Thirteen years after the advent to the throne of King Mohammed VI and seven years after the report of the Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER), the situation of human rights in Morocco has not changed: dissidents are prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned for their opinions, journalists are imprisoned and exiled, unfair trials are still held, police violence – particularly during peaceful demonstrations – continues unabated, judges scrupulously refrain from upsetting the Palace, public broadcasting remains a propaganda tool and repressive laws – particularly those relating to anti-terrorism – are still on the statute book.
It is a bleak and disappointed assessment that has to be made: not even the IER recommendations – submitted by a body appointed by the King – have been implemented. As for the revised 2011 constitution, it is more an external communication and PR tool than a real reform instrument. Adopted after a North Korean-style plebiscite – 97.58% of the voters voted yes – in the wake of the fall of the Tunisian and Egyptian dictatorships during last year’s Arab spring, its implementation has not brought any noticeable change.
Faced with this stagnation, while the Tunisian and Egyptian peoples are in the process of freely chosing their constitution and their president, we, Moroccan citizens, call on the Benkirane government and the House of Representatives to break with the status quo and to submit, discuss and adopt an amnesty law for all those who have sentenced for political reasons, either during the period covered by the IER report (1956-1999) or since. The practical details of that amnesty should be discussed, including the establishment of a commission to define the eligibility criteria for the amnesty, but they should include all those convicted of press offenses, of strikes, of calling for the boycott of elections and referendums and of nonviolent protest.
Such an amnesty should thus include the rap artist Mouad Belghouat, tried twice in a few months for his political views and sentenced just a few days ago to one year in prison for one of his songs, the poet Younes Belkhedim, recently sentenced to two years imprisonment or Islamist activist Nadia Yassine, still prosecuted in a case initiated in 2005 for expressing her republican opinions. The amnesty would include not only those who are being prosecuted or imprisoned, but also those who have already been convicted in the past – like Morocco’s most widely read journalist, Rachid Nini, who recently served a one year prison sentence for an op-ed which touched on Morocco’s security apparatus - and thus keep references to political offenses in their criminal record, with practical implications for access to public office or when applying for a passport or a visa.
Such an amnesty would obviously only be the starting point to a more profound democratization of Morocco. Everything remains to be done, ranging from legislation on rape – as erroneously interpreted by Moroccan courts, it allows the rapist to marry his minor victim – to the right to strike, and including a reform of the press code. Judicial reform, promised at each yearly opening session of Parliament for nearly a decade, should result in a judicial system radically disengaged from the the executive – that is to say the Palace. The security apparatus, military and civilian, identified as the source of many abuses in the IER report, must be firmly under parliamentary and judicial control.
But before we try to prevent future injustice, we must repair the injustices of the past. The suggested amnesty law would help.
While the Moroccan government is held answerable for its bleak human rights record before the UN Council of Human Rights in Geneva today – the 22nd of May – as part of the universal periodic review (UPR), we, Moroccan men and women fighting for the democratization of our country, ask both government and parliament to fulfill their responsibilities to the Moroccan people, with a view of the country’s future. We invite the United Nations and true friends of the Moroccan people not to be fooled by communication and PR moves, moves which cannot hide the sad continuation of repression and injustice in Morocco.
Erase the injustices of the past to prevent those of today and tomorrow!
The Mamfakinch action group