Human rights in Morocco: Wikis


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Morocco’s human rights record is mixed. On the one hand, Morocco has made considerable improvements since the repressive Years of Lead under King Hassan II's reign (1961-99), but under his modernizing son, Mohammed VI, there are still complaints about abuses of power. This article deals with Morocco and not the disputed Western Sahara. See Human rights in Western Sahara in that regard. Morocco administers 80% of the territory, hence Moroccan law applies to its "Southern Provinces".


Democracy and elections

Morocco’s most recent elections for the lower chamber of parliament in September 2002 and for local government councils in September 2003—were widely regarded as mostly free and fair, but in view of the dominant role of the king in politics, Moroccans lack the ability to change their government.

Freedom of expression

Freedom of the press is relatively good compared with most other North African and Middle Eastern countries, though many journalists are thought to practice self-censorship. Questioning the legitimacy of the monarchy is a taboo. The debate on political Islam is severely restricted and it is illegal to question the kingdom's "territorial integrity", i.e. the virtual annexation of the Western Sahara. In 2005 the well known Moroccan journalist Ali Lmrabet was "banned from practising journalism for 10 years" and fined 50,000 Dirhams (about 4,500 euros) for reporting about conflict in the Western Sahara, according to Reporters Without Borders. As of 2007 Lmrabet is still barred from working as a journalist.

With the appearance in the scene of a few independent francophone magazines, such as Tel Quel and Le Journal Hebdomadaire and their sister Arabic counterparts (i.e. Assahifa Al Ousbouia), government control over the media has moved somewhat from direct intervention to more subtle pressures, such as the use of law suits and libel cases.[1]

On May 2, 2007 the New York City-based NGO Committee to Protect Journalists published their annual report on the "10 countries where press freedom has most deteriorated" where it has reported that Morocco has "back slided" in terms of press freedom in 2007 after "having been considered as a leader in its region".[2] In the report, Morocco was considered, along with Tunisia, as the country which "sentences the most journalists to prison in the Arab world".

Political persecution

Government repression of political dissent has dropped sharply since the mid-1990s. The previous decades are sometimes described as the Years of Lead (Les Années du Plomb), and included forced disappearances, killings of government opponents and secret interment camps such as Tazmamart. To examine the abuses committed during the reign of King Hassan II (1961-1999), the government has set up an Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER), which is to rehabilitate the victims, and pay compensation for state outrages against them.[3] This has been hailed internationally as a big step forward, and an example to the Arab world. However, the IER has also come under attack from parts of the human rights-community, since its mission was not to reveal the identities of or prosecute human rights offenders, which most of the victims were requesting.[4]

There are also persistent allegations of violence against Sahrawi pro-independence and pro-Polisario demonstrators[5] in Western Sahara, considered by Morocco as its Southern Provinces, and Morocco has been accused of detaining Sahrawi independentists as prisoners of conscience.[6]

In May 2006 a delegation from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) visited the disputed territory of Western Sahara and its report from the visit sharply criticized the lack of basic human rights in the region, in particular regarding the Saharawi population. The secret report has been leaked and can be found at for example

Later the same year, in October, Morocco stopped a planned and earlier agreed visit of a delegation from the European Parliament. The decision came less than 48 hours before the delegation was to leave for Rabat and Western Sahara. The mission was to study alleged human rights violations from both Polisario and the Moroccan authorities.[7][8][9] (texts in English and French).

Morocco claimed that the majority of the members of the delegation were known supporters of the Polisario front, and thus the neutrality of the delegation was not assured. The president of the delegation, Mr Ioannis Kasoulides, contested these allegations saying the composition of the group was not for Morocco to decide, and besides Morocco had already earlier accepted the composition of the group and had furthermore been allowed to influence its visiting program.

Freedom of religion

Freedom of religion is generally observed, with some limitations. Although Islam is the official state religion, Moroccans are permitted to practice other faiths, but it is illegal for Muslims to renounce Islam. Therefore, restrictions apply to Christian proselytizing. Political activities under the rubric of Islam are also restricted by the state. There still exists a Moroccan Jewish community, although most Jews emigrated in the years following the creation of Israel in 1948.

, Christianity in Morocco, Roman Catholicism in Morocco

Social rights and equality

Women and family

In 2005 the Moroccan parliament took steps to improve the status of women and children,[10] and has passed a new family law, Mudawana, which is widely regarded as very progressive by regional standards. For example, men are now permitted only one wife. In addition to being candidates in mixed electoral lists, women have a national list in parliamentary elections that allow them for at least 10% of the seats.

In parallel, and in September 2006, a national observatory to fight violence against women was founded. Many state departments, administrations, universities as well as national female associations are sought to coordinate efforts together.[11]

In 2006, the Moroccan citizenship was transferred to the children via the father. Soumya Naâmane Guessous, a Moroccan sociologist has launched a campaign for the transmission of Moroccan citizenship by the mother to her children. The ability for mother to pass their citizenship onto their children does not appear in the Mudawana code but was granted by a royal decision in October 2006.[12]

Recently, in 2009, new legislation has also allowed women to divorce their husbands without the consent of the husband.

Berber identity

Berber activists regularly contend that under the banner of Arabization, their unique language and culture are being repressed in favor of an Arab one. This is viewed as discrimination and method of marginalization. [13] However, on October 17, 2001 the Royal institute of the Amazigh culture was founded to maintain and develop the Amazigh languages and culture.


Homosexuality in Morocco is illegal according to article 489 of the Penal Code and can be punished with anything from 6 months to 3 years imprisonment and a fine of 120 to 1200 Dirhams. Nevertheless, the law is seldom enforced, and homosexual activity is fairly common, especially in the holiday resorts. Relationships are often visibly displayed and money often plays a role where sex is involved. In the community, homosexuality remains a taboo and is considered immoral.

Police and army reforms

In 2006 Morocco started implementing a few reforms related to policing and the army. On October 16 of the same year a newly established Groupes urbains de sécurité (GUS) (Urban Security Groups}}) police unit was disbanded.

While many Moroccans regarded the presence of GUS as a relief, many others considered it as a step back to the rule of the Makhzen.[14]

The disbanding came after many criticisms about excesses or abuses of power were noted. Some irresponsible actions of certain members of the unit turned over the public opinion which became discreditory.

GUS were also accused of corruption. In many cases, civil offenders used to pay a bribe (between 10 and 20 dirhams) which led to the appearance of the popular nickname; "10 drahem".[15]

Capital punishment

Though theoretically capital punishment is still not abolished in Morocco, there has been only one execution in the last 25 years, and it happened in 1993. 198 people were sentenced to death between 1956 and 1993, although there was an 11 year lull in executions between January 1982 and August 1993. Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER) estimated 528 persons were killed during Hassan II's reign in both judicial and extra-judicial executions.[16]

Discussing the issue in Morocco has been taboo for decades. However, human rights organizations and some liberal media outlets and left-wing political parties led by the Front of Democratic Forces have been attempting to start a capital punishment debate. As for societal and civil movements, blogs and websites have already started debating the issue.[17] The main and the newly created (2003) civil entity Coalition nationale pour l’abolition de la peine de mort au Maroc (CNAPM) (National coalition for the abolition of capital punishment in Morocco) which represents seven associations carrying the slogan Ensemble pour l'abolition de la peine de mort (Together against capital punishment) is also leading the debate.

At the political level the situation is paradoxical. Officially, the attitude of the current government is for "de facto" abolition. However, the Ministry of Justice has declared that terrorism is still an obstacle to "de jure" abolition[18] and death sentences are still being handed down, especially against terrorists. It should be noted that the abolition issue was recommended by the Board of the IER Equity and Reconciliation Commission.

In October 2006, it was announced that the issue is scheduled to be presented to the parliament for a vote in spring 2007. A political battle between moderate Islamist parties led by the Justice and Development Party (who advocate the death sentence as being consistent with Sharia laws) and leftist parties is expected to be difficult for both.

2006 CIA Black site controversy

Following the terrorist attack in Casablanca in May 2003, human rights groups accused Morocco of mistreating and torturing detainees. Some Moroccan and international media have also alleged that the country has established CIA internment camps ("black sites") on its territory, where human rights violations are committed.[19] On September 2006, activists demanded that Morocco acknowledge the existence of such secret detention centers.[20]

Prior to that, Human Rights Watch's Vanessa Saenen had declared on 2005 We have information based on interviews from people who have been in Guantanamo Bay that there are secret detention centres. Even the US government doesn’t bother to hide this, and we have information from released prisoners on Jordan, on Morocco, on Egypt and Libya, but not on Romania and Poland.[21]

Jail Sentence of Fouad Mourtada controversy

On Tuesday, February 5th, 2008, Fouad Mourtada was arrested for the alleged creation of a fake Facebook profile of Prince Moulay Rachid. Mr Mourtada told family members who visited him in jail that he had been blindfolded and beaten unconscious at the time of his arrest.

Despite numerous profiles of other celebrities (41 Nicolas Sarkozy, 10 Prince William of England, Jacque Chirac, Roger Federer, George W Bush, etc) on Facebook, on February 23, Fouad Mourtada was sentenced to 3 years in jail for the alleged creation of the fake Facebook profile and fined 10,000 Dirhamrs (~1,350 US Dollars).

On the evening of March 18, 2008, Fouad was released by a royal pardon after spending 43 days in jail.

Human rights organizations and bodies

See also

External links

Notes and sources

  1. ^ How Morocco's free media is silenced -
  2. ^ "The 10 countries where press freedom has most deteriorated". Committee to Protect Journalists. Retrieved 2007-05-30.  
  3. ^ ICTJ Activity in Morocco - International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ)
  4. ^ Morocco's Truth Commission: Honoring Past Victims during an Uncertain Present: V. Constraints on the ERC - Human Rights Watch (
  5. ^ Western Sahara activists released, re-arrested in riots - Afrol News
  6. ^ Morocco/Western Sahara: Sahrawi human rights defender on trial - Amnesty International
  7. ^ Communique de press de le Parlement Europeen - European Parliament
  8. ^ Polémique autour de la délégation européenne «Sahara» - L'Economiste
  9. ^ Morocco evidently has a lot to hide - Socialist Group - European Parliament
  10. ^ Text used in this cited section originally came from: Morocco profile from the Library of Congress Country Studies project.
  11. ^ New observatory to fight violence against women - AdnKronos International (AKI)
  12. ^ Kid of Alien Dad May Get Moroccan Nationality - Seoul Times
  13. ^ Morocco's Berbers Battle to Keep From Losing Their Culture / Arab minority forces majority to abandon native language
  14. ^ The Moroccan authoritative system during the rule of former King Hassan II
  15. ^ La police marocaine veut redorer son blason (French)
  16. ^ Morocco: Capital Punishment Could Be Killed -
  17. ^ (French)
  18. ^ Abolir la peine de mort - Maroc Hebdo (French)
  19. ^ MI6 and CIA sent student to Morocco to be tortured - The Observer
  20. ^ Morocco attacked on US rendition -BBC News Online
  21. ^ Is Europe being used to hold CIA detainees? - Radio Netherlands


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