Annual Report: Morocco and Western Sahara 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Morocco and Western Sahara 2010

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  • On 4 February, an appeal court in Rabat confirmed the 10-year prison sentence imposed on Said Boujaadia, a Guantánamo Bay detainee returned to Morocco by US authorities in May 2008. His lawyers withdrew from the case in protest at what they considered to be irregularities in the trial. One of them, Tawfik Moussaef, faced disciplinary proceedings for denouncing human rights violations committed against detained terrorism suspects. In April, the Supreme Court upheld lower court rulings that he had breached standards of the legal profession.
  • No steps were known to have been taken by the Moroccan authorities to investigate the allegations of Binyam Mohamed, released from Guantánamo Bay in February, that he had been tortured in Morocco, where he was secretly detained between July 2002 and January 2004.

Hundreds of Islamist prisoners sentenced after the 2003 Casablanca bombings demanded their release or judicial review of their trials, some staging hunger strikes to protest against their detention and prison conditions. Many were convicted on the basis of "confessions" reported to have been obtained under torture.

Migrants' rights

The authorities continued to arrest and expel foreign nationals suspected of being irregular migrants, often without considering their individual protection needs or allowing them to contest their expulsion. Some were reported to have been assaulted and ill-treated at the time of or following their arrest or when being expelled; some were reported to have been dumped at the border with Algeria or Mauritania without adequate food and water.

  • A 29-year-old migrant from Cameroon died on 1 January after being shot by Moroccan security officials when a group of about 50 migrants attempted to reach the fence between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla. Fourteen others in the group were arrested, beaten and eventually dumped on the border with Algeria near the city of Oujda. No investigation into these incidents was known to have taken place.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Although Morocco is party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, the authorities did not issue residency cards or other necessary documents to refugees recognized by UNHCR, the UN refugee agency. On 15 June, a group of refugees staged a sit-in outside the UNHCR office in Rabat to protest against their conditions and call for their resettlement in other countries. Two weeks later, there were clashes between police and refugees when the latter refused to disperse. Five refugees were arrested, convicted of violent conduct, sentenced to one month in prison and fined. They were cleared of the charge of irregular stay. They were reported to have been beaten at the time of arrest.

Freedom of religion

The authorities prevented members of the Alternative Movement for Individual Freedom from publicly breaking the Ramadan fast on 13 September in Mohammadia. At least six members of the group were reportedly arrested or called in for questioning, although none was formally charged. The general prosecution in Rabat banned from travelling abroad two of the group's organizers, Ibtissame Lashgar and Zineb El-Razoui, both of them women.

In March, after the authorities accused Iranian diplomats in Rabat of carrying out activities inimical to the "religious fundamentals" of Morocco, there were reports that a number of suspected Shi'a Muslims were questioned, Shi'a documents were seized, and a school for Iraqi children was closed.