Position paper: Violations in Morocco expose the falsity of democratic reforms

Cairo: 29 June, 2017

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) today said: “Morocco’s monarchy supports the continuous violations of the right to peaceful expression and assembly; against the backdrop of the mounting popular demands in the Moroccan Rif region, and the widespread solidarity with them and with the victims of the ongoing suppression of such protests”.

ANHRI deems these violations as an extended systematic method that hasn’t been interrupted since decades. Also, the increasing pace of demands calling for reform has returned to shed the light on this method and further reveal its resistance to any potential change.

Using violence, the security forces dispersed a protest rally organized by Al-Hirak al-Shaabi, or the Popular Movement, at Nador (one of the cities at Rif region), after sentencing Al-Rif Movement activist Ahmed Sulatan to 6 months in prison on a charge of “unauthorized gathering”. The protest was also staged in solidarity with Al-Hoceima protests and to denounce the repression practiced by the authorities against “El-Eid (feast) marches”.

A video footage captured by some eyewitnesses show the security forces hitting protesters with batons and chasing them, while one of them fell to the ground leaving him injured.

In a previous incident, on June 20, the security forces forcibly banned a peaceful protest in front of the parliament’s headquarters in Rabat, and was called by “February 20” movement, to stand in solidarity with the Moroccan Rif detainees and express rejection of the mass arrests carried out by the state against the peaceful movement.

Police forces cordoned off the areas around the sit-in before the start of the protest, precluded citizens from approaching the place, and used force to keep away activists of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights (MAHR), including human rights activist Taha al-Deridi. They also attempted to drag human rights defender Rabia al-Buzidi along the ground leading to injury in the foot.

Morocco’s Rif cities have been witnessing an upsurge in human rights violations in relation to the ongoing protests erupted since the since the death of the fish vendor Mohsen Fikry, who was crushed into a garbage truck upon orders by police personnel in late October 2016, protests that expressed themselves in a campaign on social networking entitled # Tahn_mo (in reference to the grinding of Mohsen Fikry).

Since its eruption, the demands of the so-called Rif protests are represented in bringing those responsible for the killing of Mohsen Fikry to account, on top of them the King’s representative who ordered to destroy the fish vendor’s produce, along with the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, who is responsible for the chaos and corruption prevalent in the region. The demands, later, developed to include social issues (such as establishing health and university institutions and providing job opportunities), in addition to other political demands, including lifting the “Rif’s militarization” through the canceling of previous decisions leaving Al Hoceima region a military zone, as well as reducing the permanent security barriers deployed over all roads and rural areas, and halting the recruitment of security crowds to the military barracks in the region during each protest.

Rif protests also call for holding the real perpetrators, implicated in the killing of the Leftist activist Kamal al-Hassani accountable. Al-Hassani, from Al Hoceima, was killed in October 2011 by an unknown person, who is likely to have connection with the authorities in retaliation for his leadership role in February 2011 Movement. This is in addition to the murdering of five young men who were burned after being tortured in a police station in 2011.

Rif protests come in the wake of a bloody history of the repression of peaceful protests in the region, which has been marginalized for decades. For example, the authorities used violent repression in the face of protests in the town of Ayth Buayash in March 2012, combined with the large-scale torture and detentions. Moreover, the union’s member Karim Lasha’r was killed in 2014 after being arrested by the police, in a way seems that he had endured torture at the hands of the police personnel before his death, especially that signs of torture were found on his body.

In 2004, the region witnessed mass protests against the authorities’ policies towards Al Hoceima violent earthquake in February 2004 that left considerable human, material and urban damages.

The use of violence against peaceful demonstrations and gatherings in Morocco, in general, deems systematic. Last year, the police violently broke up many peaceful protests organized by apprentice teachers in several cities, as they with assaulted protesters using batons and shields, leaving more than 150 wounded.

Furthermore, unjust trials against activists and dissidents are not an exception. For instance, in August 2016, following unfair trial, a court sentenced eight activists to prison because of their participation in a peaceful protest, a matter that has been later echoed against the backdrop of Rif protests incidents.

The continuing of the violations at this manner expose the falsity of King Mohammed VI’s claims on democratic reforms and the respect for human rights in the March 2011 constitutional amendments, which were rejected by large segments of the February 20 movement; as they constitute the decree as an attempt to circumvent the public movement that had already raised radical and democratic demands in light of the Arab Spring impact at that time.

The King said- at that time- that: “The amendments- later passed- enshrine “all human rights, including the presumption of innocence, the conditions of fair trial, the criminalization of torture, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention and all forms of discrimination and degrading practices of human dignity, in addition to guaranteeing the right to freedom of expression, the right to information and submitting petitions, in accordance with regulations prescribed by an organizational law. The amendments also include the constitutionality of all human rights- as they are internationally recognized- as well as the mechanisms of its protection and to guarantee practicing them, which make the Moroccan Constitution Morocco a constitution of human rights and a charter of citizenship rights and duties”.

Nevertheless, the Constitution itself grants the King very broad powers, such as to head the Supreme Council of the Judiciary fortifying it against any kind of criticism and strongly imposing the respect for the constitutional text itself, and also prohibiting any call for changing the monarchy form of government..

The February 20 Movement called, in its founding statement, for the formulation of a “democratic constitution that represents the true will of the people, dissolving the government and parliament and forming an interim transitional government subject to the will of the people, in addition to having an independent and impartial judiciary, and prosecuting those involved in corruption- the recognition of the Amazigh language as an official language alongside the Arabic one, and caring for the specificities of Moroccan identity- in terms of the language, culture and history- in addition to the release of all political detainees, prisoners of conscience, and bringing those responsible to account.”

The Kingdom of Morocco, noteworthy, signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on January 19, 1977, which was ratified on 3 May 1979.