Urgent Action: HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER JAILED FOR ONLINE POSTS (Morocco: UA 91.22)
October 26, 2022
On 9 September, the Casablanca judicial police questioned Rida Benotmane, a member of the Moroccan Association for the defense of human rights (Association Marocaine des Droits Humains) about several social media posts and YouTube videos he released in 2021, in which he denounced the authorities for ignoring demands for social justice and warned against the potential use of Covid-19 vaccine passes in Morocco as a tool of repression. He has since been held in Arjate 1 prison in Salé, a city in northwestern Morocco, on bogus charges that violate his right to freedom of expression. He must be immediately and unconditionally released.
Please take action as-soon-as possible. This Urgent Action expires on December 21, 2022.
Write a letter in your own words or using the sample below as a guide to one or both government officials listed. You can also email, fax, call or Tweet them.
Click here to let us know the actions you took on Urgent Action 91.22. It’s important to report because we share the total number with the officials we are trying to persuade and the people we are trying to help.
Head of Government of the Kingdom of Morocco
M. Aziz Akhannouch
Palais Royal- Touarga
Twitter: @ChefGov_ma / Facebook: @cg.gov.ma
Her Highness Princess Lalla Joumala
Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco
3508 International Drive NW
Washington, DC 20008
Phone: 202 462 7979 I Fax: 202 462 7643
Email: [email protected]
Salutation: Your Highness
I am writing to express concern over the arbitrary detention of human rights defender Rida Benotmane merely for exercising his right to freedom of expression.
On 9 September, the National Judicial Police Brigade (BNPJ) in Casablanca interrogated Rida Benotmane over a Facebook post he published on 13 September 2021, which called for a public march against abuses by security forces and two YouTube videos from 2021, in which he criticized the authorities for ignoring people’s demands for social justice and warned against the authorities’ use of vaccine passes as a tool of repression. The BNJP arrested Rida Benotmane and detained him in Arjate 1 prison, over 30km from where he and his family live in Rabat, the Moroccan capital, where he remains. His appeals hearing has been rescheduled several times and is now due to take place on 31 October 2022.
On 10 September, the King’s prosecutor in the Rabat First Instance Court charged Rida Benotmane with “insulting a body regulated by law”, “insulting public officials while carrying out their duties”, and “broadcasting and distributing false allegations without consent” under articles 265, 263, and 447-2 of the Penal Code respectively. He was also charged with breaching the decree law on the state of health emergency because he criticized the use of the vaccine pass, saying that it could be used by the authorities to restrict freedoms.
Rida Benotmane’s detention is emblematic of Morocco’s crackdown on critical voices and its recourse to arbitrary detentions to silence peaceful dissent. His detention violates the right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by both international human rights law and the Moroccan constitution, which states in Chapter 25 that freedom of thought and expression is guaranteed in all its forms.
Considering the above, I urge you to ensure that Rida Benotmane is immediately and unconditionally released, and that all charges against him are dropped. I also urge you to ensure that the prosecution of journalists, bloggers, and human rights defenders for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression is brought to an end and all criminal investigations against them are dropped. Finally, I urge you to ensure the amendment or repeal of all laws which punish the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, including Articles 263 and 265 of the Penal Code.