Morocco Reforms: Criminalizing Dissent

27 juillet 2012 18 h 24 min 1 comment

After the protests on Sunday, police kidnapped and detained six activists (five men and one woman) in Casablanca. Laila Nassimi, the only female out of the group, was released on bail and her trial is due to resume on 3 August, along with the five others, all of whom were denied release on bail. After speaking with Abdesslame El Bahi, one of the lawyers of the activists, he explained the violent nature of the activists’ detainment. El Bahi said that the five activists who remain in jail had sustained injuries, and despite being promised medical treatment, they have yet to be visited by a medical examiner.

The six activists are being charged with belonging to the “banned February 20 Movement,” violence against the police, and the disruption of traffic – charges being contested by their lawyers. The charges come at a time when the regime crackdown on the February 20 Movement continues to intensify. There are reports of the arrest of 11 activists in Casablanca, simply for their association and activities with the Movement. Also, a member of the Unified Socialist Party (PSU), a party that has publicly supported the Movement, was also arrested.

The Movement saw its peak between April and May, prior to the constitutional referendum, with the numbers of protesters estimated at between 10,000 and 20,000. This period also saw the height of violent police repression, which drew greater international media attention.

The momentum was short-lived, and soon after the July 1 constitutional referendum, which the Movement boycotted because of the constitution’s cosmetic reforms, numbers began to decline. After the November 25 parliamentary elections, the Islamist faction of the Movement, al-Adl Wal-Ihsan (AWI), quit the Movement, arguing that they “have suffered marginalisation at the hands of some parties in February 20 and this involved the ceiling of political demands, a ban on making public statements and the use of slogans that reflect our group’s ideology.”

Another cause of its decline was the regime’s constant alienation of the Movement and the state-media embargo, which effectively constrained the Movement’s mobilization in Moroccan society. The Movement was constantly vilified as being radical, separatist, far-leftist, and Islamist—a narrative quickly accepted by mainstream sentiment.

After Mohammad VI’s March 9 speech, wherein he announced sweeping constitutional reforms in response to the Movement’s demands, the vast majority of the Moroccan population felt that it was worth waiting for the new constitution. And with the near doubling of subsidies aimed at cushioning any predicted rise in food and fuel prices, most Moroccans had little incentive to join the Movement in its weekly Sunday protests.

The pro-democracy February 20 Movement continues to experience a steady decline in numbers and analysts are already forecasting the movement’s « fall. » Yet, the recent July 22 protest and the regime’s swift repression and crackdown on activists indicate that while the Movement may have declined, its core, however small, remains persistent and is considered a nuisance by the regime. The Casablanca judge’s decision to charge the activists for associating with an “illegal movement,” indicates a steep deviation from the regime’s limited tolerance of the Movement. While the former communications minister, Khalid Naciri, had employed harsh words in describing the Movement, no regime official had ever described it as “illegal.”

Prominent Moroccan blogger and “lawyer on probation, Ibnkafka, took to Twitter in light of the verdict:




He went on to speculate that in labeling the Movement as “illegal” the stage has been set for what he described as the regime’s “harsh but discreet crackdown” on the Movement.

The verdict raises questions about the decision-making process behind such cases. The lack of transparency makes it difficult to assess and measure the monarchy’s role in such decisions. The 2011 constitution does not institute a clear separation between the monarchy’s power and the judiciary process. According toarticle 56, “The King presides over the Superior Council of the Judicial Power.” The following article exerts that he also approves the appointments of magistrates by dahir – an incontestable royal decree. And even though article 107 states, “The judicial power is independent of the legislative power and of the executive power,” the next line explicitly says that the king is the “guarantor” of its independence, obstructing the law of separation, once again.

The judge’s verdict itself stands in direct conflict with article 10’s commitment to protecting the opposition’s “freedom of opinion, of expression, and of assembly.” Dubbing the February 20 Movement as “illegal” is a major step towards marginalizing an already muffled movement due to the regime’s continued systematic repression. By criminalizing the Movement, the regime has successfully indicated that its commitment to democratizing is no more than well-crafted PR-talk aimed at molding an image of stability and content for outsiders. Times are certainly changing for the only kingdom in North Africa – but not for the better.

[This article was originally published on Al Akhbar]

1 Comment

  • why i am not suprise at what’s happening to the real men and women in morocco,the con-stitution was a diversion ,and a smoke screen and the purpose was to deflate the revolution pressure, let’s put it this way the con king and his cohorts had this option in mind all along , they didn’t put out that scam for a vote ,to give up their totalitarian regime,or democratise the political system ,cause by doing so they will shoot themselves in the foot,and furthermore the moroccan poeple didn’t buy it cause they believe in it ,they did because they’re scared sh**t of the regime consequences,and they were kidding themselves by saying that we love the king con in chief,cause he is a nice guy what aload of hooey,remember they were saying the same s**t about his father, and as soon he is gone everybody started smacking him down,and saying that he was a brutal dictator which he was ,the world know it nobody did a thing about it , what a bunch of wizels.and as long as the regime is still receiving hard currency from the moroccans living abroad and honestly most of them are more scared and high on religion than the ones in the country,and they’re helping the regime ,thinking they’re helping their family by sending money back home,as long as the regime is still occupying the waves inside and outside of the country it will have the upper hand ,like we say if you wanna hurt someone you should hit him in the pocket ,so the only way the regime will,listen and take notice.if we make it taste it’s own medicine ,and put the spotlight on the scam for the world to see,and bring charges in courts abroad for individuals who torture or hit protesters so if they put a foot outside of the country they will be taking into custody,even by making a citizen arrest.and forget about the PJD they were already selected as a front for the regime before the make believe election.and seeing the obscene salaries and bonuses that the incompetents corrupt bunch the king of the poor on the helm, taking home I meant palace. ,while poeple struggling to make ends meet,and what the supposed democratic government doing about it ?well it’s using religion as an excuse for the inertia and to put the masses to sleep,cause they’re impotents the prime sinister included.
    Finally fool me ones shame on you ,fool me twice shame on me ,got my drift?

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