Annual Report: Morocco and Western Sahara 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Morocco and Western Sahara 2010

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  • Khaled Gheddar and Tawfik Bouashrin, respectively a cartoonist and the director of the daily Akhbar Al- Youm, received suspended four-year prison sentences on 30 October for publishing a cartoon depicting the King's cousin, Prince Moulay Ismail, against a backdrop of the Moroccan flag. They were also heavily fined and required to pay damages for showing disrespect to the national flag and offending a member of the royal family. The sentences were confirmed on appeal in December. The Prince exempted both men from paying damages following their apology. Their newspaper was shut down by order of the authorities but reopened under another name. Judicial proceedings were initiated against a number of publications that commented on the King's health.
  • On 15 October, Idriss Chahtane, publisher of the weekly Almichaal, was sentenced to one year in prison by the Court of First Instance of Rabat for publishing false information with "malicious intent". Almichaal was shut down in November after his sentence was confirmed on appeal. Human rights defenders, journalists and others were prosecuted for denouncing corruption and criticizing the authorities.
  • Human rights defender Chekib El-Khiari was sentenced to three years' imprisonment and a heavy fine on 24 June for undermining or insulting public institutions and for violating financial regulations. The ruling was upheld by the Court of Appeal of Casablanca on 24 November. Chekib El-Khiari had publicly alleged that high-ranking officials were involved in drug-trafficking. He remained imprisoned at the end of the year.

Repression of dissent

Sahrawi activists

The authorities tightened restrictions on expression in favour of self-determination for the people of Western Sahara. Sahrawi human rights defenders, activists and others faced continuing harassment, including close surveillance, threats and assault at the hands of security officials, and prosecution on politically motivated charges, apparently to deter or punish them for expressing their views and documenting human rights.