Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2007 - Morocco

Political context

Since King Mohammed VI came to power in 1999, Morocco has made important progress in promoting democracy and respect for human rights. The reform of the Family Code (moudawana) in 2004 was one of the signal reforms undertaken by Morocco. However, although it constitutes a considerable advance in terms of the management of family relationships, it does not establish full equality between men and women and there is still significant inequality in terms of inheritance, polygamy, divorce and legal guardianship.

The introduction of legislative reforms and the establishment of the Equity and Reconciliation Commission (Instance équité et réconciliation – IER) in January 2004 have also been marks of the profound change the country has experienced in recent years. The goal of this commission was to provide a global policy for the issue of the serious human rights violations committed between 1956, the date of independence, and 1999, the date of the creation of the Independent Arbitration Commission, whose only mandate was that of compensation for victims. In December 2005, after two years of work, the IER presented its recommendations to the King, who ordered the immediate publication of the final report and entrusted the Advisory Council on Human Rights (Conseil consultatif des droits humains – CCDH) with its implementation. Since then, compensation and health care has been put into effect for nearly 10,000 victims recognised by the IER, as has a programme of community reparation for regions and communities collectively affected by serious human rights violations.

Nevertheless, at the end of 2007, the implementation of some important recommendations remained pending. These included abolition of the death penalty, ratification by Morocco of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, primacy of international conventions over domestic law, and the reform of the Higher Judicial Council. Furthermore, there were continuing reports of persistent human rights violations such as irregularities that occur during periods of custody, recourse to torture and ill-treatment in detention centres, as well as conditions of detention that cause concern.

The legislative elections held in September 2007, which were won by the Istiqlal Party, a member of the coalition Government, were marked by a high level of abstentions. This phenomenon was largely interpreted as being due to the discredit in which the people held the political class.

In 2007 there were repeated obstacles to freedom of the press in the country. Judicial proceedings were initiated against journalists accused of disturbing public order, as was the case with Mr. Hormat Allah and Mr. A. Ariri, journalists with the weekly newspaper Al-Watan al-'an, and several papers were seized, including the weekly paper Nichane. The latter was seized in August 2007 on the orders of the Prime Minister for "failing to respect the person of the King" and "expressions contrary to morals" after publishing an article entitled "Jokes: how Moroccans laugh at religion, sex and politics" in December 2006.

Hindrances to the freedom of peaceful assembly

Security forces used violence to break up peaceful gatherings of human rights defenders and trade union members on several occasions. An example of this is the repression of the demonstration to promote trade union freedom held on May 26, 2007 and organised by the Democratic Labour Federation (Fédération démocratique du travail) and the General Workers' Union (Union générale des travailleurs) in Rabat. In addition, during demonstrations on May 1, 2007 seven protesters, members of the Moroccan Human Rights Association (Association marocaine des droits humains – AMDH), the National Association of Unemployed Graduates in Morocco (Association nationale des diplômés chômeurs au Maroc – ANDCM) and the Moroccan Workers' Union (Union marocaine du travail – UMT), were arrested in Agadir and Ksar El Kébir. Similarly, on June 15, 2007, the security forces used violence to break up a sit-in in Rabat organised by the National Solidarity Group for the May Day Detainees (Instance nationale pour la solidarité avec les détenus du 1er mai – INSAD) to protest against the arrest and sentencing of activists who had taken part in the May Day demonstrations. Several AMDH officials and members were amongst those hurt. In Béni Mellal, another solidarity sit-in ended with the arrest of ten people, including activist members of Attac Maroc, the AMDH, ANDCM, UMT and the Moroccan Truth and Justice Forum (Forum marocain vérité et justice – FMVJ). On August 9, 2007, heavy sentences from one to three years' imprisonment were pronounced against these demonstrators, who were accused of organising an "unauthorised assembly in a public place".

Continued repression of human rights activists and defenders in the Western Sahara

In 2007 the use of force against human rights activists and defenders in the Western Sahara was noted, as was the arbitrary detention of several of their members. Moreover, although negotiations on the question of the Western Sahara had resumed following the adoption of a United Nations Security Council Resolution on April 30, 2007 calling for direct negotiations between the parties, the issue appears to remain in stalemate.1

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders is a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH).

1 This United Nations Resolution was adopted after Morocco had proposed the creation of an "autonomous region of the Sahara", to which the Polisario Front responded with a proposal for independence that would guarantee Moroccan interests in the region. Several meetings followed during which the parties maintained their positions.


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