By Karim Bejjit
By Karim Bejjit
Casablanca – Is Morocco overreacting to the Human Rights Report 2015 issued by the US State Department? The 40 page report posted on the official State Department website contains numerous references to alleged abuses of human rights committed by the Moroccan authorities in various parts of the country including the southern provinces.
On Tuesday 17 May, the Moroccan interior ministry issued a statement denouncing the report on the ground that it contains unverified information and pure fabrications based often on hostile and unreliable sources. The Moroccan authorities, the statement affirms, have regularly pointed out the danger of drawing hasty conclusions on the basis of isolated and individual cases. Since the report was issued on April 13, Moroccan officials met members from the US embassy in Rabat to discuss the alleged cases of abuse and hoped the evidence they provided would dispel the confusion and straighten out the facts. On his part, the US State Department spokesman, John Kirby declared that the State Department continued to hold firm to the report. Could this have triggered the upgrade in Moroccan official reaction? On Wednesday 18, the Moroccan foreign ministry summoned US ambassador to Rabat to protest against the conclusions of the annual report.
This new spat comes only weeks after a resolution passed by the Security Council S/RES/2285 (2016) demanding the return in three months’ time of MINURSO civil servants expelled by Morocco a month earlier. The original draft of the resolution submitted by the US ambassador to the UN had adopted a hardline position which provoked a great deal of concern and bitterness in the Moroccan official circles and among the public. The statement issued by the Moroccan foreign ministry carried unmitigated words of rebuke stating that Rabat “regrets […] that the member of the Security Council, which is responsible for the formulation and presentation of the first draft resolution, has introduced elements of pressure, constraints and weakening, and acted against the spirit of partnership with the Kingdom of Morocco.”
In the light of the established relations between US and Morocco dating back to the late 18th century, and the strong economic ties and solid military and intelligence cooperation that exist between the two countries, these recent developments may not look as somber and worrying as the media portray them. Summoning ambassadors in itself is not a dramatic event. In the last few months US ambassadors in Turkey, Italy, Uganda and Thailand have been summoned by the official authorities in a gesture of protest over some unpleasant issue. Annual country reports produced by US Department of State are typically records of alleged abuses and should be treated with adequate interest and attention. The report on some European countries such as Spain, France and Ireland themselves were not entirely devoid of cases of alleged abuse.
On the other hand, as a Moroccan academician who has spent years studying and teaching American culture and politics, and has visited different parts of the US, I am confident to say that in standing as a champion of human rights and upholder of universal values, the United States government has still much room for improvement. The reports of international organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have portrayed a rather grim picture of the Human rights conditions in US often citing for illustration the high number of death sentences passed by American courts, police prosecution of African Americans and other ethnic minorities, economic disparity, labor rights, rights of non-citizens etc. The Human Rights Watch report for 2015 stated that “US national security policies, including mass surveillance programs, are eroding freedoms of the press, expression, and association. Discriminatory and unfair investigations and prosecutions of American Muslims are alienating the communities the US claims it wants as partners in combatting terrorism”.
The challenge which the respect of Human Rights poses is a real one and is not restricted to developing countries. Recent history has shown that the path of democratization in Europe and more notably in US has never been a bed of roses. And yet it must be said that there is a great deal to be learnt from Western democracies. The pressures exerted on Moroccan government from international Human Rights organizations, European and North American governments are not new and over the last three decades they have contributed to creating the ripe conditions for a benign transition toward a fair and just society. The course of transition may have been a little circuitous, but for someone like myself who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, I am fully and genuinely appreciative of the will that both the civil society and official authorities have shown to turn the dark page of the years of lead, and create a better social, political and economic environment for positive change.
Today there is a growing sense of optimism in Morocco perhaps not fully shared by the impoverished segments of the society and certainly not by radical activists whether Islamists or leftists and much less by scores of vocal pro-Polisario separatists. There is certainly a long way to go to appease this discontentment and reassure the sceptics. Nonetheless, the enduring political and economic stability of the country in a region plunged in unprecedented social and political unrest is clear proof that progress is being made and that the political elite is sensitive enough of what is being at stake.
What should be remembered is that Morocco is seeking recognition for its new regional role and its new political visage. The many reforms introduced, the successes achieved, and the experiences accumulated are not always properly acknowledged and valued by Morocco’s strategic allies. As a dynamic partner of the US, Morocco demands respect and understanding of its deep concerns and refuses to be mistaken for a failing state.
Karim Bejjit IS Director of the Moroccan American Studies Research Laboratory, Dept. of English, Hassan II University of Casablanca www.karimbejjit.com
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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