Rabat - Morocco is in the process of preparing an official response to Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) recent report on the ongoing unrest in the region of Al Hoceima. According to government spokesman Mustapha El Khalfi, HRW’s criticism of the state’s reaction to the protests lacks objectivity and fundamental details.
Rabat – Morocco is in the process of preparing an official response to Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) recent report on the ongoing unrest in the region of Al Hoceima. According to government spokesman Mustapha El Khalfi, HRW’s criticism of the state’s reaction to the protests lacks objectivity and fundamental details.
Once again, the human rights NGO is sparking the ire of the Moroccan Executive. In a report published on September 4, HRW accused King Mohammed VI of “brushing off evidence of police violence” during the ongoing protests taking place in the city of Al Hoceima and its neighboring regions.
During a press conference held after the meeting of the government council on Thursday, El Khalfi heavily criticized the NGO and questioned its objectivity.
He accused the report of being highly one-sided, adding that HRW should have contacted official institutions to get their side of the story.
“In Morocco, the judicial authority is independent. When it receives complaints about alleged torture, it immediately initiates investigations,” the minister stressed.
??????: “????? ????” ????? ????? .. ??????? ?????? ????? ????? https://t.co/liXOJ5Lvlj
— Mustapha Khalfi (@mustapha_khalfi) September 7, 2017
“Human Rights Watch lacks accuracy … Praising police work is natural”
In the report, the NGO stated that “King Mohammed VI should press for effective investigations into allegations that Morocco’s police forces tortured people suspected of participating in the 2017 ‘Hirak’ protests in the Rif region.”
During his Throne Day speech broadcasted on July 30, the King gave his approval of security forces’ response to the disturbances occurring in Al Hoceima, saying that they had shown “restraint and great respect for the law.”
In contrast to the public opinion’s critiques of the so-called “security approach” to the ongoing Hirak protests across Morocco, the King in fact displayed pride in the security forces, expressing his admiration for law enforcement and security officers, who according to him, are “making major sacrifices, working day and night in difficult conditions to fulfill their duty.”
For the NGO, the situation is a serious issue. According to HRW, the King “ignored reports by forensic doctors who examined a group of detainees arrested around the Rif protests and found injuries they said corroborated the detainees’ accounts of police violence.”
According to the medical reports conducted at the request of the National Human Rights Council (CNDH), many detainees said the “police forced them to sign unread written statements.” Many are now serving prison terms, while others remain in pretrial detention, it added.
For Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, “the King’s unconditional praise of the security forces despite the allegations against them will only encourage the belief that those who abuse detainees will never face any consequences.”
El Khalfi defended the King’s statements, affirming that praising the work of police forces is “natural and normal by virtue of its work for more than nine months with responsibility, restraint and protection of property and lives.”
As a response to the NGO, whose relationship with the Moroccan government has become more tense in recent years, El Khalfi announced that the Moroccan authorities will prepare a report to comprehensively respond to all the data contained therein.
“The government was inclined to launch a direct and public dialogue with all the human rights organizations and all the organizations that initiated and interacted with the allegations of torture,” he asserted. “Morocco is in an advanced position in the dialogue with all concerned parties.”
This is not the first time El Khalfi has expressed his discontent at the human rights NGO. Back in September 2015, the government spokesman sent a letter to HRW’s executive director Kenneth Roth to issue a similar complaint.
In this letter, El Khalfi denounced what he described as the “total lack of neutrality and objectivity” of HRW’s reports, claiming that the NGO’s teams had carried out a “premeditated policy of systematic disparagement and of unjustified devaluation.” He wrote that the NGO aimed to “tarnish the image of Morocco’s institutions and democratic acquisitions on the basis of pre-established judgments.”
El Khalfi also levelled an accusation that HRW investigators were surrounded by “individuals with well-known personal agendas.”
The minister accused the investigators of the NGO of coming to the kingdom “to enjoy [themselves] and relax here.” These investigators, he wrote, “use and abuse of Morocco’s open-mindedness and hospitality […] preferring to merge the useful with the pleasant, combining long shopping sessions with a few meetings.”