Rabat – Marie-Christine Vergiat, a left-wing member of the European Parliament with critical views towards human rights in Morocco, chaired on Monday a colloquium in Brussels on the protestsin the Rif region.
Human rights activists representing Morocco and the Maghreb, including prominent Moroccan activist Khadija Riyadi, also took part in the meeting.
Vergiat, a member of the French left-wing coalition Front de Gauche, has been for years active in denouncing what it sees as the “deteriorating” human rights situation in Morocco.
A List of Accusations
During her talk at the colloquium, Moroccan activist Riyadi accused Moroccan authorities of “persecuting” the protest movement in Rif.
The state, she said, adopted an iron-fisted policy that “engendered a degradation of the situation” in the region.
Riyadi also accused local authorities of responding with stubbornness to the requests of the local population the northern Moroccan region, especially their demand to release local activists who had been detained.
The list of accusations included making arbitrary arrests of activists in the Hirak Rif protest movement, inflicting punishment on political detainees, neglecting 30 detainees on hunger strikes for four months, and subjecting detainees to torture.
“The situation in Rif witnessed a serious degradation of human rights,” she said, adding that local authorities met “peaceful demonstration with ruthless repression.”
Riyadi, who spoke as a representative of la Coordination Maghrébines des Organisations des Droits de l’Homme (CMODH), a coalition of 26 human rights NGOs in the Maghreb, said the coalition express its “indignation at the violent infringement on the basic rights” of the region’s residents.
“We are worried about the alarming degradation of his rights and liberties in Morocco,” she said.
The former head of l’Association Marocaine des Droits de l’Homme (AMDH), a leading Moroccan and Arab human rights group, advocated for pressure on Morocco by European governments.
“We decided to reach out to you as representatives of the political parties of Europe with which we share values of human rights, and to you Europeans who believe in people’s rights to live with dignity, and who we think can act against the policies of your governments which unconditionally support the [regime] in Morocco,” she said.
The colloquium prompted an angry response by the Moroccan state-run press agency Maghreb Arab Press (MAP).
In a harshly-toned dispatch, the agency slammed Vergiat, calling her “hostile” to Morocco.
The agency reported that the EU MP also manifested hostility towards people who attended the meeting and expressed different views from what she holds, expelling the French university professor Charles Saint-Prot from the meeting room after he expressed pro-Morocco opinions.
Prot told MAP that the colloquium turned into an anti-Morocco propaganda platform, expressing disappointment that the EU Parliament be used for such a purpose.
“The European Parliament can’t endorse this propaganda meeting organized by an activist, and it doesn’t share the extremist position of Mme Vergiat,” he said.
Moroccan ambassador to the European Union Ahmed Reda Chami reacted to the meeting, lambasting what he describing as attempts from some parties to instrumentalize the EU Parliament to advance their anti-Morocco agenda.
“It’s not the European Parliament that organizes such meetings, it’s an MP who booked a meeting room and who gathered people around her in what she called a colloquium, while its is in fact a meeting excluding all debate and which serves an agenda well known by everybody,” he told MAP.