A communique by the Moroccan Ministry of State for Human Rights deplores a report by Human Rights Watch for evaluating Morocco’s Hirak case before the closing of the appeal.
Rabat – Morocco’s Ministry of State for Human Rights under human rights minister, Mustapha Ramid, released a statement on Tuesday, decrying a document by Human Rights Watch (HRW) saying that the Moroccan court ignored “evidence of torture” against Hirak detainees.
The article entitled “Morocco: Torture Suspicions Mar Mass Trial Verdicts,” published on November 30, focused on the case of Hirak Rif activists whose appeals case began on November 14, stating that “the appeals court needs to examine and discard any tainted confessions and ensure that no one is convicted except for real crimes.”
Ahmed Benchemsi, HRW’s communications and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa said that “A court shouldn’t just ignore evidence of torture.”
Meanwhile, the statement pointed out that “the document assesses a case that is still on its first appeal stage,” noting it is more “ethical” to wait until the closing of the appeal process before commenting on the case.
Responding to the article’s call on Morocco to give “justice” to the Hirak activists, the ministry affirmed the independence of the judicial power in Morocco, as per chapter 107 of the 2011 Constitution.
The statement noted the HRW’s selective approach to the Hirak case, as it declared only attending 17 of the 86 Hirak trial sessions.
HRW said that it has examined 55 court documents, reviewed 41 forensic reports, including 19 by National Human Rights Council, appointed doctors and 22 commissioned by the Casablanca first instance court, and interviewed 10 defense lawyers and six relatives of the imprisoned activists.
The statement also states that HRW’s document contains inaccurate information regarding the number of Hirak detainees who benefitted from the royal pardon in August.
The document entailed that King Mohammed VI pardoned 116 detainees whereas the correct number was 184, except for the Hirak leaders such as Nasser Zefzafi.
The ministry wrote that the Appeals Chamber of the appeal court will directly listen to the demands of the detainees and parties involved in the case.
“The Moroccan authorities regret the publishing of such a document that dares to address an issue that is within the kingdom’s judicial sovereignty, especially since it concerns a case that is still ongoing,” the statement concluded.
Morocco has repeatedly condemned foreign “interference” in the domestic case of Hirak Rif, including Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok who presented a report on the Hirak to the Dutch Parliament in September.
Morocco’s foreign affairs minister, Nasser Bourita said that the report contained inaccurate facts and was a direct interference in Morocco’s domestic affairs, stemming from a lack of respect for the country’s judicial system.
In June, a court in Casablanca gave sentences ranging from 1 to 20 years for 54 Hirak Rif activists. Zefzafi and three other activists received 20 years in prison for their participation in “unauthorized” protests.
The Hirak movement began in October 2016 after the death of Mohcine Fikri, a local fishmonger who was crushed to death in a garbage truck while trying to save his goods that had been confiscated by authorities in Al Hoceima.
The incident angered citizens, causing protests across the country, especially in Al Hoceima province, which condemned Fikri’s death and social disparities in Morocco. Police arrested an estimated 400 activists and protesters involved in the protests in 2016 and 2017.