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Morocco/Western Sahara

    September 18, 2013

    The Moroccan authorities’ detention of journalist and editor Ali Anouzla is an assault on the country’s independent media and he must be released immediately and unconditionally, Amnesty International said today.

    Plain-clothes police arrested Ali Anouzla at his home in Rabat early on Tuesday, shortly after his outspoken Arabic-language online news outlet Lakome published a story about a video by the armed group al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). He has yet to be charged with any crime.

    “We fear Ali Anouzla is being punished for Lakome’s editorial independence and criticism of government policies, in what signals a worrying setback for freedom of expression in Morocco. He is a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    May 16, 2013

    The Moroccan authorities must immediately launch a full, independent and impartial investigation into allegations that six Sahrawi activists – including a child – were tortured in police custody in Western Sahara, Amnesty International said.

    On 15 May, 17-year old El Hussein Bah was jailed in Laayoune, Western Sahara, in spite of a previous decision to release him on bail. He and five other Sahrawis had been arrested on 9 May after protesting for the self-determination of Western Sahara.

    All six have been charged with “violence against public officials”, “participating in an armed gathering”, “placing objects on a road obstructing traffic” and “damaging public property”, punishable with up to 10 years in prison.

    They are currently in pre-trial detention in Laayoune Civil Prison, and there are fears they face unfair trials after reportedly being tortured into making “confessions”.

    May 07, 2013

    “We ask for a reform of all sections of the law that are detrimental to women's rights, such as the ones that favour the honour of the family at the expense of women’s dignity.” Khadua Ryadi, President of the Moroccan Assoc of Human Rights

    In March 2012, 16-year-old Amina Filali swallowed rat poison and killed herself after being forced to marry the man she said had raped her. Amina’s tragic story is not uncommon in Morocco: the law explicitly allows rapists to escape prosecution by marrying their victim.

    The public outcry around Amina’s death led prompted initiatives to amend the law. On January 8, 2014, Morocco’s Lower House Justice, Legislation and Human Rights Commission adopted a proposal to remove paragraph 2 of Article 475 of the Penal Code, which allows a rapist to escape prosecution by marrying his victim if she is aged under 18. A crucial vote in the Moroccan Parliament is scheduled for January 22, 2014.

    Genuine progress towards ending violence and discrimination against women in Morocco requires widespread reform of both long held attitudes and legislation.

    March 01, 2013

    In March 2012, Moroccan 16-year-old Amina Filali swallowed rat poison and killed herself, after being forced to marry the man she said had raped her.

    Amina’s tragic story was not uncommon in Morocco, where Article 475 of the Penal Code has allowed rapists to escape prosecution if they marry the victim.

    But Amina’s tragic end struck a cord in Moroccan society and the ensuing public outcry prompted the authorities to propose a change to the outrageous article in January 2013.

    Human rights organizations including Amnesty International applauded the move but warned that many other articles of the Penal Code needed to be modified if women and girls were to be protected from violence and discrimination.

    “Decency” offences
    Among the provisions of the Moroccan Penal Code challenged by human rights organizations is Article 486.

    Under the section dealing with “decency” offences it defines rape as the act by which “a man has sexual relations with a woman against her will”, and is punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment.

    February 25, 2013

    A Moroccan editor is facing imprisonment on charges of disseminating false information after he ran a story alleging that a senior government official spent public money on a champagne dinner, Amnesty International said.

    If found guilty Youssef Jajili faces a possible one-year prison sentence after he published the article in Al-Aan magazine in June 2012 reporting that the minister of industry, trade and new technologies spent 10,000 Moroccan Dirhams (around 1,180 USD) of public money on a private dinner during an official trip to Burkina Faso.

    “The charges against Jajili must be dropped immediately by Court of First Instance in Ain Sebaa in Casablanca. If imprisoned on these charges Youssef Jajili would be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to free expression,” said Amnesty International.

    “This is a stark reminder that despite their promised reforms and pledged commitment to upholding freedom of expression, the Moroccan authorities continue to stifle criticism.”

    February 20, 2013

    Two years after thousands of people took to the streetter thousands of people took to the streets of Rabat, Casablanca and other cities in Morocco calling for reform, repression of protests in Morocco remains routine, said Amnesty International.

    To this day, dozens of activists affiliated with the 20 February movement are reported to be detained for peacefully expressing their views. Some have said they were tortured and ill-treated in custody.

    The 20 February movement, which was formed in the wave of popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa region, demands greater respect for human rights and democracy, better economic conditions and an end to corruption.

    “It is unfathomable that the authorities continue to violently suppress critics in blatant disregard of the new constitution adopted in July 2011, which guarantees the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful demonstration and association,” said Ann Harrison, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa programme.

    February 18, 2013

    The Moroccan authorities must use civilian courts to give fair retrials to 25 Sahrawis and fully investigate their allegations of torture, Amnesty International said today after a military court handed them long prison sentences. 

    On Sunday, the Military Court of Rabat handed down nine life sentences and sentenced 14 other defendants to between 20-30 years imprisonment each. Two other defendants were released having served their two-year sentences in pre-trial detention.

    The convictions relate to violence during and after the Moroccan security forces’ dismantling of the Gdim Izik protest camp in November 2010, during which 11 members of the security forces and two Sahrawis were killed.

    “The Moroccan authorities have ignored calls to try the defendants in an independent, impartial civilian court. Instead they have opted for a military court where civilians can never receive a fair trial.” said Ann Harrison, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    February 01, 2013

    The trial of 24 Sahrawi civilians before a military court in Morocco is flawed from the outset Amnesty International said today as it called for the defendants to be tried in a civilian court and for an investigation into their torture allegations.

    All of the group, which includes several activists, are on trial in Rabat today in relation to violence during and after the dismantling of the Gdim Izik protest camp near Laayoune, Western Sahara in November 2010, when 11 members of the security forces and two Sahrawis were killed.

    Most of the defendants have said that they were tortured and otherwise ill-treated at different stages of their two-year pre-trial detention. Some are said to have been coerced into signing statements.

    "The trial of civilians before a military court does not meet internationally recognized standards for a fair trial. The 24 accused must be brought before a civilian court with all the human rights guarantees that go along with it, and in no event must anyone be sentenced to death," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Director of the Middle East and North Africa.

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