<<previous  |  index  |  next>>

About this Report

This report is based on a mission conducted by Human Rights Watch researchers in January-February 2004, and on follow-up research.  The purpose of the mission was to document the treatment of those persons who had been arrested in the crackdown on suspected Islamist militants since the coordinated bombings in Casablanca on May 16, 2003.  Because of our focus on these recent cases, most of the suspects were either still in pretrial detention or in prison and therefore inaccessible for interviews.  For these cases, we relied on testimony and documents provided to us by lawyers and relatives who had met with the detainees.

Human Rights Watch’s researchers met with lawyers, human rights defenders, relatives of prisoners, journalists, diplomats, ex-detainees, and Moroccan officials, in Rabat, Casablanca, and Fez. We were generally able to conduct our work freely. In one instance, however, an ex-detainee declined to meet with us, explaining that he was under police surveillance. And in Fez, after a Human Rights Watch researcher had photographed the Court of Appeals, police stopped him and drove him to a police station, where he was questioned for almost one hour before being released.

Human Rights Watch wrote to Moroccan authorities prior to the arrival of the research team, informing them of the purpose of the visit and requesting meetings with pertinent officials.  On February 5, the delegation met with then-Minister of Human Rights Mohamed Aujjar.  The Human Rights Watch delegation also met, on February 3, with Driss Benzekri and Moustapha Iznasni.  Benzekri is secretary-general of the Advisory Council for Human Rights and president of the Commission on Equity and Reconciliation. Iznasni is a member of both bodies.

We were not granted our request to meet also with Minister of Justice Mohamed Bouzoubaâ or other appropriate officials in the justice ministry.  However, after our visit, Human Rights Watch wrote to the justice minister on May 7, 2004, summarizing the concerns that arose from our field research.  The ministry replied with a six-page letter on June 5, 2004.134 The response, like numerous official responses to similar allegations made in the past by other human rights organizations,135 categorically denies the allegations made in Human Rights Watch’s letter while underscoring the many human rights protections contained in Moroccan law.  Although we dispute many of the answers provided, Human Rights Watch welcomes the response as a sign of the importance that the government attaches to discussing human rights issues.   The ministry’s letter is reprinted as an appendix to this report.

Human Rights Watch is grateful to the many human rights lawyers and associations, journalists, ex-detainees, prisoners’ relatives, and diplomats who provided information to us.  Human Rights Watch wishes also to thank the government of Morocco for our meeting with the minister of human rights and for the written reply from the justice ministry to our letter of May 7, 2004.  We also wish to thank the Commission on Equity and Reconciliation for our meeting on February 3, 2004.

This report was written by Jamil Dakwar, Furman Fellow at Human Rights Watch, and Eric Goldstein, research director for the Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch.  It was edited by Joe Stork, Washington director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. Widney Brown, deputy program director of Human Rights Watch, and Wilder Tayler, legal and policy director of Human Rights Watch, reviewed the report. Tarek Radwan, associate of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch, provided production assistance.

[134] Appendix B is the English translation of the letter as provided by the Embassy of Morocco on August 12, 2004.

[135] A similar letter was sent to Amnesty International, dated March 30, 2004, and entitled, “Response of the Moroccan Justice Ministry to allegations of torture in Morocco.”  Other official statements, affirming Morocco’s attachment to human rights principles and denying specific allegations of abuse, are cited in the report by Amnesty International, Morocco/Western Sahara, Torture in the “Anti-Terrorism” Campaign.

<<previous  |  index  |  next>>October 2004