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Morocco/Western Sahara

    January 26, 2016

    Tomorrow’s trial of seven Moroccan journalists and activists on charges including “undermining state security” and “failing to report foreign funding”, is part of a calculated crackdown on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said.

    The seven are due to face trial for taking part in a foreign-funded project to train people to use smartphones for citizen journalism. The court papers show that authorities believe that grassroots journalism may “destabilize Moroccans’ trust in their institutions”.

    “This case clearly demonstrates that Morocco's government is stepping up its attacks on press freedom. Helping Moroccans harness smartphone technology to report on what is going on in the country is not a crime, and it is outrageous that it is being treated as a state security offence. Moroccans have the right to receive and spread information about what is happening in their country,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.

    December 14, 2015

    Today marks five years since Spain forcibly returned Ali Aarrass, a Belgian-Moroccan national, to Morocco, breaching its international human rights obligations.

    Upon his arrival in Morocco, Ali Aarrass said he was held incommunicado and tortured for 12 days in a secret detention centre in Témara near the capital, Rabat. He is now serving a 12-year prison term for participating in and procuring arms for a criminal group after an unfair trial, based on a “confession” obtained under torture. In September 2012, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture visited him in prison and detected signs of torture compatible with his testimony.

    Although the Moroccan authorities announced in May 2014 that they were opening an investigation into Ali Aarrass’ torture allegations, his lawyers recently revealed that the investigation had been closed. They said they had not been informed that any witnesses were questioned or any locations identified were searched, and have yet to receive the medical report of the examination he undertook a year ago.

    September 15, 2015

    The Moroccan authorities must implement the UN body’s decision, protect Ali Aarrass from further abuse while he remains imprisoned, and ensure he has effective access to justice, Amnesty International said. Ali Aarrass went on hunger strike on 25 August in Salé II Local Prison near Morocco’s capital Rabat two years after the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s (WGAD) called on the Moroccan authorities to release him. He is severely weakened and struggles to stand, his family told Amnesty International.

    Ali Aarrass also entered the hunger strike to protest fresh improper treatment by the head guard in his prison block, significant delays in the investigation carried out by the judicial authorities into his torture allegations, as well as the lack of response by the Court of Cassation nearly three years after he appealed his conviction to Morocco’s supreme judicial authority.

    June 24, 2015

     

     

     

     

     

    Moroccan human rights and political activists Wafae Charaf and Oussama Housne were sentenced to three-year and two-year prison terms respectively in 2014 for “falsely reporting” torture. They were also convicted of slandering Morocco’s police force and ordered to pay compensation, even though neither of them had accused the police. They are prisoners of conscience.

    Wafae Charaf said she was abducted after she went to a workers’ protest in Tangiers on 27 April 2014, by men who beat her for several hours and threatened her with further violence if she did not stop her activism.

    June 11, 2015

    The expulsion of two Amnesty International experts from Morocco is a blatant attempt to prevent legitimate human rights research and muzzle criticism in the country, said Amnesty International.

    Moroccan police held John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia and Irem Arf, Refugee and Migrant Rights Researcher, separately today. Both had their passports confiscated and were questioned at police stations in Rabat and Oujda, respectively, before they were put on separate flights to London and Paris.

    “Morocco’s lofty words about being an open country have been exposed as hollow by their actions today,” said Anna Neistat, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Research.

    “The decision to expel our staff from Morocco as they began their investigations into the human rights situation of migrants and refugees raises serious suspicions that the authorities have something to hide.”

    May 19, 2015

    Released 10.00 BST (09.00 GMT) 19 May 2015

    Beatings, stress positions, asphyxiation, simulated drowning, psychological and sexual violence are among an array of torture techniques used by Moroccan security forces to extract “confessions” to crimes or silence activists and crush dissent, according to a new Amnesty International report published today.

    The report, Shadow of Impunity: Torture in Morocco and Western Sahara, reveals a darker reality to the liberal image presented by Morocco’s leaders when in 2011 they responded to popular uprisings in the region by promising to pursue a raft of progressive reforms and a new constitution prohibiting torture.

    November 26, 2014

    Restrictions by the Moroccan authorities on human rights organizations including Amnesty International have continued unabated despite the upcoming World Human Rights Forum being organized in Marrakech on 27-30 November.

    In recent months, for the first time since 1993, the Moroccan authorities have sought to impose limitations on Amnesty International’s human rights activities in the country.

    •        In September 2014, Amnesty International’s annual youth camp in Bouznika near the capital Rabat was banned by the authorities, in spite of the organization taking all the required steps to notify the authorities.
    •        In October 2014, the authorities denied entry to Morocco to an Amnesty International delegation seeking to document the situation of migrants and refugees.
    •        In November 2014, a fact-finding visit by the organization was cancelled after the authorities requested prior meetings in Rabat to agree on the parameters of the trip.

    August 14, 2014

    Two activists recently imprisoned after they reported they had been abducted and tortured must be released immediately and unconditionally, Amnesty International said.

    Human rights and political activist Wafae Charaf was sentenced to a year in prison and a 1000 MAD fine (approximately USD 120) on Tuesday for allegedly falsely reporting being abducted and tortured by unknown persons in April this year.

    The court also ordered her to pay 50,000 MAD (approximately USD 6,000) in compensation to Morocco’s police force for slander, although she did not accuse them.

    “No-one should be imprisoned for reporting torture and slander should not be a criminal offence. This conviction sends a chilling warning to anyone who has suffered torture, or any other ill-treatment, that they should keep quiet or risk ending up behind bars,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director at Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    June 09, 2014
    Lahecen El-Filali (L) holds a photo of his daughter, Amina El-Filali, as he attends a news conference with his wife Zahera Lmealme and his other daughter, Hamida, in Rabat March 21, 2012.

    Amina Filali committed suicide by swallowing rat poison in March 2012. She was 16 years old. Her desperate act showed the depth of her pain and despair: she must have felt that nobody was there to help her.

    We soon learned that Amina had been raped in her small Moroccan town, by a man she was then forced to marry. Imagine being married to your rapist, to be forced to see that person all the time – it would be devastating. 

    He married her because Moroccan law allows rapists to escape prosecution by marrying their victim, if she is aged under 18.

    Amina’s death caused an outcry in Morocco and throughout the region. What shocked people most was that this marriage was sanctioned by law, as well as by a judge who authorized it. It revealed that the state was complicit in covering up a rape. And instead of protecting her as the victim of a crime, the law victimized Amina a second time. 

    This kind of legislation doesn’t just exist in Morocco, but also in Algeria and Tunisia. 

    SHAME IS A POWERFUL FORCE 

    This legal environment prevents women and girls from reporting rape. A victim is not considered as a survivor of a grave act of violence.

    June 09, 2014

    When Amnesty launched My Body My Rights, our global campaign on sexual and reproductive rights, earlier this year, we were met by unfavourable headlines in the Moroccan media. It’s time to set the record straight, writes Aurelia Dondo, North Africa campaigner.

    Our message was clear. Women and girls have the right to live free from sexual violence and have the right to bodily integrity. These rights are known in international law as sexual and reproductive rights. They are universal human rights and governments must ensure they are respected, protected and fulfilled. But some within the Moroccan media were quick to distort the message.

    By depicting Amnesty International as an imperialist organization encouraging sexual misconduct, these media outlets twisted the debate and muddied the issue. In doing so, they disregarded the plight of the survivors of sexual violence we are campaigning for.

    May 20, 2014

    The Moroccan authorities’ use of an anti-terrorism law to prosecute and imprison journalists is a serious blow to freedom of expression and editorial independence, Amnesty International said today, as it highlighted the cases of two men recently targeted under the law.

    Yesterday, authorities further postponed today’s hearing of journalist Ali Anouzla, who risks up to 20 years’ imprisonment for reporting on a video by the armed group al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Meanwhile another Moroccan journalist, Mustapha El Hasnaoui is on his fifth day of hunger strike in protest at his ongoing three-year prison term on terrorism charges for alleged contact with individuals fighting government forces in Syria.

    “Using anti-terrorism legislation as a pretext to punish journalists for their reporting is dealing a serious blow to freedom of expression in Morocco,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

    May 12, 2014

    Belgian-Moroccan citizen Ali Aarrass remains in prison in Morocco, serving a 12 year sentence for illegal use of weapons and participation in a group intending to commit acts of terrorism. The only evidence against him was a confession obtained through torture.

    Ali Aarrass continues to experience some ill-treatment and harassment in detention. International support has played a role in helping to improve his detention conditions.

    Send a message of solidarity to Ali Aarrass in prison. Your messages let Ali Aarrass know that he is not alone, and they let prison officials know that he is not alone.

    January 22, 2014

    The Moroccan Parliament's vote to amend a law so that rapists can no longer escape prosecution by marrying their victims if they are under 18 is an important step in the right direction, Amnesty International said today.

    The organization added that the amendment was long overdue and much more still needed to be done in the country and throughout the region.

    "Today’s vote is a welcome step but Morocco still needs a comprehensive strategy to protect women and girls from violence, with input from women’s rights groups who have been excluded from the process so far," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “It took 16-year-old Amina Filali’s suicide and nearly two years for the parliament to close the loophole that allowed rapists to avoid accountability. It’s time to have laws that protect survivors of sexual abuse”.

    November 21, 2013

    US President Barack Obama must urge Moroccan King Mohammed VI to scrap laws which see women and girls forced to marry their rapists, and teenagers facing jail for kissing in a public place, Amnesty International said ahead of a meeting between the two heads of state on Friday.

    Several teenage survivors of sexual violence have committed suicide in recent months.

    Public pressure to protect survivors of sexual violence had peaked in March 2012 when 16-year-old Amina Filali swallowed rat poison and killed herself, after being forced to marry the man she said had raped her.

    “It is dreadful that this sort of attitude is enshrined in law. The Penal Code allows rapists to escape prosecution by marrying their victims. This discriminates against women and girls and provide them with little protection when they are subjected to sexual violence,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    October 10, 2013

    Authorities in Morocco must immediately and unconditionally drop charges against three teenagers arrested for kissing and posting a photo on Facebook, said Amnesty International ahead of a court hearing on Friday.

    “It is simply absurd that these teenagers could face a prison term just for kissing and and posting a photo on Facebook,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    “These young people should never have been detained in the first place - there is no imaginable reason why expression of this type ought to result in prosecution. Launching a judicial investigation into a complaint about an act as benign as teenagers kissing is ridiculous. It should be dismissed out of hand.”

    Two 15-year-old boys and one 14-year-old girl were arrested on 4 October in the city of Nador. They were detained for three days and released on bail on 7 October, ahead of a court hearing this Friday.

    All three were charged with “public indecency” under Article 483 of Morocco's Penal Code. If found guilty, they could face up to two years imprisonment and a fine.

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