Corruption by officials is punishable, but the “government generally did not implement the law effectively.”
Rabat – The US State Department has issued its annual report on Morocco’s Human Rights Practices for 2018, summarizing both positive and negative performances in human rights in Morocco.
The report includes seven sections: Integrity of the person, civil liberties, freedom to participate in politics, corruption, investigation of human rights abuses, societal abuses, and worker rights. Morocco faces challenges with regard to freedom of speech and the press, corruption, migration, sexual assault, and child labor, according to the report.
While corruption is punishable, the government “did not implement the law effectively.”
The report said that “there were reports of government corruption in the executive, judicial, and legislative branches during the year.”
The report noted that there is an imbalance in dealing with corruption to “reduce its occurence.”
Quoting the Ministry of Justice, the report said that 134 public officials faced corruption charges in 2018, but only 13 were convicted and 121 investigated.
The 2018 World Justice Project (WJP) Rule of Law Index ranked Morocco 70th in the world for absence of corruption, dropping from 59th place the previous year.
Despite the low ranking, Morocco’s anti-corruption performance has steadily improved compared to previous years. The improvement is largely due to the adoption of the access to information law in February 2018.
The passing of the law enabled Moroccan citizens to file complaints if they were denied transparency or access to information. While the law was only implemented this week, public administrations have a full year before they are required to answer information requests.
Women anti-discrimination law lacks clarity
Like many observers and feminists, the report also noted the loopholes in Law 103-13 against gender discrimination implemented on September 12, 2018.
The report also acknowledged that an act such as spousal rape is still “not a crime.”
It also remarked that the “impact of the new law was not yet clear by year’s end.”
Morocco’s High Commission for Planning (HCP) said in its latest report that young Moroccan women still experience violence. Sixty-three percent of women had experienced violence in 2009.
Law 103-13 Eliminating Violence Against Women criminalizes sexual harassment and assault in public spaces as well as cybercrime.
“The law does not specifically define domestic violence against women and minors, but the general prohibitions of the criminal code address such violence,” according to the department’s report.
Child marriage, child abuse still exist
While the report did not provide statistics for child abuse, exploitation, and marriage, it mentioned briefly the challenges facing children in Morocco.
The department took notes from reports from human rights NGOs and media, which claim widespread child abuse in Morocco.
“Prosecutions were extremely rare,” the human rights report commented.
Morocco has a high rate of underage marriage. The report noted that “parents, with the informed consent of the minor, may secure a waiver from a judge for underage marriage.”
In addition, “The judiciary approved the vast majority of petitions for underage marriage.”
In Morocco the legal age for marriage is 18. However, HCP shared worrisome information about child marriage, especially in rural areas.
HCP estimated that45,789 Moroccan girls 18 and under are married.
“The girls remain the majority of the victims of child marriage, representing 94.8 percent (45,786 girls) of married minors,” warned the report.
Freedom of speech, internet, and peaceful assembly
In the section about freedom of expression, the State Department provided background about the popular Hirak movement in the Al Hoceima province, in which hundreds of people were arrested in 2016-2017. The protests condemned social disparities in the region.
In reference to the Hirak, the report recalled that the government prosecuted a defense lawyer for Hirak protesters, Abdessadek Bouchtaoui. Bouchtaoui received a 20-month prison sentence and an MAD 500 fine for insulting officials and representatives of authority while on duty. He was also prosecuted for inciting people on Facebook to participate in unauthorized protests.
For freedom of peaceful assembly, the report recalled the sentences given to 53 members of the Hirak, including Nasser Zefzafi, who is facing a sentence of 20 years in prison.
According to the Moroccan Ministry of Justice, security services arrested 578 persons in crimes related to the Hirak protests, “of whom 306 were sentenced, 204 pardoned, 39 acquitted of all charges, and 29 were awaiting trial as of November,” said the report.