Washignton- The Moroccan government has yet another battle to wage on human rights violations, this time, with human rights organizations calling for the immediate abolition of the death penalty and reform of the prison system to better protect the rights of prisoners.
Since the revision of the constitution in 2011 to include a Moroccan’s “right to life,” human rights missions and NGOs have repeatedly called on Morocco to abolish the death penalty, calling it unconstitutional. Additionally, there has been a moratorium on executions since 1993. Therefore, if Morocco were to abolish the practice, the time would be now.
Morocco eradicating the death penalty would make it the first Arab country to take such a measure, putting it one step further to a more open and free society. To expedite this process, the Moroccan Human Rights Organization has conducted a survey to shed light on the situations of Moroccan prisoners on death row.
Their survey, which examines 52 death row inmates, was held in three different prisons, Kenitra, Meknes, and Oujda. The survey was conducted from January through February of 2013, where 114 total inmates were waiting on death row.
The findings highlight a number of issues related to the death penalty itself, as cruel, inhuman and degrading.
The main findings that emerged highlighted:
1) Two-thirds (67%) of inmates in the death row of Moroccan prisons suffer from chronic mental illness. Most of these diseases should have been void of any criminal responsibility at trial. As a result, either the court did not use a psychiatric examination, or they did not call for medical examination.
2) Although treatment on death row by the administration and the guards has significantly improved over the last decade, their detention conditions remain very difficult, particularly with regard to physical needs such as food, blankets and clothing, and, especially, hygiene.
3.) 35% of death row inmates consider suicide because of their poor conditions.
4) 15.38% of inmates think it is possible that the state will resume executions.
5.) On the political front, the MOHR urges King Mohamed VI to exercise his right of pardon and commute all death sentences to terms of imprisonment.
The NGOs are also calling on the Minister of Justice to increase the budget allocated to the prison administration in order to provide better living conditions for prisoners, and asked the latter to place two-thirds of those sentenced to death, who are victims of mental illness, into psychiatric treatment hospitals.
The MOHR will engage in public activity to expose the conditions surrounding the death penalty and prison system in Morocco, including film and documentary screenings dealing with the death penalty and a sit-in outside of parliament on October 10th, which is the World Day Against the Death Penalty.
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