<<previous  |  index  |  next>>

IX. Conclusion

The creation of a truth commission can contribute to fulfilling a state’s obligations toward victims of past abuse, and to reconciling a nation with its past.  The ERC has already accomplished much by giving victims a voice in public hearings around the country.  It has created a valuable archive on past abuses, and trained scores of Moroccans in the collection of human rights data.

But a full assessment of the ERC must wait.  Will it clarify what happened to the hundreds of persons who “disappeared” and whose fate is unknown?  Did it succeed in eliciting the cooperation of state agents in order to resolve these questions, and to expose the machinery of repression and identify its commanders?  What role will the ERC play in fulfilling the right of victims to reparation, in establishing an irrefutable account of historical events, and – looking toward the future – in curbing impunity and preventing a recurrence of future abuses?  The answers will become clearer in the months ahead as the ERC completes its final report and recommendations, and issues decisions on how victims are to be compensated.

Moroccan authorities have presented the ERC as proof of Morocco’s enlightenment on human rights, as “a major achievement for the consolidation of the democratic transition.”71 While the ERC is indeed evidence of human rights progress, it has operated during a period when that progress has been marred by setbacks: the repression of suspected Islamists and of independence activists in the Western Sahara, the continued prosecution of journalists and the forceful dispersing of peaceful demonstrations.

The ERC mandate does not include these present-day abuses.  But, like many other truth commissions, its mandate does include recommending measures, based on lessons drawn from the past, to prevent future abuses.  Will the ERC’s recommendations tackle the institutions that facilitated the commission of systematic and grave abuses in the past, and that continue to be problematic today: security services that are not accountable before the law, and courts that lack independence?  Will the ERC make recommendations about how to pursue suspected perpetrators of grave abuses, some of whom continue to occupy government posts?

The ERC’s answers to these questions will determine in part its legacy. But in the end, much depends on how Moroccan authorities follows through on the ERC’s recommendations.  A truth commission can advise, but responsibility resides with the state to ensure that security forces are held responsible for their actions, that Moroccans enjoy fully their rights to expression, assembly, and association, and that the courts ensure a fair trial for every suspect.  A Morocco that now moves resolutely in these directions will do more than anything else to consolidate the legacy of the ERC.

[71] Message of Mohamed VI to the 49th congress of the International Union of Lawyers on August 31, 2005, [online in French]

<<previous  |  index  |  next>>November 2005