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Human Rights Developments

      King Hassan II took several dramatic steps affecting human rights in 1991, including releasing hundreds of political prisoners, closing down the secret detention center of Tazmamart, and endorsing a new law limiting the length of incommunicado detention. The public discussion of abuses was also freer than in previous years. While these developments helped to improve the overall human rights picture and raise hopes for continued progress, they did not alter the laws and institutions responsible for the systematic nature of abuses in Morocco.

      Repression during and after the Persian Gulf war revealed how tightly authorities continue to restrict political expression. Detainees under interrogation were routinely tortured and subjected to trials that failed to adhere to international standards of due process. Demonstrations and public meetings organized by opposition parties, trade unions and human rights organizations were often restricted, and publications were seized or banned because of their political content.

      The Moroccan judicial system is stacked against persons arrested on political or security grounds. Suspects are often tortured by the judicial police (police judiciaire) during incommunicado (garde à vue) detention until they sign a confession, and are then convicted on the basis of that confession alone. Morocco's judges, who are appointed by the executive branch, tend to dismiss summarily defense motions to examine evidence of torture or procedural irregularities during interrogation.

      Abuses of this nature were experienced by many of the suspects arrested in connection with riots that took place in Fez, Tangier and other cities on December 14 and 15, 1990, and by persons arrested for participating in "illegal" pro-Iraq demonstrations before and during the Gulf war.

      As of March 1991, some 850 Moroccans had been sentenced to up to fifteen years in prison in connection with the December riots, in trials of up to eighty-five defendants at a time. Most of the defendants had been charged with participating in the looting and violent demonstrations that broke out on December 14, the day that a general strike was declared by two major unions. Many of these defendants, as well as persons arrested for demonstrating during the Gulf war, were subjected to irregularities in arrest and pretrial procedures, and were convicted in unfair trials in which defense lawyers were given almost no time to prepare and judges dismissed motions to examine evidence of torture.77

      As rare as it may be for a defendant's allegations of torture to be examined by a judge, it is even more unusual for physical abuse to lead to punishment of the responsible parties. Middle East Watch is aware of no member of the security forces who has been charged with using excessive force in suppressing the December 1990 riots or any subsequent demonstration or disturbance. Only one case of abuse in detention led to legal action in 1991: six Casablanca policemen were arrested and charged in connection with the death of Lamseguem el-Hachmi, a thirty-six-year-old peddler and an activist in one of the legal opposition parties, who was arrested in a sweep of street vendors on September 21 and died the same day.78

      New limits on the duration of incommunicado detention and preventive detention (when a person is administratively placed in custody but not held incommunicado) were proposed by the officially created Consultative Council on Human Rights, described below, and approved by the king and Parliament in early 1991. To date, however, these reforms have not been promulgated.

      The proposed law would make the following changes:

o Incommunicado detention would be limited to four days except for a single extension for the same period when the investigation involves offenses against the internal or external security of the state. The current legal maximum in nearly all cases involving state security is twelve days. However, a 1971 law would remain on the books and allow authorities to exceed the new eight-day limit for offenses against state security in which the suspects are military personnel, or for certain offenses against state security in which the suspects are civilians.

o The new law would not give a detainee the right to legal counsel while being held incommunicado, but would allow a lawyer to be present when the detainee is brought before a prosecutor or judge at the end of his incommunicado detention.

o The new law would also limit preventive detention to two months, with up to five two-month renewals permitted when the investigation involves a grave crime and an order with an explanation is issued each time by a judge. Currently, preventive detention orders can be renewed indefinitely.

      The proposed law would be a step in the right direction. According to lawyers active in the independent Moroccan Organization for Human Rights (OMDH), the "spirit" of the law has already contributed to a reduction in the mistreatment of incommunicado detainees. However, the proposed legal limit of eight days on incommunicado detention would not by itself eliminate the torture of suspects, which regularly has occurred during the initial days of detention. Even under the new law, no independent persons are allowed access to detainees while they are being held incommunicado. Only enforcement of the procedural and criminal safeguards against torture will deter abuse.

      There are several hundred unresolved cases of suspected disappearance in Morocco. Most, but not all, involve Western Saharans, or Sahrawis. The government denies that it is holding any Sahrawis after releasing more than three hundred since June.

      The release of the Sahrawis was one of two dramatic improvements in 1991 with regard to disappearances in Morocco. The other was the closure in September of the secret detention center of Tazmamart, where sixty-one military personnel had been transferred in 1973 and held incommunicado since then in appalling conditions.79 These measures were major breakthroughs on two issues that previously the government had refused to address publicly.

      However, the breakthroughs were of limited scope. In neither case was any official information provided about those who had died while in secret detention. Furthermore, several hundred Sahrawis remained unaccounted for, and may still be in Moroccan custody, despite official denials.

      The inmates at Tazmamart had been sentenced to terms ranging from three years to life in prison for their roles in two abortive coup attempts in 1971 and 1972. None of them _ not even the more than fifty who had completed their terms _ was freed.

      In September, after years of denying the existence of Tazmamart, officials who insisted on anonymity indicated to the press that the detention center had been razed. Even then, the government continued to stonewall. It did not confirm who had been released and provided no information about the thirty inmates of Tazmamart who are believed to have died during their years of incarceration. Information was difficult to obtain also because the released inmates and their families were terrified to speak to outsiders. While it is known that two prisoners who had not yet completed their sentences were transferred to Kenitra prison, it was still not possible to ascertain as this report went to press how many of the remaining inmates had been released.

      Similarly, authorities provided no information when they released more than three hundred Sahrawis in the weeks following the king's declaration of a June 12 pardon for what the official press agency described as "all Sahrawis arrested during military operations or because of their secret agreement with enemies of the Kingdom's territorial integrity."80 They had been arrested between 1975 and 1987, most on the apparent grounds that either they or family members were allegedly members or sympathizers of the Polisario Front, the guerrilla movement fighting for the independence of the Western Sahara. Their release was the first official confirmation that any Sahrawis had been in Moroccan custody.

      The disappeared Sahrawis had been held under harsh conditions and deprived of all contact with the outside world. According to Amnesty International, at least forty-three inmates are said to have died at the secret detention center of Qal'at M'gouna, and hundreds more Sahrawis remain unaccounted for.81

      Human rights and humanitarian organizations have drawn up lists of Sahrawis who are still missing after the pardons, and have called on Morocco to provide further information on any other unacknowledged prisoners it may have held or is continuing to hold. Morocco's denial that it has any Sahrawis in custody is suspect in view of Morocco's past record of deception concerning these disappearances, and information collected by Amnesty International from recently released Sahrawis.

      In addition to the Sahrawis, King Hassan pardoned forty political prisoners who had been convicted for politically motivated offenses on August 16, including some of Morocco's longest-held prisoners who had been incarcerated for the peaceful expression of their views. These included Mohamed Srifi and Abderrahmane Nouda, arrested in 1974 and sentenced respectively to thirty years' and life imprisonment in an unfair trial in 1977 for founding illegal Marxist organizations and plotting to overthrow the monarchy; and Ali Idrissi Kaitouni, who received a fifteen-year prison sentence in 1982 on charges related to a book of political poems he had written. He was tried on charges of insulting the king and state institutions, inciting crimes against the internal security of the state, and publishing material liable to endanger public security.

      The Ministry of Information announced that the pardon had been granted to prisoners who, "after having strayed from the national consensus, had recognized that the regained Western Sahara was Moroccan, and asked the King to bestow upon them his general benevolence and blessing."82 Twelve of the pardoned prisoners promptly signed a statement denying that they had made any such profession.83

      The most prominent prisoner released in 1991 after having been held for the peaceful expression of his views was Abraham Serfaty, the engineer and activist in the outlawed Marxist group Ila al-Amam (Forward), who was given a life sentence in the same trial as Nouda, Srifi and 136 others in 1977 for founding illegal organizations and plotting the monarchy's overthrow. The king had resisted growing international pressure to release Serfaty, insisting that the possibility of a pardon was hindered by Serfaty's refusal to declare that the Western Sahara was Moroccan territory. In July 1991, just two months before changing his mind, the king told a French television interviewer, "As long as this man does not recognize that the [Western] Sahara is Moroccan, there will be no royal pardon for him."84

      The manner of Serfaty's release on September 13 occasioned criticism, since he was summarily expelled the same day to France. The government justified his deportation on the grounds that "a thorough examination of Serfaty's legal status revealed that he could not lay claim to Moroccan nationality," but was in fact Brazilian.85 No explanation was provided to explain how this discovery was made after Serfaty had served seventeen years of a life sentence, and most observers dismissed it as a flimsy pretext for removing him from Morocco. Serfaty also protested that three of his political associates who had been tried with him in 1977 _ Ahmed Ban Nacer, Abdullah el-Harif and Ahmed Rakiz _ remain in prison. (All three are believed to be held for the peaceful expression of their views.)

      The OMDH estimates that some 180 political prisoners remain in Moroccan prisons, of whom a majority are prisoners of opinion and a minority were convicted of politically motivated acts of violence. The OMDH list excludes those who had been sentenced in connection with the riots in December 1990 and the Gulf war demonstrations, as well as Western Saharans. The Paris-based Association for the Defense of Human Rights in Morocco (ASDHOM) counts some 750 political prisoners including the OMDH categories as well as those persons convicted in connection with the Gulf war demonstrations and major disturbances that took place in 1981, 1984 and 1990.

      The same arbitrary and personalized style of vindictive justice that was reflected in the Serfaty case was even more glaring in the king's treatment of the widow, six children, and cousin of former Defense Minister General Mohammed Oufkir. After General Oufkir was apparently executed for allegedly attempting a coup in 1972, the king put the Oufkir family in indefinite secret detention for no apparent reason other than their relation to the general.

      The Oufkir family remained confined for over eighteen years, despite international appeals for clemency. Finally, in March 1991, the government announced that the family was free to leave the farm near Marrakesh where they had been held most recently under house arrest. The Oufkirs moved to Rabat. However, while able to travel inside Morocco, they remain under surveillance, are unable to travel abroad, and face other government-imposed obstacles to resuming a normal life, according to the most recently available information.

      The right to travel abroad is one of many rights that are commonly denied to former prisoners who have been convicted of political and politically motivated offenses, including those who have been pardoned. Despite an announcement in 1990 by Minister of Interior Driss Basri that passport application procedures would be simplified, many former political prisoners found that they could not leave the country because their applications were never processed.

      The rights of association and assembly were violated frequently in 1991. After committing some 1,300 troops to the U.S.-led military buildup in the Persian Gulf, King Hassan seemed to have been caught off-guard by the intensity of opposition to the war against Iraq. The government allowed a few mass rallies where people could give vent to their feelings, but otherwise sought to muzzle dissent.

      In an interview on January 15, the king claimed to have arranged with political leaders to ensure that each party organized its own demonstration in a different city and no party staged a demonstration in a city where a rally organized by another party had already taken place.86 But, the king threatened, "if there is the slightest hint of disorder, we [meaning the king himself] will declare a state of siege, as the Constitution and the law empower us."87 When some opposition parties began urging the withdrawal of Moroccan troops from Saudi Arabia, he warned that criticism of the army's overseas mission constituted an attack on the morale of the troops and was prosecutable.88

      Most applications to hold pro-Iraqi rallies in January and February were either turned down or ignored by the authorities. But, at the last minute, the king decided to allow a general strike called by opposition parties and trade unions in solidarity with the Iraqi people on January 28. Bowing to popular hostility toward the U.S.-led war in the Gulf, the king also authorized a joint march organized by five leading opposition parties in support of the Iraqi people on February 3 in Rabat. An estimated 300,000 persons marched on that day. According to Agence France-Presse, a contingent of more than ten thousand highly disciplined supporters of the officially illegal Islamist movement were among the marchers.89

      Most applications to hold pro-Iraqi rallies in January and February were either turned down or ignored by the authorities. A march planned for February 24 in Casablanca by a group of unions and opposition parties was forbidden by the Ministry of Interior on the grounds that it "was of a type that would disturb the public order."90

      While various unauthorized demonstrations around the country were permitted to run their course, others were broken up by security forces using truncheons, sticks and sometimes tear gas. Over four hundred people were arrested for participating in demonstrations. According to Amnesty International, most were released after a few hours or days, but about one hundred were brought to trial and sentenced to up to fifteen months in prison on charges that included unauthorized assembly on the public highway and disturbing public order.91

      Like demonstrations, public meetings were sometimes prevented by the failure of sponsors to obtain the required permit. Under a 1973 law, meetings can be banned if the responsible authority determines that "the holding of the meeting would disturb or possibly disturb public order." More often, meetings are effectively prevented when authorities fail to respond to the application submitted by the sponsors.

      At the beginning of 1991, the al-Mawahib (the Talents) cultural association was prevented from holding a colloquium in Casablanca. In March, the Moroccan Human Rights Organization failed to obtain permission to hold a colloquium in Casablanca on the Gulf crisis. In October, representatives of a group of unemployed university graduates were refused permission without explanation to hold a meeting in Casablanca.

      Morocco's opposition press continued to test the limits of expression in 1991. It gave increasing coverage to human rights abuses, including the once-taboo topics of Tazmamart, political prisoners, and secret centers of detention. Such boldness incurs risks in a country where it is a punishable offense to advocate political systems other than a monarchy, to question Morocco's claim to the Western Sahara, to insult the king or Islam, or to defame or spread "false news" about public institutions.

      While few journalists are sent to prison, many receive suspended sentences or are ordered to pay fines. In December 1990, the director and editor of al-Ittihad al-Ishtiraki (Socialist Unity), the daily organ of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces, a left-leaning opposition party, received suspended sentences for a 1989 article criticizing conditions in Casablanca courts; the two have appealed. On December 20, 1990, Abdelkrim Ghallab, editor of the Istiqlal (Independence) Party daily al-Alam (The Flag), was charged with spreading false information about the number of casualties during riots one week earlier. His trial was suspended indefinitely a few days later. Al-Anoual (Variety), the weekly organ of the opposition Organization for Democratic and Popular Action, received a letter in April from Minister of Interior and Information Driss Basri, threatening legal action for articles critical of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and certain other Gulf states on the grounds that the articles threatened Morocco's vital interests.

      Publications deemed to threaten "public order" are subject to confiscation or banning by decree of the minister of interior. A new Arabic bi-weekly, al-Mouatin (The Citizen), which gave prominent coverage to the issue of the Tazmamart prison, found its first two issues seized and future issues forbidden by a decree on August 1. No explanation was provided. An Islamic-oriented magazine, as-Sabil (The Path), was also banned by decree.

Issues of foreign publications often have been banned when they covered human rights issues. In September, authorities seized the issue of the Paris daily Libération, which had given page-one coverage of the release of Abraham Serfaty. In July, issues of the French weekly L'Événement du jeudi and the satirical weekly Le Canard enchaîné were confiscated.

      Morocco television viewers continue to be deprived of TV-5, one of the most popular news sources before 1991. Reception of the foreign-based station, which packages French-language broadcasts from France, Belgium and Canada, has been all but impossible since government-controlled facilities stopped retransmitting it to Moroccan viewers in 1990. The apparent motive at the time was the government's fury at the media's interest in Gilles Perrault's savage biography of the king, Notre ami le roi (Our Friend the King).92 Although the government started retransmitting TV-5 briefly in late 1990, the broadcasts were again halted during the Gulf war and have not resumed.

      Morocco's independent television channel, MI2, continues to be available to viewers by subscription. Although it is owned by a relative of the king and provides only a mild alternative to state television, it is nevertheless one of the very few privately owned television stations in the Middle East and Africa.

      The government has launched a number of initiatives that reflect its growing sensitivity to its human rights image. In 1990, the king created the Consultative Council on Human Rights (CCDH) to advise him on human rights, and has endorsed a number of proposals that it submitted to him. However, despite its recommendations for limiting incommunicado and preventive detention as well as other recommendations described below, the CCDH has yet to show that it is a major force for the promotion of human rights in Morocco. There is no evidence that any of its initiatives have pressured the government to take actions beyond what it was already prepared to adopt.

      With the ministers of interior and justice and other officials as members, the CCDH operates under close government supervision, despite the participation of two of Morocco's independent human rights organizations, the OMDH and the Moroccan League for the Defense of Human Rights (LMDDH). The CCDH has been in session only a few times since its formation.

      In 1991, its credibility was harmed by its silence about the riots of December 14-15, 1990, despite having announced on December 31 that it had formed a commission of inquiry to investigate the events. The OMDH, by contrast, accused security forces of employing disproportionate force, declaring that "the use of firearms cannot be justified on the grounds that certain individuals were wielding clubs or iron bars, or were throwing stones or even setting fires."93

      The CCDH, in addition to its above-described proposals for reforming detention laws, submitted to the king proposals for bettering prison conditions and creating a network of "administrative courts." The CCDH also prepared a memorandum on the pardon of prisoners, to which the king alluded in announcing the release of forty political prisoners in August.94 Unlike Morocco's independent human rights organizations, however, the CCDH has never publicly urged the release of all political prisoners being held in Morocco.95

      It was not possible to evaluate the effect of the CCDH's recommendations on Morocco's generally poor prison conditions. According to the Moroccan representatives before the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHCR), the CCDH's recommendations had been approved by the king and implemented, and would lead to improved living conditions for prisoners.96

      The CCDH proposal on administrative courts was ostensibly intended to provide citizens with more access to the court system to challenge the actions of local authorities. The proposal has been approved by Parliament but not yet promulgated as law.

      The government's human rights offensive was also in evidence in its increasingly serious presentations before the UNHRC, which between November 1990 and October 1991 was engaged in its second periodic review of Morocco's compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Even at their best, however, Morocco's answers were evasive and disingenuous.

      Morocco's response to critical questions about Tazmamart were indicative of its evolving approach. At the opening session, the Moroccan representative claimed that Tazmamart existed only in the allegations of international human rights organizations.97 The presentation was full of arrogant denials and attacks on Amnesty International and "hostile" media, leading the committee to take the unusual step of continuing its scrutiny of Morocco at its next session, and asking, among other things, for clarifications on secret detention centers. At the final session in October 1991, Moroccan delegate Ali Atmani, president of the Chamber of the Supreme Court, asserted as an official in the Ministry of Justice that no secret detention centers existed under the jurisdiction of that Ministry (emphasis added), and added that the affair of the army officers [i.e., those at Tazmamart] was on its way to being settled.98

      In between these two sessions, Morocco was briefly considered at a session in July 1991, but the delegation from Rabat protested the presence of French television cameras in the chambers and, when the committee ruled that the cameras could stay because its deliberations were public, walked out. The embarrassing episode led the Moroccans to take a more cooperative approach. When the next session convened on October 22 in Geneva, the television cameras were back in the room, but the Moroccans did not walk out.

      The members of the UNHRC were clearly well-prepared. They asked tough questions and rebutted the Moroccan presentations on secret detention centers, the Oufkir family, freedom of expression, incommunicado detention, and discrimination against women99 and the tiny Bahai minority.100

      The Moroccan representatives stressed recent positive developments, such as the activities of the CCDH, the reform of the detention laws, the release of prisoners, and purported improvements in prison conditions. The representatives claimed that there was no gap in Morocco between law and practice, although mistakes were occasionally made by the police, as in other countries.101 Still, Morocco's overall presentation before the UNHRC was, relative to its earlier approach, an indication of heightened concern for its human rights image.

      In a field where most governments tend to dissemble, Morocco's penchant for stone-walling and lying about human rights matters continues to astonish. A few examples will indicate how far Morocco must go if it wishes to adopt a more productive discourse on human rights:

o For the eighteen years that sixty-one military personnel were secretly imprisoned at Tazmamart, officials never publicly acknowledged the existence of the prison.102 Even as anonymous officials were leaking reports in September to the press about Tazmamart's demolition, Interior Minister Driss Basri claimed, "As far as Tazmamart prison is concerned, I repeat, as His Majesty has said recently, it exists only in the minds and imagination of people who wish Morocco ill."103

o Just as the authorities never acknowledged the existence of the secret prison at Tazmamart, they never admitted to holding any of the Sahrawis who had disappeared since 1975. Even after it released over three hundred disappeared Sahrawis in 1991, the government continued to insist that it had nothing to do with the problem, telling the UNHRC that the alleged disappearances dated back to a period when Morocco had had no administration over the Western Sahara.104

o As for political prisoners, the king said that Morocco had none in a July 21 interview with French television, just as he and his ministers have done both previously and subsequently. Yet, the king saw nothing incongruous about stating in the same interview, "To declare that a part of the territory is not Moroccan is a crime against the state's security, to be judged by a military tribunal." He added that the Moroccan press was free except "the one thing that it is forbidden to do is ridicule the king."105

o Official lies surrounded the case of Abraham Serfaty both while he was in prison and upon his release. In his July 21 interview with French television, King Hassan asserted that Serfaty had been imprisoned for "laying bombs," when in fact Serfaty's conviction of offenses against "state security" did not mention his participation in any acts of violence.

o No less dubious was the official death toll for the riots in Fez, Tangier and other cities on December 14 and 15, 1990. While various human rights groups and reporters who culled hospital data estimated the deaths at between twenty-eight and over one hundred, the government has not budged from its official total of five dead.

The Right to Monitor

      The climate for human rights monitoring has been steadily improving in Morocco, although many obstacles remain. Since 1990, Morocco's three human rights organizations have spoken out with increasing regularity and frankness about abuses.106 They have conducted their own investigations, sent observers to trials, and provided legal defense in political cases. Their work has been covered by the local opposition and foreign press, and has contributed to the growing awareness worldwide of Morocco's human rights record. One remarkable achievement was the October 1990 release by the Moroccan Organization for Human Rights of a nineteen-page "counter-report" to the government's submission to the U.N. Human Rights Committee in Geneva.

      A telling sign of the improved climate was the lifting of the taboo against speaking publicly about the fate of the detainees at Tazmamart. In November 1990, after years of not daring to speak out, families of eleven inmates at Tazmamart addressed a letter, later made public, to the Justice Ministry asking for an end to their ordeal. Human rights organizations joined their call, and newspapers covered the mounting demands.

      Despite these encouraging signs of growing tolerance for criticism, the Moroccan government continued to impose limits on what could be said and done concerning human rights. Journalists, in particular, had to exercise self-censorship when criticizing human rights abuses, since, as explained above, they risked prosecution for the offenses of "defaming" or "spreading false news" about public institutions.

      Human rights organizations and their members faced no prosecutions or physical violence. In general, authorities neither harassed them nor cooperated with them. Officials rarely responded to letters or reports from the OMDH. Both the OMDH and the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) reported that their investigations into the riots of December 14-15, 1990 were stymied by local officials of the Interior Ministry and Health Ministries who refused to make available to them any information relating to the events. One result, the OMDH reported, was that it could not definitively establish the number of casualties that had occurred, at a time when, as noted above, the government was giving an unrealistically low figure.107

      In a rare act of intimidation, the names of four members of the OMDH's national bureau appeared on a list of approximately thirty names that Moroccan authorities in July sent to the offices of opposition parties. The authorities claimed that the individuals named had had relations with persons abroad who were hostile to Morocco's policies. Rejecting the government's "attempts to sow doubt about the nature of the legitimate struggle being waged by the OMDH," the organization affirmed on October 23 that any human rights activities conducted by the four members had been carried out on behalf of the organization. No further steps were taken by the authorities.

      The authorities also occasionally have blocked meetings called to address human rights or political issues. In March 1991, the OMDH was effectively denied permission to hold a colloquium on the Gulf crisis and international law. The colloquium was to have taken place in Casablanca, with the participation of the Tunisian and Algerian Leagues for Human Rights. Although no explanation was provided, officials apparently chose to ignore the OMDH's application because of the government's sensitivity to criticism of its military participation in the U.S.-led alliance against Iraq. It was not the first time that the OMDH was prevented from holding a public event because the required permission was withheld.

      Foreign human rights monitors continue to encounter obstacles to working in Morocco. Amnesty International has been denied access to Morocco since March 1990, when a research team was asked to leave the country. Repeated requests from Middle East Watch since 1990 to conduct a formal mission to Morocco have gone unanswered.

      A delegation of three European doctors who sought to examine inmates recently evacuated from Tazmamart was allowed into the country but was unable to meet with any of the them. The Justice Ministry refused to allow the physicians to visit the two inmates who had been transferred to Kenitra prison, while the inmates who had been given their freedom were too afraid of reprisals to meet the delegation.

      Two months before the release of her husband Abraham Serfaty from Kenitra prison, French citizen Christine Daure-Serfaty was told that she could no longer set foot in Morocco. Daure-Serfaty, who often had criticized Morocco's human rights record, particularly the secret prison of Tazmamart,108 was denounced by King Hassan in an interview with French television on July 21. Denying the existence of Tazmamart, the king said, "Testimony is only as good as the witnesses, and the main witness in this case is a person who has used and abused our hospitality. I have, by the way, informed [Daure-Serfaty] that she will no longer have the right to enter Morocco."109

      As for Serfaty himself, his summary expulsion to France upon his release from prison was also a blow to human rights monitoring in Morocco. The engineer and Marxist activist had, during his seventeen years in prison, issued public appeals on Tazmamart, prison conditions and other human rights issues.110 His voice, particularly on the issue for which freedom of expression remains most circumscribed _ the Western Sahara _ will now only be heard from abroad.

U.S. Policy

      In 1991, the Bush Administration played a role in the mounting international pressure on Morocco to improve its human rights record. The U.S. signaled its growing displeasure in its tough and frank assessment of Moroccan abuses in the State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in 1990, released in February 1991, and in a restatement of those concerns in testimony before subcommittees of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in June. Although these were the only prominent public criticisms of Morocco's human rights records, it is widely believed that these statements and more discreet U.S. pressure helped to persuade the king, in the month preceding his September visit to Washington _ his first official visit since 1983 _ to release Morocco's best-known political prisoner, Abraham Serfaty, together with forty other political prisoners, and to close the notorious secret detention center of Tazmamart. Events toward the end of 1991, however, raised doubts about whether the Administration intends to maintain pressure on Morocco over the continuing abuses that are less well known but systematic, now that the king has resolved, at least partially, some of the highest-profile and anomalous cases.

      The more aggressive stance on the part of the United States had been long awaited by Europe-based advocates of human rights in Morocco. They maintain that the king, who has stubbornly resisted human rights interventions from Europe, would be susceptible to pressure from Washington, which gives Morocco some $110 to 125 million in aid annually and enjoys excellent relations with the government.

      For fiscal year 1992, the Administration has requested $113 million for Morocco. This includes $40 million in foreign military financing (a long-term concessional loan), $1.1 million for the International Military Education and Training program, $12 million in Economic Support Funds (budgetary support for the government), $23 million in development assistance, and $36.7 million in food aid. The Administration justifies aid to Morocco on the grounds of good bilateral relations, the country's strategic location, the Moroccan government's tolerance of multipartyism and advocacy of market economics, and its moderate views on regional issues, notably the Arab-Israeli conflict.111 In 1991, moreover, Morocco sent a small contingent of troops to participate in the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq.

      The charter on Morocco in the State Department's Country Reports for 1990 accurately depicts both the range and magnitude of human rights abuses, and clearly reflects the work of Moroccan and international human rights organizations. In some respects the report is more critical than the already blunt report for 1989. For example, it devotes a paragraph to the notorious secret prison of Tazmamart, which went unmentioned in the 1989 report. The section on torture is presented in the voice of the State Department, unlike the 1989 report, which tended to attribute the allegations of abuse to others.

      Regrettably, the chapter omits the issue of the hundreds of Sahrawis who reportedly are being held secretly in Moroccan detention centers.112 The section on disappearances states dismissively that "there have been few permanent disappearances in recent years, and none was reported in 1990," as if unresolved disappearances are of interest only if they occurred recently.

      The chapter's overall candor was admirably reproduced in congressional testimony by the Administration on June 19. Speaking before the House Subcommittees on Africa and on Human Rights and International Organizations, James Bishop, senior deputy assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs, spoke of political reforms that "did not materialize," restrictions on free speech, the "brutal" conditions at Tazmamart, unfair trials of suspected participants in the violent riots of December 14-15, 1990, and "continu[ing] credible reports of torture and mistreatment of persons held under detention, particularly during the period of incommunicado, or garde à vue, detention."

      There have been few visits by senior Administration officials to Morocco in recent years. On August 3, Secretary of State James Baker had long meetings with King Hassan in Rabat, primarily on the subject of the forthcoming Middle East peace talks. Although Baker and his staff did not use the occasion to comment publicly on human rights concerns, Le Monde reported that he had pressed privately on human rights matters,113 at a time when the king's subsequent visit to Washington had already been announced.

      In the seven weeks between Baker's visit and the king's arrival in Washington, the king took the above-mentioned dramatic steps on a number of Morocco's most notorious human rights cases. It is probably no coincidence that the only Tazmamart inmate whose release was publicly confirmed before the king's departure for Washington was Lieutenant M'barek Touil, whose wife is a U.S. citizen.

      However, all of these steps were doubled-edged. Political prisoner Abraham Serfaty was released, but immediately expelled from his country on the false pretext that he was Brazilian. The secret detention center of Tazmamart was closed and several of the inmates were released, but no accounting has been provided of the thirty military men believed to have died there. Some forty political prisoners were pardoned on August 16, but a far larger number of prisoners detained for peaceful expression of their opinions remain behind bars in Morocco.

      In light of these qualifications, and the above-described very limited accomplishments to date of the Consultative Council on Human Rights, President Bush sent the wrong signal when in his welcoming speech in Washington on September 26 he saluted without qualification the king's human rights accomplishments:

    Morocco is also responding to the call to all governments to recognize the rights of their people. In this regard the United States applauds Your Majesty's recent release of political prisoners, your establishment of the Royal Consultative Council on Human Rights in Morocco, and I know Morocco will not be deterred from this courageous course.

Such unqualified praise gave the impression that the United States would be satisfied with the partial resolution of some of the high-profile human rights cases, and willing to ignore Morocco's more mundane, systematic abuses.

      At no occasion during the king's visit did the Administration dispel that impression. Nor was it dispelled during congressional hearings two weeks after the king's visit, when Ambassador Bishop, who had testified so forcefully on Moroccan abuses in June, gave an indifferent presentation at a hearing on the Western Sahara before the same two subcommittees. The State Department's written testimony ignored the issue of the Western Saharan disappeared, and in his oral remarks, Bishop commented only that:

    We understand that some 250 to 300 Western Saharans were freed from Moroccan prisons [in June 1991]. The Moroccans said that that was the total number who were confined. We do not know whether indeed that was the case. We're attempting to refine our information.

Asked what the State Department was doing about the problem, Bishop replied, "We have expressed our concern and we have asked the Moroccan government for further information."

      Ambassador Bishop should have voiced greater skepticism about Morocco's claim that it had freed all the Western Saharans it was holding, particularly since, neither before nor after releasing groups of them in 1991, has Morocco publicly acknowledged or provided information about the Sahrawis in its custody. Like many detained Moroccans, the released Sahrawis had been held in secret detention centers under harsh conditions, some since 1975. Amnesty International charges that Morocco may still be holding some of the several hundred Sahrawis who remain unaccounted for.

      The Bush Administration may have eased human rights pressure on Morocco in the fall because of the delicate international initiatives getting under way to resolve the Western Saharan and Arab-Israeli conflicts. Morocco is, of course, central to the former and a potential U.S. ally in the latter. But to soft-pedal human rights at this time would jeopardize the prospects for continuing recent improvements in human rights in Morocco and, in the case of the Western Sahara, threaten to undermine the foundation on which a durable peace can be built.

      U.S. pressure in 1991 was particularly timely because it complemented growing pressure from Europe to improve Morocco's human rights record. In 1990, the king's poor record on this score was front-page news in France when Gilles Perrault's unflattering profile of the king, Notre ami le roi became a bestseller. Sales of the book were helped by the clumsy and unsuccessful efforts by Moroccan officials to prevent it from being distributed or even covered by the French media.

      The European Parliament has condemned human rights conditions in Morocco on several occasions, including a November 21 resolution calling for the release of all political prisoners and protesting the refusal of authorities to permit a team of European doctors to visit the two former inmates of Tazmamart who had been transferred to Kenitra prison.

      The parliament's activism on human rights in Morocco prompted the dispatch of a delegation from the king's Consultative Council on Human Rights to attend parliamentary deliberations on this subject in November 1990. Concerned about its economic ties with Europe, Morocco can ill afford to ignore what happens at the Parliament in Strasbourg.

      Morocco has been in the spotlight partly because of the stepped-up efforts, particularly by the United Nations, to end the sixteen-year conflict in the Western Sahara and to organize a referendum in 1992. Morocco's human rights record has also received greater attention due to the rapid evolution of its neighbor, Algeria, from a relatively repressive state to one far more tolerant than Morocco of political expression and activism. The last two years have revealed limits to King Hassan's stubbornness in the face of international action on human rights. Meaningful improvements have taken place under simultaneous pressure from the United States and Europe. However, for the much-needed institutionalization of reform in Morocco, such pressure must be maintained.

The Work of Middle East Watch

      In June, Middle East Watch testified on human rights in Morocco before the House Subcommittees on Africa and on Human Rights and International Organizations. Shortly before King Hassan's visit to Washington in September, Middle East Watch issued a newsletter criticizing Morocco's denial of passports to former political prisoners.

      France's expulsion of the Moroccan dissident Abdelmoumen Diouri in July prompted a letter of protest to French authorities from Middle East Watch and a short newsletter. The French Interior Ministry had been pressuring Diouri to limit his political activity in France and to refrain from publishing in France, A Qui Appartient le Maroc? (Who Owns Morocco?), his manuscript on King Hassan's vast wealth and financial dealings. Diouri's expulsion order, which many believed was issued to please King Hassan, was later rescinded, and Diouri was permitted to return to France. Both French and Moroccan authorities denied that the two countries' bilateral relations were a factor in the expulsion.

      Middle East Watch met in the course of the year with several prominent members of the Moroccan Organization for Human Rights. In December 1990, Middle East Watch brought the president of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, Mohamed el-Hihi, to New York and Washington as part of a week-long program to honor human rights monitors from around the world.

See Amnesty International, "Morocco: Update on Human Rights Violations," March 1991. The independent Moroccan Organization for Human Rights also denounced unfair trials of both groups of defendants in communiques of January 9 and 23, 1991. The latter describes how, on January 22, a court of first instance in Fez refused a defense motion to order a medical expert to examine marks on the bodies of the defendants who had been arrested four days earlier in a demonstration.

2 Libération (Rabat), November 15, 1991. Morocco has signed the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1984, but has not yet ratified it.

One inmate was permitted to correspond infrequently with his American wife. All other letters to the outside world had to be smuggled out. See generally Middle East Watch, "Deaths in a Secret Detention Center," April 1990.

Maghreb Arab Presse, English service, June 13, 1991, as reported in Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), June 17, 1991.

"Morocco: Amnesty International's Concerns, February-June 1991," July 1991, pp. 5-6.

Agence France-Presse, August 15, 1991.

Agence France-Presse, August 22, 1991.

"'L'immigration ne doit pas tendre vers l'intégration,' déclare le roi Hassan II," Le Monde, July 23, 1991. The Moroccan ambassador to the United States, Mohammed Belkhayat, told Middle East Watch in April that the only obstacle to Serfaty's release was his refusal to ask the king for a pardon, as other political prisoners were said to have done.

Serfaty's grandfather had reportedly lived for a long time in Brazil. Libération (Paris), September 14-15, 1991.

The Moroccan League for the Defense of Human Rights and the Moroccan Association for Human Rights protested one week later the government's ban on demonstrations organized by more than one opposition party.

Moroccan television in Arabic, as reported in FBIS, January 16, 1991.

Agence France-Presse, February 2, 1991.

Agence France-Presse, February 3, 1991. See also "Moroccans March in Support of Baghdad," Financial Times, February 4, 1991.

Agence France-Presse, February 18, 1991.

"Morocco: Update on Human Rights Violations," March 1991.

Éditions Gallimard, 1990.

"Rapport additif sur la situation des droits de l'homme au Maroc," May 8, 1991.

Maghreb Arab Presse in English, August 15, 1991, as reported in FBIS, August 16, 1991.

The AMDH and the LMDDH have urged a general amnesty for political prisoners since at least 1988. "Maroc: pour une amnistie des détenus politiques," Le Monde, December 28, 1988. The OMDH urged their release on repeated occasions, for example, its "Communiqué du bureau national, a l'occasion du deuxième anniversaire de l'OMDH," December 10, 1990.

Human Rights Committee, 43rd Session, Summary record of the 1094th meeting, October 22, 1991, p.3. In November 1990, Morocco's representative had told the committee that the Moroccan Ministry of Justice was working on a new law regulating the conditions in detention that would be completely compatible with all U.N. regulations on minimum conditions for prisoners. (Cited in "Examen du deuxième rapport périodique du Maroc," Libération weekly [Rabat], June 21, 1991.) According to the OMDH, the only concrete improvements made so far have been the closing of two of Morocco's worst prisons and the opening of a new facility in Salé. The OMDH told Middle East Watch in December 1991 that Morocco's prisons hold four times their capacity.

"Human Rights Committee Suspends Consideration of Moroccan Report," United Nations Press Release, November 9, 1990, p. 8.

Human Rights Committee, 43rd Session, Summary Record of the 1094th Meeting, October 22, 1991, pp. 13 and 16.

Among the issues discussed at the UNHRC hearings were the all-male composition of Morocco's Parliament (although a handful of women candidates ran unsuccessfully in the last election), and the Family Code which bars a Muslim woman from marrying a non-Muslim man unless he converts, but imposes no such condition on Muslim men in their choice of spouse. (Human Rights Committee, 43rd Session, Summary Record of the 1096th meeting, October 23, 1991, pp. 4-5.) It is also worth noting that a married woman cannot obtain a passport without her husband's permission. (See "Human Rights Committee Suspends Consideration of Morocco Report," UN Press Release, November 8, 1990, p. 4.)

The Moroccan representative confirmed to the UNHRC that Morocco's Bahais, estimated by the State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in 1990 to number 150 to 200, cannot practice their religion in public. He said that Bahai'ism is a departure from Islam and a by-product of British colonialism in the Middle East. (Human Rights Committee, 43rd Session, Summary Record of the 1096th meeting, October 23, 1991, p.3.) According to the Country Reports, Bahais also encounter difficulty when they apply for passports.

Human Rights Committee, 43rd Session, Summary Record of the 1094th meeting, October 22, 1991, p.17.

For an account of Amnesty International's unsuccessful efforts over ten years to obtain any substantive response to its inquiries on Tazmamart, see its report, Morocco: A Pattern of Political Imprisonment, 'Disappearances' and Torture, March 1991, pp. 46-47.

Agence France-Presse, September 18, 1991.

Human Rights Committee, 43rd Session, Summary Record of the 1094th meeting, October 22, 1991, p.17.

A text of the interview appears in Maroc soir, July 22, 1991.

They are the Moroccan Organization for Human Rights, founded in 1988; the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, founded in 1979; and the Moroccan League for the Defense of Human Rights, founded in 1972. The three organizations, together with the Association of Moroccan Jurists and the Moroccan Lawyers Association, signed a National Charter of Human Rights in December 1990.

"Rapport additif sur la situation des droits de l'homme au Maroc," May 8, 1991, pp. 2-3. See also Solidarité, the newsletter of the AMDH, April 1991, p. 8.

See, e.e., Christine Daure-Serfaty, "Les morts-vivants de Tazmamart," Le Monde, July 27, 1991.

"L'immigration ne doit pas tendre vers l'intégration," déclare le roi Hassan II," Le Monde, July 23, 1991.

See, e.g., Le Monde, December 18, 1990, which carried a description by Serfaty of conditions in which political prisoners are held.

See the Department of Defense's presentation to Congress on security assistance programs for fiscal year 1991.

See, e.g., Amnesty International, "Morocco: 'Disappearances' of People of Western Saharan Origin," November 1990.

According to Jacques de Barrin, "La mort d'un bagne fantôme," Le Monde, September 22-23, 1991, Secretary Baker reportedly stressed to officials the importance that the United States attached to the speedy resolution of the Tazmamart problem. A State Department official refused to confirm this account to Middle East Watch.

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