Sunday, February 13, 2005

Morocco: criticism of equity & reconciliation commission

Morocco is holding public hearings into the human rights abuses committed during the reign of the late King Hassan II ... and the country's three main human rights groups have an issue with how the hearings are being conducted.
The hearings, which began last month and are expected to include testimony from 200 people in 10 cities in a period of 10 weeks, were hailed as a breakthrough for the Arab world.

They were organized by the Equity and Reconciliation Commission, a state body empowered by Hassan's son, King Mohammed VI, to look into rights violations prior to his accession to power in 1999.

But those testifying are not allowed to reveal the names of people responsible for the torture and other rights violations carried out during a period known in Morocco as "the leaden years."

[...] They [human rights groups] also criticized the fact that after the first two days the hearings stopped being shown live in television, and no parallel debates had been organized.(source)
A bit more from the Feb 5 issue of the Telegraph ...
While few doubt the benefits of airing grievances many Moroccans ask whether it is a real step towards democracy or elaborate window-dressing.

The commission is seen as a pressure valve to deflate burgeoning social tensions and frustrations over the slow pace of reform. Morocco has an elected parliament with no real executive powers.

After the Casablanca suicide bombings in 2003, in which 33 people were killed, some 2,000 suspected Islamists were arrested.

The old ways of beatings, mass round-ups and torture persist. Last month a newspaper reported 20 cases of Islamist detainees being tortured. The justice minister, Mohammed Bu Zubaa, said the cases would be investigated.

Members of the respected Moroccan Association for Human Rights believe the commission does not go far enough. The organisation will hold parallel hearings from Feb 12 in which torturers will be named.

Bin Abd al-Salam, for the group, said: "There are many more political prisoners in Moroccan jails." (source)