Human Rights in Morocco: A Dark State of Affairs

Sunday 15 December 201911:54 am
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

"انتهاك للحريات وقمعٌ شرس"... صورة قاتمة لحقوق الإنسان في المغرب

Human rights bodies are warning of "serious deterioration" in human rights in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, amidst a rise in campaigns of repression, arbitrary detention, torture, bogus trials and the assassination of opposition figures.

Although Moroccan authorities were able to contain the Arab Spring 2011 wave of protests, authorities continue to "ignore" public demands, through "imposing a security-based approach and confronting protests with fierce repression."

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The Moroccan Association for Human Rights released a report last Tuesday in which it accused Moroccan authorities of subjecting human rights defenders to restrictive measures, in addition to defamation and vengeful legal procedures affecting their freedoms and rights.

The report released to coincide with the 71st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, added that "the freedom to form associations, assemble and peacefully protest, as well as the freedom of expression and freedom of the press are facing recurrent attacks and a systematic siege."

The human rights body proceeded to point out a series of human rights violations conducted by the authorities, including "repression and political imprisonment, attacking the right to life, torture and cruel treatment that seeks to demean [the prisoner's] dignity, enforced disappearances, and the forceful prevention of peaceful protests."

Other violations cited by the human rights body included the refusal of the authorities to disclose the fate or whereabouts of those who have disappeared, as well as cases of death caused by torture or negligence in detention centers, prisons and hospitals – in addition to the use of bullets by security forces with no regard to international standards on dealing with protests.

Furthermore, in addition to the suppression of freedoms of opinion, expression and the press, the report also cited attacks on freedom of belief and conscience, as well as restrictions on individual freedoms, the conditions of human rights defenders, economic, social, cultural and trade union rights, and finally the right to healthcare and accommodation.

Moroccan Association for Human Rights released a report highlighting #Morocco’s dire state of affairs: restrictions on journalism, tightening on civil liberties, the right to assemble and demonstrate, freedom of expression, unknown fate of prisoners…
#Morocco ranked 121st out of a total of 189 countries in the ranking of human development for the year 2019, which is based on measuring the advancements achieved in the fields of healthcare, education and income.

Low Development Ranking

According to a new United Nations (UN) report, Morocco ranked 121st out of a total of 189 countries in the ranking of human development for the year 2019, which is based on measuring the advancements achieved in the fields of healthcare, education and income.

According to the report, which classified Morocco as part of the list of "medium human development" countries, a new Moroccan generation has emerged which is suffering from high levels of inequality, especially with regards to education, in addition to technological advances and climate change, which the report said "formed two crucial changes which if neglected can lead to huge new levels of disparity in society, of the likes not witnessed since the industrial revolution."

It should be noted that Morocco's neighboring countries were all ranked higher in the UN report. Libya, which is still experiencing a lack of stability and security in the aftermath of the fall of the Gaddafi regime, scored higher and was ranked 110th, while Algeria was ranked 82nd and Tunisia 91st.

Repressing Growing Protests

According to human rights activist Fouad Abdelmoumni, human rights in Morocco during the year 2019 deteriorated significantly across the fields of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

Abdelmoumni told Raseef22 that this regressive trajectory was a result of the ruling authority's belief that the cost of reversing some human rights gains would not be significant, amidst a wave of international normalization conducted with the country amongst many of the region's states.

According to Abdelmoumni, this new trajectory was reinforced "when it became clear that the state was unwilling to prioritize the addressing of social demands."

He added that such demands "noticeably grew over the past few years," only for the authorities to resort to "vicious repression" to curb the protests.

Significant Abuses of 2019

Amongst the most prominent human rights violations over the past year, Abdelmoumni highlights the "surreal sentences, if not actively terrifying, that were given to the Rif protest movement's activists, which reached twenty years imprisonment."

The harsh sentences which followed heavy charges directed at the Rif activists were according to Abdelmoumni despite their "legitimate demands and peaceful struggle that did not threaten social peace or the country's national security."

It should be noted that the Court of Appeal in Casablanca affirmed in April the original ruling of twenty years imprisonment given to the leader of the Rif protest movement Nasser Zefzafi, as well as Nabil Ahamjik and others – while sentences for other detainees ranged between one year to fifteen years' imprisonment.

The court sentences followed two years of monitoring of the Rif activists, charging some with "participating in unlicensed protests" and others with the more grave accusation of "harming state security."

The Rif protest movement began in Autumn 2016 and lasted until the summer of 2017, encompassing the city of Al Hoceima and its environs in North Eastern Morocco; the protesters called for social and economic reforms in the region, after being sparked by an incident that took the life of fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri, who was crushed to death in a rubbish truck after trying to recover fish that were confiscated from him by the authorities.

Also amongst the "highlights of repression" that year, Abdelmoumni cites "the state's resort to using false charges based on [violating] the public interest rather than political rights or freedom of opinion, in order to suppress those who oppose or embarrass it, or those it seeks to marginalize and put on the ropes."

As an example, Abdelmoumni cited a sentence of fifteen years imprisonment handed to Taoufik Bouachrine, "a critical journalist but not one who was opposed to the state's policy directions", in addition to the arrest of journalist Hajar Raissouni and her fiancé, Sudanese rights activist Rifaat Al Amine, who were charged with "conducting sexual relations outside of marriage as well as abortion."

In October Casablanca's Court of Appeals increased the sentence given to Taoufik Bouachrine, the founder of the Moroccan newspaper "Akhbar Alyoum‏", from twelve to fifteen years on the charge of "human trafficking, sexual exploitation, violent indecent assault, rape, attempted rape, sexual harassment, and using recording equipment" against eight victims.

On the conduct of his court trial, Bouachrine remarked: "I have been deprived from everything that proves my innocence; I was arbitrarily arrested, part of my defense was followed [monitored], and so too were the women who declared my innocence, while I was forbidden from accessing my phone records that could prove where I was."

Bouachrine insisted that the case was bigger than one individual, stating: "it is a case of freedom of expression and freedom of the press that an entire generation sacrificed themselves for."

In addition to the arrests and trials, the Moroccan Association for Human Rights also noted in its annual report that the year 2019 "witnessed continued and excessively violent interventions, as well as unjustified use of force by security forces against peaceful protests", which the human rights body documented and recorded after having "affected many protest movements in various cities and villages."

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