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Karen Timofeev
Karen Timofeev

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Morocco has made impressive strides in human rights over the last fifteen years. These advances have included greater respect for basic civil and political rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of association. This period, especially since the accession of King Mohamed VI in 1999, has also witnessed efforts to address issues of impunity for serious and systematic past crimes, including "disappearances" and torture.




Sirat E Mustaqim Pdf Free



But Morocco has been no exception to the global backsliding in the protection of civil liberties and basic freedoms in the name of counter-terrorism. Important elements of the progress made during the last fifteen years are now endangered by the way that authorities have rounded up and imprisoned thousands of Moroccans accused of links to terrorism. The credible reports of torture and mistreatment of these suspects, and the clear denial of their civil rights during the judicial process, suggest that the broader freedoms Moroccans have enjoyed during the last decade and-a-half can be reversed. The stakes of the recent crackdown are high, not only for those suspected of involvement in militant or extremist groups, but for all Moroccans who have benefited from the reforms.


  • Call upon the Moroccan government to respect and comply fully with the principles and obligations laid down in under Articles 7,8 and 13(a) of the Arab Charter on Human Rights (1994), which specify the right to presumption of innocence, the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, and the prohibition of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.



Morocco's progress on human rights, which began under the late King Hassan II in the late 1980s and continued under his son and successor, Mohamed VI, can be measured in many fields. Parliamentary elections, by all accounts, have become more transparent. Moroccans enjoy greater freedom to criticize public authorities, both in print and in public assemblies. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, King Hassan II freed most of the country's political prisoners and emptied the notorious secret Tazmamart prison, where accused coup plotters had languished long after completing their prison terms. The king also released hundreds of persons whom the police had forcibly "disappeared" years earlier. Many government critics and opposition politicians returned from long years of exile; one, Abderrahmane Youssoufi, was named prime minister by King Hassan II and served in that post from 1998 to 2002. In 2000, King Mohamed VI freed Islamist leader Abdeslam Yassine from house arrest that had been imposed a decade earlier.


The significance of the progress can be gauged only by taking stock of the severity of the repression that had preceded it. In fact, it was only during the 1990s that the details of the earlier repression became widely known. In that decade's freer atmosphere, Moroccans recounted, in a flurry of taboo-breaking books and articles, how the security services two and three decades earlier had crushed the palace's real and suspected opponents. The secret police abducted and "disappeared" hundreds of men and women, including exiled opposition leader Mehdi Ben Barka, kidnapped on a Paris street in 1965. The luckier "disappeared" dissidents were eventually freed by the king after spending years in secret prisons like Tazmamart, Qalat Mgouna, and Agdez. The less fortunate remain missing to this day. Thousands of other dissidents were arrested and tortured in illegal detention in police stations like Derb Moulay Cherif in Casablanca, before being convicted in unfair mass trials and handed long prison sentences. The victims of repression included leftists, Islamists, advocates of independence for the disputed Western Sahara, and servicemen rounded up in the aftermath of unsuccessful coup attempts.


The credible reports of torture and mistreatment of these suspects, and the clear denial of their civil rights during the judicial process, have exposed the fact that the broader freedoms that Moroccans have enjoyed during the last decade-and-a-half were never institutionalized and can thus be easily reversed. For this reason, the stakes of the recent crackdown are high, not only for those suspected of involvement in militant extremist groups but for all Moroccans who have benefited from the ongoing reforms.


The investigative judge informs the accused of the offenses attributed to him and that "he is free not to make any statement."72 Moroccan law, however, does not require the judicial police or the prosecutor to notify a suspect of his rights to remain silent and not to incriminate himself. In at least two cases Human Rights Watch investigated, suspects reported being brought into the office of the investigative judge blindfolded, and claimed they had not been informed about their full rights even at this stage of the investigation.


Only when a suspect is brought before an investigative judge is legal representation mandatory.96 This can be, in terrorism cases, as long as twelve days. It is the investigative judge who must immediately inform the suspect of his or her right to appoint a lawyer; and if the suspect does not hire a lawyer but requests one, the judge must appoint a lawyer to represent him or her for free.97 The only exception, under the amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure that took effect in 2003, is in flagrante delicto cases (when the suspect is alleged to have been "caught in the act" of committing an offense), when the suspect's lawyer has the right to be present at the investigation by the public prosecutor and to submit documents or other written materials.


Abd al-Haq was appointed to represent Shafai only when he was about to face trial. Abd al-Haq told Human Rights Watch that he had his first chance to meet Shafai only after Shafai had been referred to a trial panel and after the investigation judge has already concluded his work. He said Shafai told him he had been coerced to confess and that during his police investigation he was asked to respond to questions with a simple "yes" or "no." The lawyer said that no marks of physical torture were evident. When the lawyer met with Shafai in prison they could not talk freely because guards closely monitored meetings between lawyers and clients. Abd al-Haq told Human Rights Watch that Shafai told him that he figured out that he was standing before an investigative judge only by reading the sign on the judge's table. According to Abd al-Haq, Shafai said the investigative judge did not inform him of his right to have an attorney. During the trial, Abd al-Haq told Human Rights Watch, the judicial panel refused the defense's request to call any of the witnesses who had appeared before the investigative judge, explaining that whatever had been reported and established by the investigative judge was adequate and acceptable for the trial phase. Shafai was convicted on charges related to his foreknowledge of and alleged association with individuals responsible for the May 2003 bombings, including murder and causing harm to the security of the state, and sentenced to thirty years in prison.


Mohamed Oussama Boutaher's arrest on June 8, 2003, came three months after he had been released from nine months of detention without charge, first in Syria and then in Morocco. Boutaher's wife, Rabia al-Baccali, told Human Rights Watch that Boutaher, a freelance merchant born in 1969, was picked up from his house in the al-Fareh area of Casablanca by a man wearing street clothes who identified himself as a policeman and said that Boutaher should come "have a coffee" with him. When he did not return from his "coffee," Boutaher's mother went to the local police headquarters but could get no information. The mother told Human Rights Watch that at police headquarters she encountered the man who had invited her son for "coffee." When she called to him, "You took my son yesterday," the man replied, "Don't be afraid, I'll feed him and he'll be back home the next day." But he did not return. Each day Boutaher's mother went to the court to see if he would be brought in. Twenty-four days after his arrest, the family heard his name mentioned on television, among a list of persons who would be brought to trial in Rabat's Court of Appeals, the court with jurisdiction over defendants charged under the counter-terror law. She then traveled to the Rabat courthouse in an effort to learn his whereabouts.


Human Rights Watch's researchers met with lawyers, human rights defenders, relatives of prisoners, journalists, diplomats, ex-detainees, and Moroccan officials, in Rabat, Casablanca, and Fez. We were generally able to conduct our work freely. In one instance, however, an ex-detainee declined to meet with us, explaining that he was under police surveillance. And in Fez, after a Human Rights Watch researcher had photographed the Court of Appeals, police stopped him and drove him to a police station, where he was questioned for almost one hour before being released.


  • Aziz Chafai, who was arrested in his house in Casablanca on May 18, 2003, had no access to a lawyer during his pre-trial proceedings. The first time he saw a lawyer was after the investigative judge concluded his investigation report. Aziz' lawyer, Maitre al-Ftouhi Abd al-Haq, said that his client was held in incommunicado detention with no access to a lawyer until he was brought before a trial panel. The trial panel refused to call witnesses and accepted all the findings that were made by the investigative judge. The lawyer also complained that he could not freely meet and talk to Aziz due to the common practice of close surveillance of lawyer-defendant meetings. Aziz told his lawyer that he knew he was brought before an investigative judge only by reading the sign that was on the judge's table and that he was not told about his right to have an attorney at this stage of the investigation. (Court File Number: 840/2003, Casablanca Appellate Criminal Court).


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