Human Rights Situation in Morocco and the Western Sahara
Although there has been some progress on human rights, these have yet to be guaranteed in law and in practice and are subject to worrying restrictions, EMHRN said today in its Mission Report.
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) organised a mission to Morocco and Western Sahara from 14 to 21 September 2014 to assess the human rights situation.
In 2011, massive demonstrations swept the country as historic upheavals rocked the Arab World. In response, King Mohammad VI launched a process of constitutional reform and a new constitution was adopted in 2011. The Kingdom has ratified many international conventions, including the instrument necessary for the intervention of the Special Rapporteur on torture. Three years on, many constitutional provisions are yet to be implemented in law and in practice.
Progress in a number of human rights fields in Morocco is noteworthy, including the regularisation ampaign, albeit imperfect, of undocumented migrants. However, harassment of certain human rights organisations, particularly AMDH, has increased in violation of article 29 of the new constitution. The repeated attempts by the Moroccan authorities to hinder the work of human rights defenders intensified following statements made by the Minister of the Interior Mr. Mohamed Hassad before the Moroccan Parliament on 15 July last year, accusing non-governmental organisations of answering to foreign agendas, compromising the reputation and security of the country. Similarly, proceedings against those who denounce acts of torture illustrates the same will to intimidate.
In Western Sahara, restrictions on freedom of demonstration and assembly are even greater. Political and solidarity demonstrations are systematically prohibited or hampered, including by violent crackdowns by police forces with total impunity, while torture remains a common practice. Moreover, the region is economically, culturally and environmentally neglected, and individual and public freedoms are hampered by draconian police control.
Moroccan authorities must guarantee that freedoms of assembly, expression, association and peaceful demonstration are exercised by any individual or group without discrimination on the basis of opinion, origin, sex or religion. Morocco must conduct prompt, independent and impartial investigations into complaints of alleged human rights violations by law enforcement officers and ensure accountability.
Authorities must adopt all organic laws provided for under the constitution without delay and implement the expected judicial reforms, as well as those relating to combatting violence.
In its recommendations to the Moroccan authorities, the European Union must prioritise freedoms of association, expression and demonstration, the end of abuse in prison and detention centres and the independence of the judiciary. It should also integrate the human rights component of Western Sahara into its ENP agreement with Morocco, and call for the establishment of permanent international mechanisms to monitor and ensure respect for human rights in the Western Sahara.
Finally, EMHRN regrets the Polisario Front’s silent rejection to its request to visit the camps of Tindouf, which will unlikely assuage its concerns over the human rights situation there.