August 22, 2011

Taïeb Charkaoui

Minister of Interior

Quartier administratif

Rabat, Kingdom of Morocco

 

Your Excellency,

 

I write this letter to call your attention to the case of Abdelkrim Mouti’, one of the few remaining political exiles from “the Years of Lead” whom the government continues to prevent from returning to Morocco, possibly along with members of his family. In the case of his relatives, there appears to be no reason for obstacles to their return to Morocco other than their kinship with Mouti’, now 77 years old.

In 1980, a Moroccan court convicted Mr. Mouti’, who headed the Shabiba Islamiyya organization, in connection with the December 1975 assassination of Socialist Union of Popular Forces leader Omar Benjelloun and sentenced him, in absentia, to life in prison.

Mr. Mouti’ was abroad at the time of the murder and has always proclaimed his innocence in the affair.

Human Rights Watch has not studied the murder trial and conviction of Mr. Mouti’,norhis subsequent in absentia trialsin 1982 and 1985 that resulted in two death penalties on charges of endangering the security of the state. We also are unclear on what statutes of limitation under Moroccan law might apply to his case and their effect on his past convictions. We do know that in the 1980s, the trials of many political opposition leaders were marred by violations of the right to present an adequate defense, as protected under international law.

We remain concerned that authorities have without explanation refused Mr. Mouti’, who lives in Libya, a new passport since his departure from Morocco in November 1975, and refused to allow his return to Morocco. The family has had numerous contacts with senior Moroccan officials to request a passport renewal and permission for him to enter Morocco, including most recently in 2011 with a senior diplomat at the Embassy of Morocco in Sweden.

These meetings with officials have failed to enable Mr. Mouti’ to renew his passport or lift the ban on his return home. According to a relative of Mr. Mouti’, a diplomat at the Moroccan embassy in Tripoli, Libya, advised the family in 2005 that Mr. Mouti’, before attempting to return, should not rely on the expiration of the statute of limitations in the cases against him, but rather should wait for an imminent and explicit royal amnesty. No amnesty for Mr. Mouti’ has been forthcoming.

Human Rights Watch is concerned that authorities may be preventing the return of Mr. Mouti’ to Morocco partly or wholly because of his continued public criticism of those in power. For example, he sent an open letter (http://alhoob-alsdagh.ba7r.org/t8624-topic and www.youtube.com/watch?v=wulRAxE-RQI&feature=player_embedded) to King Mohammed VI in February 2011, urging him to respect the rights of the people, criticizing members of the king’s entourage, and asserting that the Islamist movement is here to stay despite the late King Hassan II’s effort to stamp it out.

Moreover, the ban on Mr. Mouti’ returning to Morocco may extend to members of his immediate family, identified below. Until 2002, they said that they were unable to obtain passports, apparently for no reason other than their kinship with Mr. Mouti’. They finally got passports in 2002, but, according to one family member, a senior Moroccan diplomat in Libya warned the family against returning until the case of Mr. Mouti’ was resolved. This is among the reasons that, until today, the family of Mr. Mouti’ hesitates to attempt to travel to Morocco. The family members are the wife of Mr. Mouti’, Khadija Mouti’, and his six children.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes the principle that “[e]veryone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Morocco has ratified, similarly establishes that “[n]o one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.”

It seems that Mr. Mouti’ and, possibly, his wife and children, are being arbitrarily denied their right to enter their own country, a practice that seems incompatible with the notable efforts Morocco is making to consolidate the rule of law and the protection of human rights.

If the facts presented here are inaccurate or incomplete, or if there is a legal basis for the long-standing refusal to renew the passports of Mr. Mouti’ and his family and to allow them to re-enter Morocco, I would be grateful to receive from you additional information. If there is no legal basis for the refusal to renew Mr. Mouti’s passport, we request that the Ministry of Interior renew it immediately and advise Mr. Mouti of the steps he should take to ensure its successful renewal abroad.

As for Mr. Mouti’s relatives, if the information presented here is accurate, it is understandable that they perceive travel to Morocco as either forbidden to them or risky, despite their possession of Moroccan passports. We therefore request that you send them official, written assurances that there is nothing impeding their safe return to their homeland.

Thank you for your consideration.

 

Sarah Leah Whitson

Executive Director

Middle East and North Africa Division

 

* Certain personal details have been deleted from this version of the letter upon request *