The U.S. and French governments should declassify files relating to the 1965 “disappearance” of Moroccan opposition leader Mehdi Ben Barka, human rights organizations said today in letters to the French and U.S. authorities.
Ben Barka was intercepted by French policemen on a Paris street October 29, 1965, driven away in a police vehicle and never seen again. Moroccan officials were long suspected of engineering the operation, though none was ever punished for the crime. French officials were suspected of complicity in the abduction, while recent revelations by a retired Moroccan police agent suggest that agents of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency were at the very least intimately aware of the plot as it was being prepared and carried out.
The mystery surrounding the fate of Ben Barka, a major figure in Moroccan politics and in the Third World movement internationally, continues to loom large in Morocco. Important actors in civil society are demanding truth and accountability with respect to the savage repression practiced by the government against dissidents during the 1960s and 1970s.
In response to a request made under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act in 1976, the Central Intelligence Agency acknowledged possession of more than 1,800 documents pertaining to Ben Barka but refused to release them. In today’s letter to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Human Rights Watch and the International Federation of Human Rights stated that a new request to declassify the documents would be filed in coming days.
Today’s letter to French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin (also available in English here), signed by Human Rights Watch, the International Federation of Human Rights, and the French League for Human Rights, endorsed a recent request by a French judge in charge of investigating Ben Barka’s disappearance that the French government release all documents pertaining to the affair.