Human Rights Watch today called on Morocco’s King to press for effective investigations into allegations of torture of Hirak Rif protesters at the hands of the police.
According to a report by the organisation, King Mohammed VI has “appeared to whitewash the police’s handling of the unrest in Al-Hoceima”, the main city in the Rif region, in his speech to the nation on 30 July. The King said that security forces showed “self-control and commitment to the law.”
The king’s comments 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.
Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East and North Africa director, said: “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.”
HRW said the King “chose to lambaste the public administration for its failure to implement development polices in the embattled region, while singling out the security forces for ‘bravely and patiently fulfilling their duty … as they maintained security and stability’.”
Protests erupted in October in the Rif region and around Al-Hoceima following the death of fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri who was crushed in a garbage truck after his produce was confiscated by authorities.
Before the King’s speech was broadcasted, the Justice Ministry announced 1,178 prisoners were being pardoned to mark the occasion, including 58 members of the protest movement, the “popular movement”.
Hundreds have been arrested whilst protesting the unemployment and underdevelopment of the Al-Hoceima region which residents have accused the Kingdom of abandoning and redirecting development funds to south of the country. One protester died in clashes on 20 July becoming the first since the protests began.
Officials vowed to investigate Imad Atabi’s death. The Moroccan Human Rights Organisation said that the police threw a gas canister that hit Atabi in the head, resulting in his death.