious Tazmamart Prison; a 1934 law allowing the imprisonment of political opponents was abrogated; incidents of press censorship decreased; and the Deputy Ministry for Human Rights expanded its operations and continued dialogs with local and international human rights groups.

However, several basic human rights problems remained unaddressed. Credible reports indicate that security forces frequently abused detainees and prisoners and caused the deaths of three persons in custody; state agents responsible for past and present human rights abuses were not held accountable by the weak and malleable judiciary or even subject to public investigation; many persons remain in prison for advocating independence for the Western Sahara; many young girls remain subject to exploitative domestic servitude; and the Government failed to make significant reforms in the manipulation-prone electoral system and continued to suspend the right to due process and freedom of speech and association. The ubiquitous nature of the Ministry of Interior and Information means that virtually all allegations of governmental human rights abuse involve its employees. The Ministry is responsible for authorizing associations and political parties; the conduct of elections, including cooperation with the United Nations in a referendum on the status of the Western Sahara; the oversight of the private press and publication of the official news agency releases; the direction of most security forces; the appointment and training of many local officials; the allocation of local and regional budgets; and the oversight of university campuses. Less formally, the Ministry exerts substantial pressure on the judicial system. In February comments to Parliament, reiterated in November, the Minister of Interior made clear that Ministry employees will not be held to answer for allegations of abuse brought by Parliament, other ministries, or nongovernmental organizations (NGO's).

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Three deaths of persons in police custody may be reasonably attributed to security force brutality. On August 4, officers of the Surete Nationale in Khouribga, 75 miles southeast of Casablanca, arrested Siman Bouchta for selling produce without a permit. A few hours later, Bouchta was rushed to a hospital, reportedly for treatment of profuse bleeding, and he died shortly thereafter. His family has refused to accept his body without the performance of an autopsy. Requests for further information by nongovernmental human rights organizations have elicited no response from Moroccan authorities. According to witnesses, four police officers in Rabat beat Zerzouri Younes about the head in front of his parents' home on August 13. He died of his injuries after 4 days of hospitalization. Younes had no known political affiliations. He was described in a communique issued by the Moroccan Organization for Human Rights (OMDH) as emotionally unstable.

The police arrested Brahim Belfaqir in the city of Sale on November 6 after his involvement in a fistfight. He died in police custody the next day. Authorities ruled the death a suicide, alleging that Belfaqir had taken an overdose of medication, but Belfaqir's family denied that he took any such medication. Belfaqir was not known to be politically active. An OMDH appeal to the Ministry of Justice failed to prompt a public investigation. In November the Minister of Interior responded to a question in Parliament, submitted in writing by a parliamentarian 2 weeks earlier, about Belfaqir's death. The Minister reportedly expressed surprise at the news of the death and promised an investigation. His response drew laughter from the parliamentarians. He has made no further comments on the case.

In a fourth case, Mohammed Belqaidi, a former student activist in Fes, died on October 27, reportedly as a consequence of a general physical deterioration after receiving physical abuse perpetrated by guards while serving a prison term from 1988 to 1993. Belqaidi reportedly served his sentence in solitary confinement.

A court proceeding brought by the family of Mustapha Hamzaoui, a political activist who died in jail in 1993 under suspicious circumstances, was postponed several times in 1994 and, according to human rights groups, is unlikely to go to trial.

OMDH published a report in January that alleged 17 deaths took place from 1989 to 1993 under circumstances that strongly suggest the use of torture. The Government has not conducted a public inquest into any of these cases.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of new disappearances. In September the Minister-Delegate for Human Rights announced that his office had begun a review of 50 to 60 alleged disappearances, some dating back several years. He added that approximately 30 of the dossiers presented strong prima facie cases of disappearance. At year's end, his office had not released any results of this review.

Human rights organizations have published higher estimates of the number of persons who disappeared permanently after last being seen in the custody of security forces. Many of the additional disappeared persons are Sahrawis, the natives of Western Sahara, who publicly advocated independence for that territory. The Government has never directly acknowledged that Sahrawis have disappeared--even though it released some 300 Sahrawis in 1991 after periods of detention ranging up to 15 years. However, the King expressly excluded Sahrawi nationalists from the prisoner amnesty program announced in July, thus indirectly acknowledging that some of them remain imprisoned.

Rashid Benhayoun, a resident of the Casablanca suburb of Mohamadia, disappeared on March 19 under circumstances implicating a powerful local figure with strong associations with the police. This figure should be a prime suspect but seems to have successfully prevailed upon police contacts to quash any investigation. In response to a request from OMDH, the Minister of Justice publicly agreed to investigate the disappearance. This rare public statement from the Minister was greeted enthusiastically by local human rights groups. At year's end, the Minister had not announced any further action.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Although Morocco ratified the United Nations' Convention Against Torture in 1993, security forces continued to subject detainees to abuse--including the use of torture in cases involving state security. Reliable sources report that Ministry of Interior interogation methods in state security cases were modified in 1992. The guidelines proscribe the use of methods likely to leave visible marks or permanent disabilities. Hence, the most common methods include sleep deprivation, the chemical inducement of vomiting fits, and beatings under immobilizing restraint.

A detainee alleging police abuse must sign an application for medical examination, naming the officers involved, and submit it to the court. Very few detainees take this step. In a case where evidence of abuse is strong, reliable reports suggest that the police typically offer to drop the underlying charges in exchange for a detainee's agreement to drop the allegation of abuse. In June a military tribunal tried several persons for smuggling guns to Muslim fundamentalists in Algeria. At trial, the defendants moved to exclude their confessions from evidence as having been obtained by torture. The trial court and an appeals court denied the motion without a hearing, despite strong circumstantial evidence of abuse. In May the authorities arrested seven teachers for participating in a rally advocating teaching the Berber language in public schools. All detainees alleged they were mistreated in detention and several, according to press accounts, bore physical marks attributable to abuse. Three defendants were convicted of posing a "threat to the sanctity of the State," but the court did not rule on the allegation of abuse. In cases that do not involve state security, witnesses report that individual police officers abuse detainees with impunity on an ad hoc basis.

Harsh treatment continues after conviction, especially for prisoners serving sentences for state security crimes. Several political prisoners released in the July amnesty reported that they suffered years of abuse from their guards, including random assaults, deprivation of sleep, and prohibition of family visits. Prison guards have reportedly suspended inmates against walls as punishment for violating some prison rules.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Prison conditions are harsh. Eleven persons reportedly died in a 6-month period in one Casablanca prison due either to illnesses contracted from unhealthy conditions or lack of medical care for preexisting conditions. The Government, citing budgetary restraints, has not substantially implemented the reforms recommended by the Royal Consultative Council on Human Rights (CCDH), an advisory body whose members are handpicked by the King, regarding prison overcrowding, medical care, and nutrition. Prisoner hunger strikes, although fewer in number in 1994, were common, especially among Islamist prisoners. In a display of openness, the Government granted access by representatives of Amnesty International (AI) to its prisons.

Legal provisions for due process have been revised extensively in recent years, but the authorities frequently ignore them. Although arrests usually take place in public, the police sometimes refuse to identify themselves and do not always obtain warrants. The law requires that a detainee be brought before a judge within 48 hours of arrest--extendable to 96 hours upon approval of the prosecutor--and informed of the pending charges. Incommunicado (garde-a-vue) detention is limited to 48 hours, with a one-time 24-hour extension at the prosecutor's discretion.

An accused person must be brought to trial within 2 months of arrest, but prosecutors may order five additional extensions of pretrial detention of 2 months each. Detainees are denied counsel during the initial period of detention when abuse is most likely to take place. Counsel is allowed only as of the first cross-examination, but many cases are resolved without cross examination.

Some members of the security forces, long accustomed to indefinite precharge access to detainees, continue to resist the new rules. Lawyers are not always informed of the date of detention and are thus unable to monitor compliance with the garde-a-vue detention limits. Although the trend towards compliance with the rules continued in 1994, there were several exceptions, especially in state security cases, the most publicized of which involved the gun-running and Berber speech cases (see Section 1.c.).

The law provides for a limited system of bail, but it is rarely used. Nevertheless, the courts sometimes release defendants on their own recognizance. The law does not provide for habeas corpus or its equivalent. Under a separate code of military justice, military authorities may detain members of the military without warrants or public trial.

In March the Minister-Delegate for Human Rights announced that the Government had begun making payments of 5,000 dirhams (about $550) per month to 28 former inmates who survived incarceration at the notorious Tazmamart Prison. He also acknowledged that 30 other prisoners had died there. In November the Minister-Delegate announced that the Government would issue death certificates to families of the deceased prisoners. All 58 former inmates had been sentenced, after mass trials, as accomplices in attempts on the King's life in 1971 and 1972. The typical member of the Tazmamart group was convicted of passive involvement in the plots--those convicted of active participation were executed--and sentenced to a 3-year prison term. Notwithstanding those sentences, the survivors each served 18 to 20 years in solitary confinement, with a complete absence of sanitary facilities and medical care. The Government offered no information on the prisoners to their families during their confinement, and even refused to confirm the existence of the detainees.

The Government released the Tazmamart group without explanation in 1991, on condition that they do not publicly discuss the circumstances of their confinement. The former inmates have quietly sought redress with the assistance of Moroccan human rights groups, particularly the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH). No government official has been accused of misfeasance in connection with Tazmamart. No public investigation is underway nor is any known internal government investigation.

In the June gun-running case (see Section 1.c), the authorities placed several suspects in incommunicado detention. They surfaced in a Rabat jail weeks later, after charges were brought. At their trial, the defendants moved for dismissal of the case for gross violation of the garde-a-vue detention limits. In contradiction to available evidence, the court found that the fugitives had spent most of the time after their disappearance--and before charges were brought--in flight from the authorities. It therefore ruled that the detention limits were not exceeded.

The authorities held the defendants in the Berber language case (see Section 1.c.) in garde-a-vue detention for more than 2 weeks. Although the three convicted defendants received reduced sentences on appeal and were released in the July amnesty, the obvious violation of garde-a-vue limits was not subject to court ruling.

By contrast, in investigating incidents of violent crime in August, the authorities evidently observed the due process rules. The incidents included a shooting at a Marrakech hotel which left two dead, and an attempted armored car holdup in Casablanca. In the aftermath of those events, police discovered several weapons caches, and investigations in foreign countries linked the suspects to terrorist groups abroad. Despite the national security implications of these discoveries, no evidence of illegal detention or physical abuse has surfaced. In fact, one of the principal suspects, after disparaging the judicial system in a court hearing, later withdrew a request for foreign counsel, stating that he had been treated fairly and represented professionally.

Abdessalem Yassine, leader of the banned Islamist organization Justice and Charity, entered his fifth year of house arrest. Aside from rare meetings with his lawyers and family members, the authorities do not allow him to have visitors, nor have they filed formal charges against him. However, two members of the CCDH publicly acknowledged the illegality of Yassine's continued detention. Neither the Ministry of Justice nor the Deputy Ministry for Human Rights has initiated a review.

There are no known instances of government-imposed exile. As part of the 1994 amnesty, the Government indicated that any citizen living abroad in self-imposed exile would be welcomed to return after taking an oath that acknowledged the legitimacy of the monarchy and the nation's claim to the Western Sahara. Several Moroccans living in Holland have been repatriated in this fashion, and in December the Government began to process claims from Moroccans living in France as well.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

In theory there is a single court system for all nonmilitary matters, but family matters such as marriage, divorce, child support and custody, and inheritance are adjudicated by judges trained in Islamic law, or Shari'a. Judges considering criminal cases or cases in nonfamily areas of civil law are generally trained in the French legal tradition. All judges appointed in recent years are alumni of the National Institute for Judicial Studies (INEJ) where they undergo 2 years of study heavily focused on human rights and the rule of law.

The law does not distinguish political and security cases from common criminal cases. In general, detainees are arraigned before a court of first instance. If the infraction is minor and not contested, the judge may order the defendant released or impose a light sentence. If an investigation is required, the judge may release defendants on their own recognizance. Cases are often adjudicated on the basis of confessions obtained during incommunicado detention. Some of these confessions, according to reliable sources, are obtained under duress.

All Moroccan courts are susceptible to extrajudicial pressures. Salaries paid to judges are modest; cash payments to unscrupulous judges are sometimes made in routine cases. A more subtle, but doubtless more profound, corruption derives from the judiciary's relationship with the Ministry of Interior. The Ministry, through its network of local officials, or caids, who serve in tandem with local elected officials, interacts regularly with local judges. Through this interaction, the caids transmit both general procedures for various types of cases and advice regarding particular cases as needed to the judges. Credible sources report that judges who expect enhanced remuneration and career progression do not stray far from that guidance. Attorneys report that newly appointed judges, notwithstanding their INEJ training, are even more willing to profit from this arrangement than their predecessors.

In serious state security cases, communications between the Ministry of Interior and the court are more direct. In the gun-running case (see Section 1.c.), if the court had applied the due process rules, the defendants may have been acquitted--a result that might have encouraged local Islamists. To avoid that possibility, security officers were given virtually unlimited access to the suspects while they were in pretrial detention, and were able to extract confessions. The trial court cooperated in the Ministry's effort by retroactively adjusting the date of arrest to comport with the garde-a-vue detention limits--an adjustment that allowed the confessions to be admitted into evidence.

In late 1993, the King appointed Idrissi Machichi as Minister of Justice. A legal scholar and teacher, Machichi has an international reputation for integrity. While there were no fundamental changes in the legal system, Machichi has instituted some significant reforms. For example, judges in drug trafficking cases are now assigned on the day of trial; traffickers are thus unable to approach corrupt trial judges to arrange a pretrial dismissal of charges. Machichi's presence in office is cited by virtually every part of the legal community as hope that the judicial system will eventually achieve the independence mandated by the Constitution.

Aside from external pressures, the court system is also subject to resource constraints. Consequently, criminal defendants charged with less serious offenses often receive only cursory hearings, with judges relying on police reports to render decisions. Although the Government provides an attorney at public expense for serious crimes--i.e., when the offense has a maximum sentence of over 5 years--these attorneys often provide inadequate repesentation.

In July the Government took two important steps to address the problem of political prisoners. First, the Parliament abrogated a 1935 decree which authorized the authorities to detain any person regarded as a "threat to the sanctity of the State." Originally promulgated during the French Protectorate to suppress nationalists, the decree had become the principal legal basis for jailing political opponents.

Second, the King granted royal amnesty to 424 prisoners, all of whom were convicted under the 1935 decree. Of the freed prisoners, CCDH determined that 11 were political prisoners and 413 were criminals motivated by political concerns. Most of the group of 413 persons were convicted of crimes of violence or vandalism in mass trials following the 1984 civil disturbances in Tetouan, Casablanca, and Fes, as well as the 1990 disturbances in Fes and Tangier. However, several were imprisoned for exercising free speech and may also be considered political prisoners. Many of the prisoners granted amnesty had rejected government overtures for pardons in previous years because any pardon, under applicable law, would have been granted only after an admission of guilt.

The released prisoners included human rights activist Ahmed Belaichi, imprisoned in 1992 for televised comments critical of the armed forces, and Islamist leader M'barek Missouni, imprisoned in 1991 for distributing Islamist tracts. More than 100 of those released are Islamists. The human rights community uniformly praised the abrogation of the 1935 decree and the amnesty as significant efforts to turn the page on a dark era in Moroccan history.

OMDH estimates that some 110 non-Sahrawis remain in prison. Of these, some 60 are Islamists. Estimates of the number of persons imprisoned for advocating independence for the Western Sahara vary from the Government's position that none are held to the claims of some international NGO's that several hundred remain.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home or Correspondence

The Constitution states that the home is inviolable and that the police may not conduct a search without a warrant. The law stipulates that search warrants may be issued by a prosecutor for good cause. However, there continue to be reports of illegal searches of the homes and offices of suspected political activists. Government security services monitor the activities of certain persons and organizations, including their telephones and mail. Government informers also monitor activities on university campuses.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of expression, but the law and tradition prohibit criticism on three topics: the monarchy, the Government's claim to the Western Sahara, and the sanctity of Islam.

In 1994 a court sentenced union leader Ahmed Mlakgatt to 2 years for questioning the fairness of the 1993 legislative elections. Five residents of the coastal town of Bouznika were sentenced to 2 years for committing the same offense. In other cases, the courts sentenced three Berber activists from 1 to 2 years for displaying a banner calling for the teaching of Berber language courses in schools (see Section 1.c.), and 14 members of the "Unemployed Graduate Students Association" were sentenced from 1 to 2 years for demonstrating against high unemployment. The Government released Mlakgatt, the Bouznika residents, and the Berber activists in a royal amnesty in July. The students were freed prior to the amnesty. The Government significantly restricts press freedom, though the limits are not clearly defined. A 1958 decree gives the Government the authority to register and license domestic newspapers and journals. It uses this licensing power to prohibit the publication of materials deemed to cross the threshold of tolerable dissent. The authorities may seize offending publications and suspend the publisher's license. Article 55 of the Press Code empowers the Ministry of Interior to censor newspapers directly by ordering them not publish reports on specific issues.

In 1994 the Government closed the independent Arabic tabloid, Asrar, without explanation. The paper circumvented the closure by reorganizing as a new periodical, Asda. Security officials prohibited the distribution of one issue of Nouvelles du Nord because it contained an article critical of the human rights situation in Tunisia.

The Government tolerates satirical and often stinging editorials in the opposition parties' dailies. Particularly sharp editorials in 1994 charged a lack of political leadership regarding the recognition of Israel and a perceived capitulation to the West in opening a liaison office in Israel, both areas in which policy has been orchestrated by the Royal Palace. On the other hand, the Government restricted press coverage of the gun-smuggling case (see Section 1.c.).

The Government owns the only television station receivable nationwide without a decoder or satellite dish antenna; it does not impede reception of foreign broadcasts. Satellite dishes are available, at prices that decreased dramatically in 1994, and make available a wide variety of foreign broadcasts. The sole private television station may be received in most urban areas with the rental of an inexpensive decoder. Northern residents may receive broadcasts from Spain with standard antennas. A great number of foreign news publications are available, particularly from Europe and the United States. The Government generally tolerates a broad spectrum of opinion in the foreign press. This was especially true in 1994 as the Government hosted several international events, including the conference on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the Middle East Economic Summit, which attracted hundreds of foreign journalists.

Despite the trend in recent years towards noninterference with the foreign press, the Government continued to prohibit the distribution of publications containing articles regarded as offensive. For example, the authorities seized the March 23 and April 28 editions of the French weekly Jeune Afrique because they contained articles respectively urging greater government support for a Moroccan national accused of murder in France, and reporting alleged contacts between the Polisario Front (a group seeking independence for the Western Sahara) and Algerian Islamists. The authorities temporarily blocked the distribution of the September 9 edition of the French daily Le Monde because it contained an interview in which a Moroccan Islamist questioned the King's status as a spiritual leader. The edition was allowed full distribution a few days later.

Universities enjoy relative academic freedom. The Ministry of Interior controls the hiring of instructors, the curriculum in the Faculty of Law, and the physical plant, including the residences in all faculties.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Although the Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association, this right is significantly limited by three decrees--promulgated in 1935, 1939, and 1958--that permit the Government to suppress peaceful demonstrations and mass gatherings. Organizers for most conferences and demonstrations require the prior authorization of the Ministry of Interior, ostensibly for security reasons.

In February the Ministry of Interior denied without explanation authorization for a conference on women's issues planned by three major political parties. The conferees were to consider the impact of recent changes in the Code of Personal Status, which concerns marriage, divorce, and child custody. In April and June, the Ministry denied permission to AMDH to hold conferences on human rights and democracy. In May the Ministry refused to allow a planned rally in Rabat in support of Bosnian Muslims. On June 14, the authorities arrested activists from the Unemployed Graduate Students Association, an unregistered group tolerated by the Government, in connection with an unauthorized demonstration at a union headquarters in a small eastern city (see Section 1.e.). The authorities did not permit OMDH to hold a reception in Casablanca in honor of the prisoners amnestied in July. The authorities also denied organizers to proceed with Berber cultural conferences in Agadir and Nador. The police forcibly dispersed several demonstrations organized by blind students to call attention to their poverty. There were a number of injuries.

The Government limits the right to establish organizations. Under the 1958 decree, persons wishing to establish an organization must obtain the approval of the Ministry of Interior before holding meetings. In practice, the Ministry uses this requirement to prevent persons suspected of advocating causes opposed by the Government, particularly Islamist and leftist groups, from establishing legal organizations. There are 29 active Islamist groups, but the Government has prohibited membership in two of them--Justice and Charity and Jama'a Islamia--because of their rhetoric deemed inimical to the monarchy. The Ministry of Interior must approve political parties--a power which the Government uses to control participation in the political process.

c. Freedom of Religion

Islam is the official religion. Ninety-nine percent of the population is Sunni Muslims, and the King bears the title "Commander of the Faithful." The Jewish community of approximately 6,000 is permitted to practice its faith, as is the somewhat larger foreign Christian community. For the first time in memory, the Ministry of Interior in 1994 permitted the broadcast of Yom Kippur services on national television.

Although the Constitution provides for freedom of religion, only Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are tolerated, since the King has pronounced all other religions to be heresies. The Government has prohibited the Baha'i community of 150 to 200 people from meeting since 1983. Islamic law and tradition call for strict punishment of any Muslim who converts to another faith. Any attempt to induce a Muslim to convert is similarly illegal.

Foreign missionaries limit their proselytizing to non-Muslims or conduct their work quietly. Evangelical missionaries do not turn away Muslims who appear at services and Bible meetings. In January the Government quietly released from prison Mustapha Zmamda, a Muslimsentenced to 3 years in prison in 1993 for corresponding with Christian missionaries.

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs monitors Friday mosque sermons and the Koranic schools to ensure the teaching of approved doctrine. The authorities sometimes suppress the activities of Islamic fundamentalists, but generally tolerate activities restricted to the propagation of Islam, education, and charity. Security forces commonly close mosques to the public shortly after Friday services to prevent use of the premises for unauthorized political activity.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Although the Constitution provides for freedom of movement, in practice security forces set up roadblocks throughout the country and stop traffic at will. In some regions, roadblocks have been maintained in the same places for years. Some observers characterize these as internal frontiers. Police regularly extract gratuities at the roadblocks, particularly from truck drivers. In a move to improve their image, the police arrested more than 1,000 travelers in 1994 for attempted bribery at the roadblocks. In the aftermath of the August violence and discovery of arms catches (see Section 1.d.), the authorities established additional temporary roadblocks, closed the border with Algeria, and subjected Algerian nationals to repeated interrogations.

In the Morocco-administered portion of the Western Sahara, the Government restricts movement in areas regarded as militarily sensitive.

The Ministry of Interior restricts freedom to travel abroad in certain circumstances. It has refused to issue passports to certain citizens, including political activists, former political prisoners, and Baha'is. However, the Government has dramatically eased these restrictions in recent years. OMDH currently lists only 22 citizens declared ineligible to obtain passports. Some former political prisoners, after being issued passports, were denied exit at border points on the ostensible basis that government computers had not been changed to reflect their eligibility to leave.

Women must have permission from either their fathers or husbands to obtain a passport. A divorced woman must have her father's permission to obtain a passport and, if she has custody of the children, she must have permission of the children's father to obtain passports for them. Although the King has said that the male consent requirement is contrary to Islam and the Constitution, the Government took no action to ease the travel requirements for women.

There are frequent allegations of corruption in the passport offices; applicants are reportedly forced to pay gratuities to obtain application forms and to make sure the forms are not lost. All civil servants must obtain written permission from their ministries each time they seek to travel abroad. Moroccans may not renounce their citizenship, but the King retains the power--rarely used--to revoke it. Tens of thousands of Moroccans hold more than one citizenship and travel with passports issued by other countries. However, while residing in Morocco, the authorities consider them Moroccan citizens. The Government has sometimes refused to recognize the right of embassy officials to act on behalf of "dual nationals" or even to receive information concerning their arrest and imprisonment. Dual nationals also complain of harassment from immigration inspectors.

The law encourages voluntary repatriation of Moroccan Jews who have emigrated. Jewish emigres with Israeli citizenship freely visit Morocco. The Government also encourages the return of Saharans who departed Morocco due to the conflict in the Western Sahara--provided they recognize the Government's claim to the region. The Government does not permit Saharan nationalists who have been released from prison to live in the disputed territory.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change their Government

Practically speaking, the citizens do not enjoy the right to change their government by democratic means. The King, as Head of State, appoints the Prime Minister, who is the titular head of government. The Parliament has the theoretical authority to effect change in the system of government, but has never exercised it. The Constitution may not be amended without the King's approval. The Ministry of Interior appoints provincial governors and local caids. The latter undergo a 2-year training course in the Ministry's "Ecole de Formation de Cadres." Municipal councils are elected bodies.

Constitutional changes in 1992 authorized the Prime Minister to nominate other government ministers, but the King retains the right to replace any minister at will. Any significant surrender of power from the Crown to the Prime Minister's office was further obviated when the King decreed to the secretaries general, who serve at the King's pleasure, many of the powers previously vested in the ministers.

Allegations of fraud and manipulation in the 1993 parliamentary election are pending before the Constitutional Council, the designated body adjudicating the disputes. Challenges have been filed for more than 100 of the 333 seats in Parliament. Although 17 reelections have been ordered and carried out, often with new credible allegations of irregularity, human rights groups do not expect the Council to adjudicate the remaining cases.

Sixteen parties have members in Parliament. In a rare display of political independence, a coalition of major parties refused in 1994 to accept the King's invitation to accept ministerial posts--absent significant political and electoral reform, including control of the Ministry of Interior. As a consequence, most present ministers are technocrats named by the King as caretakers pending the formation of a longer-term government. In 1994 the Parliament authorized the televised broadcasts of ministerial question periods in Parliament.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

There are three officially recognized nongovernmental human rights groups: the Moroccan Human Rights Organization (OMDH), the Moroccan League for the Defense of Human Rights (LMDH), and the Moroccan Human Rights Association (AMDH). LMDH is associated with the Istiqlal Party, and AMDH is associated with the Party of the Socialist Avant Garde. They have formed a coordinating committee and generally issue joint communiques. OMDH is nonpartisan. LMDH and OMDH participate in some activities of the Royal Consultative Council on Human Rights.

In January OMDH issued a communique stating that the Ministry of Justice had formed a partnership with OMDH, AMDH, and LMDH to investigate alleged violations of human rights. However, at year's end, there had been no significant follow-up on this initiative. While the Ministry of Justice held occasional meetings with the NGO's, the Ministry of Interior continued to refuse to acknowledge their inquiries directly.

In comments before Parliament in February, reiterated in November, the Minister of Interior made clear that he resented inquiries from human rights groups and that neither of the two ministries would respond to them, even if such inquires came from Parliament or other ministries.

The Royal Consultative Council on Human Rights (CCDH), an advisory body to the King, exists in sometimes uneasy coordination with the Deputy Ministry of Human Rights (DMHR), which was established by Parliament. While their common missions often provoked an adversarial relationship, a clearer division of labor emerged in 1994. CCDH has concentrated on the reports written by its various working groups, most notably its recommendations for prison reform. DMHR's activities have been more executive: identifying Tazmamart Prison victims for compensation and studying the dossiers of disappeared persons for possible compensation to their families. The two bodies worked together on the royal amnesty program: CCDH formulated the criteria for eligibility, and DMHR compiled a list of potentially eligible prisoners.

Amnesty International (AI) established an office in Casablanca after its representatives visited Morocco in 1994. While citing a continuation of human rights abuses, AI commended the Government's openness in affording access to prisons and prisoners.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

Women

Women suffer various forms of legal and cultural discrimination. Under the Criminal Code, women are generally accorded the same treatment as men, but are not accorded equal treatment under family and estate law, which is based on the Malikite school of Islamic law. Under this law, husbands may more easily divorce their wives than vice versa. Women inherit only half as much as male heirs. Moreover, even where the law guarantees equal status, cultural norms often prevent a woman's exercise of those rights. When a woman inherits property, for example, male relatives may pressure her to relinquish her interest.

The civil law status of women is governed by the Moudouwana, or Code of Personal Status, which is based in part on the Koran. With the active support of the King, limited reforms of the Moudouwana, consistent with the Koran, were effected in 1993. The amendments allow a wife to divorce a husband who announces an intent to take a second wife; grant a wife unspecified allowance rights, based on the husband's income, in cases where a husband files for divorce without legal justification; and recognize a wife's priority of right to custody of young children after a divorce.

Women's groups unsuccessfully requested that the Moudouwana changes include expanded rights to combat spousal violence, a problem human rights groups confirm is commonplace. Although a battered wife has the right to complain to the police, as a practical matter she would do so only if prepared to file for divorce. Spousal abuse is grounds for divorce, but even if abuse is proven, divorced women do not have the right to financial support from their former spouses. Hence few victims report abuse to authorities. The law and social practice concerning violence against women reflects the importance society places on the honor of the family. The Criminal Code includes severe punishment for men convicted of rape or violating a woman or girl. The defendants in such cases bear the burden of proving their innocence. However, sexual assaults often go unreported because of the stigma attached to the loss of virginity. A rapist may be offered the opportunity to marry his victim in order to preserve the honor of the victim's family. The law excuses the murder or injury of a wife caught in the act of committing adultery; however, a woman would not be excused for killing her husband under the same circumstances.

While many well-educated women pursue careers in law, medicine, education, and government service, few make it to the top echelons of their professions. Women comprise approximately 24 percent of the work force, with the majority of them in the industrial, service, and teaching sectors.

Women suffer most from inequality in the rural areas. Rural women perform most hard physical labor; the rate of literacy, particularly in the countryside, is noticeably lower for women than for men. Girls are much less likely to be sent to school than are boys. Women who earn secondary school diplomas, however, have equal access to university training.

Children

The Government has taken little action to end child labor (see Section 6.d.). Young girls in particular are exploited as domestic servants. Orphanages are often party to the practice of adoptive servitude, in which families adopt young girls who perform the duties of domestic servants in their new families. Credible reports of physical abuse are widespread. The practice is often justified as a better alternative to keeping the girls in orphanages. It is ingrained in society, attracts little criticism, even from human rights groups, and is unregulated by the Government. In 1994 the Government continued a campaign to vaccinate children against preventable diseases.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Constitution affirms, and the Government respects, the legal equality of all citizens.

The official language is Arabic. The languages of instruction and the news media are both Arabic and French. Science and technical curriculums are taught in French, thereby eliminating the large monolingual Arabic-speaking population from these programs. Educational reforms in the past decade have stressed use of Arabic in secondary schools. Failure to similarly transform the university system has functionally disqualified many students, especially those from poorer homes where French tutoring is not practicable, from higher education in lucrative fields.

Some 60 percent of the population claim Berber heritage. Berber cultural groups contend that the three remaining Berber languages and Berber traditions are rapidly being lost. Their repeated requests to the palace to permit the teaching of Berber languages in the schools have finally produced a royal decree to effect the necessary curriculum changes. The King ordered the limited broadcast of Berber-language news programs on radio and televison; the broadcasts commenced in 1994. However, the Government convicted Berber activists and canceled two conferences on Berber culture (see Section 1.c. and 1.f.). The moves suggest that the Government regards the Berber revival as a threat to state security.

People with Disabilities

Morocco has a high incidence of disabling disease. Polio is especially prevalent. While the Government contends that it seeks to integrate the disabled into society, most special education activities are provided by private charities and are generally affordable only to families with private means. Disabled persons typically survive by begging. In 1994 the Government continued a pilot training program for the blind, sponsored in part by a member of the royal family. There are no laws mandating physical changes to buildings to facilitate access for the disabled.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

Although workers are free to establish and join trade unions, the unions themselves are not completely free from government interference. Perhaps a half million of Morocco's 9 million workers are unionized in 17 trade union federations. Three federations dominate the scene: the Union Marocain de Travail (UMT), the Confederation Democratique de Travail (CDT), and the Union Generale des Travailleurs Marocains (UGTM). The UMT has no political affiliation, but the CDT is linked to the Socialist Union of Popular Forces, and the UGTM to the Istiqlal Party. Unions belong to regional labor organizations and maintain ties with international trade secretariats.

In practice, the internal intelligence services of the Ministry of Interior are believed to have informants within the unions who monitor their activities and the election of officers. Sometimes union officers are subject to government pressure. Union leadership does not always uphold the rights of members to select their own leaders. There has been no case of the rank and file voting out its current leadership and replacing it with another. Workers have the right to strike and do so. In February the CDT called a 1-day general strike to protest government social policies. However, it quickly postponed the strike indefinitely after the Prime Minister moved to ban it on grounds that there is no legislation implementing the constitutional provision for the right to strike. The Government maintained that since legal strikes are not defined by law, the CDT's general strike was outside the scope of legitimate union activity and hence illegal. Critics countered that the ban was an infringement of the Constitution.

During the May 1 Labor Day celebrations, 12 union members around the country were arrested for shouting political slogans. Three were convicted and imprisoned. They were released from prison in the general amnesty in July.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The right to organize and bargain collectively is implied in the constitutional provisions on the right to strike and the right to join organizations. The many trade union federations compete to organize workers. Any group of eight workers may organize a union and a worker may change union affiliation easily. A work site may contain several independent locals or locals affiliated with more than one labor federation.

In general, the Government ensures the observance of labor laws in larger companies and in the public sector. In the informal economy, and in the textile and handicrafts industries, labor laws and regulations are routinely ignored by the Government and management. As a practical matter, unions have no judicial recourse to oblige the Government to enforce labor laws and regulations.

The laws governing collective bargaining are inadequate. Collective bargaining has been a long-established tradition in some parts of the economy, but the practice is not spreading. Wages and conditions of employment are generally set in discussions between employer and worker representatives. Employers unilaterally set wages for the majority of workers.

Employers wishing to dismiss workers are required by law to notify the provincial governor through the labor inspector's office. In cases where employers plan to replace dismissed workers, a government labor inspector provides replacements and mediates the cases of workers who protest their dismissal. Any worker dimissed for committing a serious infraction of work rules is entitled by law to a court hearing.

There is no law specifically prohibiting antiunion discrimination. Employers commonly dismiss workers for union activities regarded as threatening to employer interests. The courts sometimes order the reinstatement of such wokers, but are unable to ensure that employers pay damages and back pay.

Ministry of Labor inspectors serve as investigators and conciliators in labor disputes, but they are few in number and do not have the resources to investigate all cases. Unions have increasingly resorted to litigation to resolve labor disputes. In 1994 the International Labor Organization (ILO) again cited the Government for failing to respond adequately to such abuses as the dismissals and arrests of trade unionists and the prohibition on union demonstrations.

The Labor Law applies equally to the small Tangier export zone. The proportion of unionized workers in the export zone is about the same as in the rest of the economy.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by ILO Convention 29, which was adopted by royal decree.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Abuse of the child labor laws is common nationwide. The law prohibits the employment or apprenticeship of any child under 12 years of age. Education is compulsory for children between the ages of 7 and 13. Special regulations govern the employment of children between the ages of 12 and 16. In practice, children are often apprenticed before age 12, particularly in the handicraft industry. The use of minors is common in the rug-making industry and also exists to some extent in the textile and leather goods industries. Children are also employed informally as domestics and usually receive little or no wages. Safety and health conditions as well as salaries in enterprises employing children are often substandard.

Ministry of Labor inspectors are responsible for enforcing child labor regulations which are generally well observed in the industrialized, unionized sector of the economy. However, the inspectors are not authorized to monitor the conditions of domestic servants.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum wage does not provide a decent standard of living for a worker and his family--even with government subsidies for food, diesel fuel, and public transportation subsidies. In many cases, several family members combine their income to support the family. The minimum wage was raised by 10 percent on July 1 to about $167 (1,510 dirhams) a month, the first increase in 2 years. Labor unions call for a minimum monthly wage of about $220 to $230.

The minimum wage is not enforced effectively in the informal and handicraft sectors of the economy, and even the Government pays less than the minimum wage to workers at the lowest civil service grades. To increase employment opportunities for recent graduates, the Government allows firms to hire them for a limited period for less than the minimum wage. Most workers in the industrial sector earn more than the minimum wage. They are generally paid between 13 and 16 months' salary, including bonuses, each year.

The law provides a 48-hour maximum workweek with not more than 10 hours any single day, premium pay for overtime, paid public and annual holidays, and minimum conditions for health and safety, including the prohibition of night work for women and minors. As with other regulations and laws, these are not universally observed in the informal sector.

Occupational health and safety standards are rudimentary, except for a prohibition on the employment of women in certain dangerous occupations. Labor inspectors endeavor to monitor working conditions and accidents, but lack sufficient resources. In 1994 five teenaged workers were paralyzed by glue fumes in a poorly ventilated shoe workshop.

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