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Morocco ‘rejects’ HRW report on security crackdown on Rif protests

Hundreds of people attend a demonstration in support of ongoing anti-government protests taking place in the northern Rif region on 2 June, 2017 in Al-Hoceima, Morocco [Jalal Morchidi/Anadolu Agency]
Hundreds of people attend a demonstration in support of ongoing anti-government protests taking place in the northern Rif region on 2 June, 2017 in Al-Hoceima, Morocco [Jalal Morchidi/Anadolu Agency]

The Moroccan government has responded to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on the events in Al-Hoceima by blasting it as full of “unfounded allegations”.

The Inter-Ministerial Delegation for Human Rights (DIDH) in Morocco responded to the rights NGO via a statement saying:

Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on the events of Al Hoceima, published on 5 September, contains unfounded allegations and errors concerning the management and treatment by the public authorities of demonstrations…

Rabat expressed its rejection of the content of this document, “bearing in mind that the methodology used lacked the professionalism and independence necessary for the preparation of reports by credible organisations.”

The Moroccan authorities categorically reject the content of the document in question and the positions taken by HRW which seek to discredit achievements in the field of democracy and human rights.”

Read: Detained leaders of Hirak Rif say they are ready to negotiate

Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa Division at HRW, had said: “King Mohammed VI affirmed during the Throne Festival that Moroccans’ have the right, and even the duty, to be proud of their security apparatus.”

“Would they not be even more proud if the allegations of police abuse gave rise to credible investigations, and if the courts refused to condemn [detainees] on the basis of a doubtful confession?”

In its statement, DIDH added that the Moroccan authorities “do not accept that an international organisation which purports to defend human rights systematically discredits the independence and impartiality of Moroccan justice, which has the full power to examine the validity of allegations concerning any abuse, either its nature or its author.”

Another point of divergence between the inter-ministerial delegation and the NGO is the conditions under which the Hirak detainees’ trials have taken place.

According to doctors’ reports … several detainees say that the police compelled them to sign their interrogation minutes without reading them

HRW wrote in its report.

However this was also dismissed as erroneous “conclusions” incompatible with the legal facts which confirm that “the arrest of a group of persons took place in the wake of the demonstrations in the province of Al-Hoceima due to acts contrary to law they allegedly committed.”

Many of those arrested since protests broke out in the Rif region in October last year following the death of a fishmonger in Al-Hoceima have claimed to have been tortured whilst detained and had their confessions extracted under force.

A video also surfaced showing the leader of the Hirak movement, Nasser Zefzafi showing torture marks on his body which was later dismissed as allegations.


According to Rabat, 66 medical examinations have taken place so far to determine whether there were traces of physical abuse and 23 cases have been opened for investigation.

“The apprehended persons have been subjected to strict procedures under the direct supervision of the competent public prosecutor, who has ensured the correct application of the law in the cases before them and respect for human rights, including the obligation to offer all guarantees of a fair trial to those arrested and the presumption of innocence,” the DIDH explained.

Over 150 protesters, including members of the Hirak movement have been arrested for taking part in weekly demonstrations calling on the government to better develop the Rif region and for greater employment opportunities.

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