Annual Report: Morocco and Western Sahara 2010

Report
May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Morocco and Western Sahara 2010

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Head of state King Mohamed VI
Head of government Abbas El Fassi
Death penalty abolitionist in practice
Population 32 million
Life expectancy 71 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 43/29 per 1,000
Adult literacy 55.6 per cent

Attacks increased on freedom of expression, association and assembly in relation to issues viewed as integral to the state's internal or external security. Human rights defenders, journalists seen as transcending red lines in reporting on the monarchy, proponents of self-determination in Western Sahara, and members of the unauthorized political organization Al-Adl wal-Ihsan faced harassment, arrests and prosecutions. Terrorism suspects were arrested and detained, at times incommunicado. Arrests and collective expulsions of migrants continued. Perpetrators of ongoing and past human rights violations enjoyed almost total impunity.

Background

In June, the Party of Modernity and Authenticity, founded by Fouad Ali el Himma, won most seats in local elections, followed by the Istiqlal Party led by Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi. In July, one opposition political figure was given a two-year prison term, and four opposition political figures and a journalist were sentenced to between 20 and 25 years in prison, in a highly politicized case known as the "Belliraj Affair", which was marred by allegations of torture and procedural irregularities.

The stalemate continued in negotiations on the status of Western Sahara between Morocco and the Polisario Front, which calls for an independent state in Western Sahara and runs a self-proclaimed government-in-exile in refugee camps in southwestern Algeria. The UN Security Council extended the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara until 30 April 2010 with no provision for human rights monitoring.

Freedom of expression

The authorities remained intolerant of views expressed or information published deemed offensive to the monarchy. They seized or suppressed editions of national and international publications containing opinion polls, articles or cartoons about the royal family, and closed down publications. They also prosecuted journalists under various provisions of the Penal Code and Press Code, both of which can be used to punish peaceful expression with imprisonment.