MoroccoAn NGO condemns “techniques of repression” against opponents
Human Rights Watch says that many journalists have been convicted of common crimes in unfair practices as a form of repression.
Many Moroccan journalists and dissidents have been the target of “repressive tactics” developed by Moroccan authorities for common law crimes, particularly sexual crimes, aimed at silencing them, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a published report. “While striving to maintain Morocco’s image as a rights-respecting country, the authorities are using a whole manual of manual techniques to suppress opponents,” said Lama Fakih, HRW’s Middle East and North Africa director. The New York-based human rights organization observes that these techniques “create an ecosystem of repression that not only confuses critical voices, but also aims to intimidate all potential opponents of the Moroccan state.”
“Serious Violations of the Law”
In this 141-page document, he relies on a detailed study of the cases of eight journalists and protesters to support “practical deficiencies in the handling of these cases”, which are actually “disguised political attacks”. Among the well-known cases: Omar Radi and Souleymane Raisoni, two independent journalists sentenced to six years and five years in prison respectively in 2022 on appeal for “sexual assault” (and the first “espionage”). Another journalist, Taoufik Bouachrine, an influential Arabic-language columnist, has been imprisoned since 2018, sentenced to fifteen years for “rape” and “human trafficking”.
All three deny the allegations, saying they were targeted for their views critical of the authorities. Officials, they say, ensure that justice is independent and that these beliefs “have nothing to do” with their journalistic work. But according to HRW, “trials targeting opponents are often marred by serious violations of due process and the right to justice”.
For example, the NGO referred to MM’s “prolonged and unjustified” pre-trial detention. One year is the maximum period provided by Radi and Raisoni, Moroccan law. It refers to the denial of justice “without giving reasonable arguments and summoning witnesses necessary for the defence”, or judgments pronounced in the absence of the accused, according to historian and human rights defender Madi Monjib.
The Shadow of Pegasus Affair
In addition, the HRW report condemns “brutal defamation campaigns” carried out by media “affiliated with the Moroccan security services”, citing Chouf TV sites – “specializing in defamatory videos and articles” – Le360 and Barlamane. These “harassment and intimidation” campaigns are doubled by “digital and video surveillance,” particularly through the Pegasus spyware designed by the Israeli firm NSO, the NGO notes.
Last summer, Morocco was accused of using Pegasus to hack into the phones of several national and foreign public figures, according to an extensive investigation based on data obtained by the international media conglomerate Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International. The Moroccan government has categorically denied “these false and baseless accusations” and launched several legal actions, particularly in France, where justice recently ruled these actions unacceptable.
In its recommendations, Human Rights Watch urges Moroccan authorities to “respect the right to peaceful expression and privacy.” He also urges “an end to methods used against critical journalists, human rights defenders and civil society activists”. For its investigation, HRW said it interviewed 89 people inside and outside Morocco. When questioned in parliament on Monday about the “practices of some foreign human rights organizations”, Justice Minister Abdelatef Ouabi responded that Morocco accepts their observations but “rejects the exploitation of reports in bad faith for political purposes”.
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