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Morocco: HRW report criticizes intolerance

While the Moroccan government is positive about human rights in the country, Human Rights Watch listed a series of events that suggested otherwise.

Human Rights Watch has released its 2019 report, saying Morocco is growing increasingly intolerant of dissent and listing all the human rights violations it found in Morocco in 2018.

The NGO found multiple instances of Moroccan law enforcement using “excessive force in breaking up protests, as well as arrests of peaceful protesters,” noting protests about mining deaths in Morocco’s eastern town of Jerada.

HRW also related developments in the case of Hirak Rif activists whom Morocco had detained since protests which took place in the Al Hoceima province in 2016 and 2017 to condemn social disparities. HRW said that the protesters were subject to “unfair trials” before a court in Casablanca handed down sentences ranging from 1 to 20 years in prison.

Four leaders of the Hirak Rif protests, including Nasser Zafzafi, received 2o-year prison sentences in June 2018.

HRW said that although their staff were “able to operate in Morocco and Western Sahara in a relatively free manner,”authorities obstructed some of the other biggest human rights organizations throughout the year, including the Moroccan Association for Human Rights.

Regarding human rights in Western Sahara, HRW focused on three prisoners who requested a prison transfer but were denied. The three were convicted of and sentenced for the murders of 11 Moroccan officers in the 2010 Gdeim Izik incident.

According to HRW, they were convicted “in unfair trials in 2013 and 2017.” The three individuals received sentences of 30 years to life in prison. Confessions from the three were the primary source of evidence, although the HRW report says “the defendants repudiated those confessions and said they signed under torture without being permitted to read them.”

In 2018, the prisoners conducted hunger strikes from prison in Kenitra, north of Rabat, demanding Moroccan authorities transfer them to prisons near their families in the southern provinces. “The demand was not met at the time of writing,” said Human Rights Watch.

The NGO also said that Moroccan authorities in Western Sahara “beat activists and journalists in their custody and on the streets.”

While discussing human rights in Western Sahara, the NGO’s 2019 report for Algeria did not mention living conditions for Sahrawis in the Tindouf camp. Several reports, including a report from UN chief Antonio Guterres in 2018, mentioned lack of nutrition and insufficient international aid for Sahrawis.

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