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Human Rights Watch gives an oppressive overview of the situation in Morocco

In a report released this week, Human Rights Watch enlisted human rights violations that took place in Morocco in 2018. According to the New York-based NGO, authorities in the Kingdom met protests with repression.

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According to New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), Moroccan authorities responded to protesters with repression in several occasions in 2018. In a report that gives an overview of the human rights situation in the Kingdom, the organization highlighted the events that marked the year.

Starting with Hirak, a socioeconomic protest movement in the Rif region that started in 2016 and extended to Jerada, HRW criticized the way in which authorities in the Kingdom dealt with the «peaceful protests» in the two regions.

Hirak, NGOs and freedom of speech

«Moroccan authorities in March used excessive force against protesters and arrested protest leaders, who were later sentenced to months in prison», wrote the NGO.

The latter recalled that the confessions of the arrested activists were «obtained through torture and coercion, despite medical reports that gave some support to their claims». Human Rights Watch slammed Morocco for the heavy prison sentences handed down to Hirak detainees.

Regarding research conducted by NGOs in the Kingdom, HRW reported that authorities restricted the activities of several associations, including Morocco’s biggest independent human rights organization.

«Authorities frequently impeded events organized by local chapters of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) by denying access to planned venues», the same source pointed out.

According to international NGO, the Moroccan government banned «research missions by Amnesty International since 2015» and although it allowed HRW to conduct missions in 2018 to Jerada and Laayoune its activists were «followed by cars containing men in civilian clothes».

The organization also referred to the trial of journalists in 2018, including Hamid El Mahdaoui. «Authorities prosecuted journalists and social media activists for criminal offenses that, while not ostensibly journalism-related, were pursued apparently in reprisal for their speech activities», it concluded.

The human rights situation in Western Sahara

The HRW’s report on Morocco focused also on the human rights situation in Morocco’s southern provinces. It noted that «the United Nations-sponsored process of negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario Front remained stalled despite visits to the region of Horst Kohler, envoy of the UN secretary-general».

According to the NGO, Morocco «systematically prevented gatherings in Western Sahara supporting Sahrawi self-determination» and obstructed «the work of some local human rights NGOs».

It also indicated that authorities blocked legal registration of NGOs in the southern provinces and «on occasion beat activists and journalists in their custody and on the streets».

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