Morocco and W. Sahara Human Rights

Violence and unrest continue to spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Inspired by the protests in Egypt and Tunisia, people across Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Algeria, Iran, Morocco, and Libya have also taken to the streets to demand political, economic and social reforms.

Morocco and W. Sahara Human Rights

Violence and unrest continue to spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Inspired by the protests in Egypt and Tunisia, people across Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Algeria, Iran, Morocco, and Libya have also taken to the streets to demand political, economic and social reforms.

Repression of Dissent

The rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly continued to be restricted. Criticism of the monarchy or views contradicting the official position on other politically sensitive issues, especially the question of Western Sahara, were penalized.

Sahrawi (Western Saharan) human rights activists continued to face harassment, including politically motivated charges, restrictions on movement and administrative obstruction to prevent their organizations? legal registration.

Hundreds of Sahrawis suspected of demonstrating against Moroccan rule or distributing pro-Polisario Front materials were arrested. Some were released after questioning; others were tried on charges of violent conduct in proceedings that were reported not to have complied with international standards of fair trial. Many complained that they were tortured or otherwise ill-treated by security forces during questioning and that information allegedly obtained under torture was used as evidence in convictions.

Hundreds of members of the unauthorized Islamist political organization Al-Adl wal-Ihsan were questioned by police and at least 188 were charged with participating in unauthorized meetings or belonging to an unauthorized organization. The trial of the group's spokesperson, Nadia Yassine, charged in 2005 with defaming the monarchy, was postponed.

Little independent information was available about conditions in the refugee camps run by the Polisario Front in Algeria. No steps were known to have been taken to address the impunity of those accused of committing human rights abuses in the camps in the 1970s and 1980s.

Excessive Use of Force

Security forces used excessive force to disperse antigovernment demonstrations, highlighting the failure of the authorities to implement a key recommendation of the Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER). Established in 2004 to look into grave human rights violations committed between 1956 and 1999, the IER called in 2006 for improved regulation of the state's security organs.

Discrimination: Violence Against Women and Homosexuals

In January 2008, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women called for the legal criminalization of violence against women and active measures to combat it. In November the Ministry of Social Development, Family and Solidarity announced that such a law was being developed. In December, in a further welcome move, King Mohamed VI announced that Morocco would withdraw reservations it made when ratifying the Convention.

In January an appeal court upheld prison terms of up to 10 months against six men convicted of ?homosexual conduct? in Ksar El-Kebir, north-western Morocco. Same-sex sexual relations between consenting adults are criminalized under Moroccan law.

US Policy

Morocco has had longstanding close relations with the United States. In 2004, Morocco became a major non-NATO ally of the United States. They also entered into a bilateral free trade agreement. Morocco is believed to cooperate with the US government's extraordinary rendition program and possibly tortured some of these prisoners, such as the case of Benyahim Mohammed.

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