Report on Human Rights
Practices for 1996Morocco
The Constitution of Morocco provides for a monarchy with a parliament
and an independent judiciary. Ultimate authority, however, rests
with the King, who may at his discretion terminate the tenure
of any minister, dissolve the Parliament, and rule by decree.
The present Parliament was created in 1993 through a two-stage
process: 222 deputies were elected by direct universal suffrage,
and an additional 111 were selected by labor syndicates, professional
organizations, and local authorities. The Cabinet continues to
be composed largely of technocrats. Parliamentary elections are
expected in 1997, following the September 13, 1996 referendum
on the creation of a second legislative chamber. The referendum
was approved by 99 percent of the vote. The Government reported
that 82 percent of the electorate voted, although most observers
believe this figure is exaggerated.
The security apparatus includes several overlapping police and
paramilitary organizations. The border police, the national security
police, and the judicial police are departments of the Ministry
of Interior, while the Royal Gendarmerie reports directly to the
Palace. The security forces continued to commit human rights
Morocco has a mixed economy based largely on agriculture, fishing,
light industry, phosphate mining, tourism, and remittances from
citizens working abroad. Illegal cannabis production is also
a significant economic activity. While a series of debilitating
droughts has challenged generally strong economic growth in recent
years, good rainfall during the year was expected to contribute
to an economic upswing.
The Government's human rights record remained largely the same
as the preceding year. Security forces occasionally abuse and
torture detainees and prison conditions remain harsh. The Government's
anti-contraband (assainissement) campaign resulted in numerous
violations of citizen's human rights. Allegations of arbitrary
arrest and physical abuse increased in the wake of this campaign,
and the Government failed to investigate thoroughly allegations
of abuse by security forces. The then-Minister for Human Rights
resigned, citing excesses committed by security forces during
this campaign. The King then appointed the Minister of Justice
as Minister of Human Rights, although the Ministry of Justice
is considered by some to be one of the primary obstacles to improved
Citizens do not have the right to change their government. The
judiciary is subject to corruption and Interior Ministry influence.
The authorities at times ignore due process rights and infringe
on citizens' privacy rights. The Government restricts freedom
of speech and the press in certain areas, and limits the freedoms
of assembly, association, religion, and movement. While the Government
generally tolerates peaceful
protests and sit-ins, it does not tolerate marches and demonstrations.
On three occasions during the year, including on the eve of a
1-day general strike in June and during a female textile workers
demonstration in March, several protesters were seriously beaten,
and scores were arrested. Discrimination and domestic violence
against women are common. Child labor is a problem, and the Government
has not acted to end the plight of young girls who work in exploitive
domestic servitude. Unions are subject to government interference.
A large number of the allegations of governmental human rights
abuse involve the Ministry of Interior. The Ministry is responsible
for: The direction of most security forces; the conduct of elections,
including cooperation with the United Nations in a referendum
on the Western Sahara; the appointment and training of many local
officials; the allocation of local and regional budgets; the oversight
of university campuses; and the licensing of associations and
political parties. Less formally, the Ministry exerts substantial
pressure on the judicial system.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
Although no deaths of persons in police custody could be conclusively
attributed to security force brutality, there were several instances
of death under suspicious circumstances that remain unresolved.
In January Yahya Salhi was found dead in the Oujda gendarmerie
detention center. Salhi had been arrested 2 days earlier for
theft. Officials allege that Salhi committed suicide.
In February Babeha Lahssen died while in custody at the gendarmerie
center in Khemisset. According to human rights activists, Lahssen
was arrested following a fight with a tribal chief. Several days
after the arrest, Lahssen's family was informed that he had committed
suicide. The Lahssen family's request for an autopsy was reportedly
denied by the Court of First Instance.
In May 16-year-old Abdelhamid M'rabet died while in police custody
in Tangier. Press reports state that M'rabet was arrested during
a fight with a local police officer's son. In the course of the
arrest, M'rabet was reportedly severely beaten about the head.
He died shortly after arriving at the police station. Tangier
officials detained the arresting officer and launched an investigation.
The outcome of the investigation has not been made public.
Hussein El Mernissi was arrested on July 11 and died the next
day at Asfi police station, purportedly taking his own life.
The Moroccan Organization for Human Rights (OMDH) has filed a
court action regarding this case, demanding that a second autopsy
In May Jalal Mohamed died in prison. Human rights activists attribute
his death to official negligence (see Section 1.c.).
Human rights organizations continue to complain that security
forces too often act with impunity; deaths in custody and other
instances of potential abuse are not thoroughly investigated.
None of the cases outstanding from 1995 have been publicly resolved.
These include the deaths in custody of Hamza Daghdagh and Mustapha
Benderweesh. However, in October a court acquitted two police
officers accused of the 1993 torture death of Mustapha Hamzaoui
and earlier cases. Since October local media reported four other
cases of persons who died while in police custody: Mohamed Fedaoui;
Omar Bouhdoun; Said Hammouch; and Rachid Rami.
Detainees claimed that several prisoners died during the year
due to harsh prison conditions and inadequate medical care (see
There were no new cases of disappearance during the year. This
contrasts with 1995 when there were reports of over 20. However,
the practice of the forced disappearance of individuals who opposed
the Government and its policies dates back several decades. Many
of those who disappeared were members of the military who were
implicated in attempts to overthrow the Government in 1971 and
1972. Others were Sahrawis or Moroccans who challenged the Government's
claim to the Western Sahara or other government policies. Many
of those who disappeared were held in secret detention camps.
To this day, hundreds of Saharan and Moroccan families do not
have any information about their missing relatives, many of whom
have been missing over 20 years.
The Government continues to deny that it has any knowledge of
the whereabouts of those still missing. In recent years it has
quietly released several hundred persons who had disappeared,
including about 300 in June 1991, but no explanation for their
incarceration has ever been provided. Local human rights monitors
have concluded that many others died while at the notorious Tazmamart
Prison, which has since been closed. The Government has acknowledged
34 of these deaths and has provided death certificates to the
families of all but 1 of the 34 who died.
OMDH and other human rights organizations continued to pursue
the issue of unresolved disappearances. OMDH reports that its
efforts to meet with the Minister of Justice and Human Rights
to discuss this issue have been unsuccessful.
There were no developments in the disappearance of Abdullah Sherrouq,
a student, who was reportedly detained by security services on
June 22, 1981. After 15 years, his family has still been unable
to learn anything of his whereabouts or his fate, despite appeals
by Amnesty International.
A group representing Tazmamart prison survivors and the families
of persons who disappeared continues to call for an accounting
of unresolved cases, compensation to families of those who disappeared,
proper burial of victims' remains, and prosecution of responsible
officials. The Government has not responded to their demands.
The Government continued to pay a small monthly stipend to the
28 former prisoners who survived 18 to 20 years in solitary confinement
at Tazmamaart prison--without health care or sanitary facilities.
The 28 are former military men who had been arrested in connection
with the failed coup attempts in 1971 and 1972. After their release,
the Government prohibited them from speaking out publicly about
their detention. In exchange, the Government gave the 28 assurances
that it would help them find jobs and reintegrate them into society.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment
Morocco ratified the U.N. Convention against Torture in 1993.
The Government claims that the use of torture has been discontinued,
but newspapers and other sources indicate that security forces
still abuse and torture detainees. The fact that detainees are
not allowed to have contact with family or lawyers during the
first 48 hours of incarceration (see Section 1.d.) increases the
likelihood of torture and abuse.
According to local human rights advocates, one of the problems
in documenting torture and abuse is that autopsies are not routine.
They are only carried out at the request of the state prosecutor
and at the order of a judge. The lack of autopsies indicates
that follow-up investigations into deaths in custody are inadequate.
In June OMDH issued a report charging that torture is still prevalent.
OMDH officials attribute the phenomenon to officials' attempts
to elicit information from detainees in the anticontraband and
antinarcotics campaigns. In addition, the report charges that
allegations of abuse are frequently not investigated, and that
officials often act with impunity.
In January the press and human rights organizations reported eyewitness
accounts that those arrested during the Government's anticontraband
campaign were subjected to physical abuse and torture during interrogation.
There were also reports of due process violations and irregularities
in the course of their trials (see Section 1.e.). Government
officials have denied that any abuses occurred.
In April defendants arrested during a government antinarcotics
crackdown charged that they had been subjected to abuse while
in police custody. They also alleged that their signed confessions
had been obtained through police pressure and coercion.
Although prison conditions remain harsh, they have reportedly
improved in recent years, due in part to reforms undertaken at
the suggestion of the Royal Consultative Council of Human Rights.
Nonetheless, credible reports indicate that harsh treatment and
conditions continue, with state security prisoners more likely
to be victimized. On October 24, detainees at Kenitra central
prison sent an open letter countering the Government's assertions
that the prisons are being reformed and detailing the poor conditions
at Kenitra. The prisoners, mostly political and Islamist detainees,
alleged that the prison lacks the most basic needs, including
ventilation and medical care. The letter states that seven prisoners
died this year and alleged medical neglect. Causes of death ranged
from cancer and tuberculosis to injuries sustained through physical
assault. In May Jalaal Mohamed, a prisoner at El-Jadida Civil
Prison, died while unloading a supply truck. Mohamed reportedly
suffered from heart and other health problems. Human rights activists
charge that his death was due to the negligence of prison officials.
The Government does not generally permit prison visits by human
rights monitors. Notable exceptions occurred in February and
March 1995, when human rights monitors, along with several journalists
and an investigating commission, visited prisons in Tangiers,
Mohammedia, El-Jadida, Casablanca, and Khenifra following a prison
riot in Khenifra.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Legal provisions for due process have been revised extensively
in recent years, although reports indicate that the authorties
sometimes ignored them (see Section 1.c.). Although police usually
make arrests in public, they do not always identify themselves
and do not always obtain warrants. Incommunicado (garde-a-vue)
detention is limited to 48 hours, with one 24-hour extension allowed
at the prosecutor's discretion. In state security cases, the
garde-a-vue period is 96 hours; this may also be extended by the
prosecutor. It is during this
initial period, when defendants are denied access to counsel,
that the accused is interrogated and abuse is most likely to occur.
Some members of the security forces, long accustomed to indefinite
precharge access to detainees, continue to resist the new rules.
Lawyers are not always informed of the date of arrest, and thus
are unable to monitor compliance with the garde-a-vue detention
limits. While the law provides for a limited system of bail,
it is rarely used. Defendants are, however, sometimes released
on their own recognizance. The law does not provide for habeas
corpus or its equivalent. Under a separate code of military justice,
military authorities may detain members of the military without
warrants or public trial.
Although the accused are generally brought to trial within
2 months, prosecutors may order up to five 2-month extensions
of pretrial detention. Thus, an accused person can be kept in
pretrial detention for up to 1 year.
There are no known instances of enforced exile, although a number
of dissidents live abroad in self-imposed exile. Their number
has been steadily diminishing, however, as many returned to Morocco
following a broad-based amnesty decree issued by the Government
In May Mamoun Balghiti Alaoui returned to Morocco after
30 years of exile in Syria. Alaoui was a dissident in the 1960's
who was forced to flee the country. He was later tried and sentenced
to death in absentia. He was included in the global royal pardon
issued by the King in 1994.
Many human rights groups consider Abraham Serfaty to be a Moroccan
exile. A member of the (now defunct) Communist Party and a supporter
of Saharan independence, Serfaty was released in 1991 after 17
years in prison. Upon his release, the Government declared that
Serfaty was a Brazilian rather than a Moroccan citizen because
his father was a naturalized Moroccan citizen originally from
Brazil. Based on this Serfaty was expelled from Morocco. This
decision has been widely criticized by human rights groups. In
July Serfaty's wife was stopped at the Casablanca airport and
prohibited from entering the country.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, but all
courts are subject to extrajudicial pressures, including bribery
and government influence.
There are three levels in the court system, courts of first instance,
the appeals Court, and the Supreme Court. While in theory there
is a single court system under the Ministry of
Justice, two other courts also operate: the Special Court of
Justice that handles cases of civil servants implicated in corruption
and the Military Tribunal for cases involving military personnel
and on certain occasions matters pertaining to state security,
although state security also falls within the jurisdiction of
regular court system.
Although there is a single court system for most nonmilitary matters,
family issues such as marriage, divorce, child support and custody,
and inheritance are adjudicated by judges trained in Islamic law,
or Shari'a. Judges considering criminal cases or cases in non-family
areas of civil law are generally trained in the French legal tradition.
All judges trained in recent years are graduates of the National
Institute for Judicial Studies, where they undergo 2 years of
study heavily focused on human rights and the rule of law. It
is not necessary to be a lawyer to become a judge and the majority
of judges are not lawyers.
In general detainees are arraigned before a court of first instance.
If the infraction is minor and not contested, the judge may order
the defendant released or impose a light sentence. If an investigation
is required, the judge may release defendants on their own recognizance.
Cases are often adjudicated on the basis of confessions, some
of which are obtained under duress, according to reliable sources.
All courts are subject to extrajudicial pressures. Salaries for
both judges and their staffs are extremely modest; as a result,
petty bribery has become a routine cost of court business. In
many courts, especially in minor criminal cases, defendants or
their families pay bribes to court officers and judges to secure
a favorable disposition.
A more subtle corruption derives from the judiciary's relationship
with the Ministry of Interior. Judges work closely with the Ministry's
network of local officials, or caids, who serve as members of
the judicial police and often assume personal responsibility for
the questioning of criminal detainees. They also frequently prepare
the written summary of an arrest and subsequent interrogation.
The summary is admissible in court and may be the only evidence
introduced at trial, effectively rendering it an instruction passed
from the caid's office to the court. Credible sources report
that judges who hope for higher salaries and career advancement
follow the caid's guidance closely.
The law does not distinguish political and security cases from
common criminal cases. In serious state security cases, communications
between the Ministry of Interior and the court are more direct.
At the Government's discretion, such cases may be brought before
a specially constituted military tribunal, which is subservient
to other branches of the Government, notably the military and
the Ministry of Interior.
Aside from external pressures, the court system is also subject
to resource constraints. Consequently, criminal defendants charged
with less serious offenses often receive only cursory hearings,
with judges relying on police reports to render decisions. Although
the Government provides an attorney at public expense for serious
crimes (i.e., when the offense carries a maximum sentence of over
5 years), appointed attorneys often provide inadequate representation.
In January the OMDH charged that defendants arrested in the anticontraband
crackdown were denied access to attorneys during interrogation
and that defendants were not allowed to submit evidence (some
of which investigators had earlier requested they present) to
counter charges against them (see Section 1.c.). Later, the attorneys
for nine of the defendants walked out of court in protest after
charging that they had not been given enough time to study the
case against their clients. One of the more extreme examples
involved the trial of David and Simon Chetrit, father and son
importers, who were pronounced guilty at 3:30 AM after the defense
team had spent more than 17 hours in the courtroom without a rest
or food break, and were repeatedly denied an opportunity to present
a defense. The Chetrits were each sentenced to 5 years' imprisonment
and received one of the largest fines of any of those convicted
during the campaign on charges of importing contraband and bribing
customs officials. Among those criticizing the way in which the
anticontraband campaign was conducted was Human Rights Minister
Mohamed Ziane. Ziane's outspoken disapproval of the campaign
led to his resignation from the Ministry in January, and the human
rights portfolio was assumed by the Minister of Justice. However,
some observers consider the Ministry of Justice to be a major
obstacle to an improved human rights record. Although their missions
are not completely incompatible, combining the Ministry of Justice
and the Ministry of Human Rights portfolios does not advance the
stated objective of the Government and the King to protect and
promote human rights.
The Moroccan Organization of Human Rights (OMDH) estimates that
there are some 60 political prisoners, of which 50 are Islamists
and the remainder are leftists. Among the 50 alleged Islamists
are 16 members of the "Group of 26." Three of this
group were convicted of arms smuggling in 1986, but the others
were apparently arrested for Islamist activities. International
human rights groups estimate of the number of persons in prison
for advocating independence for the Western Sahara vary from none
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home,
The Constitution states that the home is inviolable and that no
search or investigation may take place without a search warrant.
The law stipulates that a search warrant may be issued by a prosecutor
on good cause. Nonetheless, during the Government's recent anticontraband
campaign several businesses and places of residence were entered
without the requisite search warrant.
Government security services monitor certain persons and organizations,
both foreign and Moroccan and government informers monitor activities
on university campuses.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Although the Constitution provides for freedom of expression,
the Government seriously restricts press freedom in certain areas.
The Government owns the official press agency, Maghreb Arab Press,
and the Arabic daily Al-Anbaa. A 1958 decree grants the Government
the authority to register and license domestic newspapers and
journals. Authorities can use the licensing process to prevent
the publication of materials that they believe cross the threshold
of tolerable dissent. Offending publications may be declared
a danger to state security, seized, and the publisher's license
suspended and equipment destroyed. The Ministry of Interior can
control foreign publications by collecting "banned"
publications after they have been distributed. In general, however,
the Government does not employ extreme measures since the media
regularly engage in self-censorship to avoid the Government's
attention and possible sanctions.
The Press Code empowers the Minister of Interior to confiscate
publications that are judged offensive by the Government. Under
the Code the Prime Minister may order the indefinite suspension
of a publication. On November 19, the Government formally banned
the Arabic-language weekly Al-Usbu Al-Sahfi Wa'l Siyassi, and
declared all distribution of this weekly illegal. The police
notice banning the paper offered no justification, but credible
sources confirm that the Minister of Interior and the Prime Minister
were both angered by a series of articles on the "business
activities" of the Moroccan elite, including their sons.
The publisher was warned several weeks earlier to "lay off
people who work closely with the King." The Moroccan Press
Syndicate and a Moroccan human rights organization are filing
a court case in an effort to rescind the Government's decision.
The Press Code empowers the Government to censor newspapers directly
by ordering them not to report on specific items or events. In
most instances, government control of the media generally is exercised
through directives and "guidance" from the Ministry
of the Interior. Nonetheless, the Government generally tolerates
satirical and often stinging editorials in the opposition parties'
dailies. However, both law and tradition prohibit criticism on
three topics: the monarchy, Morocco's claim to the Western Sahara,
and the sanctity of Islam.
There were some notable instances of censorship during the year.
The Government continues its November 1995 ban on Jeune Afrique,
which had published an article describing the King's health and
its impact on the political scene. Since October Jeune Afrique
has been distributed, but has--perhaps not coincidentally--recently
refrained from publishing any negative stories about the royal
In January the OADP daily, Anoual, was seized twice by local authorities
in Casablanca. No reason was given for the seizure. Also in
January, the weekly magazine Maroc Hebdo was sued for defamation
at the request of the Prime Minister. Maroc-Hebdo had reprinted
selections from a report by the European Observatoire Geopolitique
Des Drogues implicating high-level Moroccan officials in drug
In February comedian Ahmed Snoussi (also known as Bziz) was prohibited
from performing in Casablanca. Bziz, Morocco's best-known political
satirist, has been banned from television appearances for the
past 5 years. In April the government-owned television station
dismissed its editor-in-chief after she participated in a seminar
on the role of journalism in the democratic process and the protection
of human rights. The dismissal was severely criticized by press
and human rights groups.
The Government owns the only television station whose broadcasts
can be received nationwide without decoder or satellite dish antennas.
The Government purchased a majority share in 2M, the country's
sole private station, which can be received in most urban areas
with the rental of an inexpensive decoder. The ostensible reason
for the Government's action was to save 2M from bankruptcy; the
Government now owns 68 percent of 2M stock and the Minister of
Information by virtue of hsi position has become the chairman
of the board. Dish antennas are available on the market and permit
free access to a variety of foreign broadcasts. Residents of
the north can receive Spanish broadcasts with standard antennas.
The Government does not impede the reception of foreign broadcasts.
The universities enjoy relative academic freedom in most areas.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Although the Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and
association, the law also permits the Government to suppress even
peaceful demonstrations and mass gatherings. Most conferences
and demonstrations require the prior authorization of the Ministry
of Interior, ostensibly for security reasons.
In January members of the Association of Unemployed University
Graduates, an unofficial organization not sanctioned by the Government,
began a sit-in in front of the Ministry of Education to protest
high unemployment and government inaction. There was little official
reaction until March, when security forces dispersed the group,
The unemployed graduates resumed their sit-in in May. For several
weeks, police barricaded the building where the youths were assembled,
preventing them from leaving as a group to demonstrate in the
streets. Occasionally the police and the unemployed graduates
clashed, most notably on May 24 when the protesters tried to march
out of the building that they were occupying. Police blocked
their exit and injured some
60 demonstrators. On June 4, on the eve of a nationwide general
strike, police beat and injured numerous demonstrators, including
humorist Bziz, who had gone to the sit-in to express his support
for the unemployed graduates. The sit-in continued until late
June, when the graduates voluntarily returned to their homes.
The right to form organizations is limited. Under a1958 decree,
persons wishing to create an organization must obtain the approval
of the Ministry of Interior before holding meetings. In practice
the Ministry uses this requirement to prevent persons suspected
of advocating causes opposed by the Government from forming legal
organizations. Islamist and leftist groups have the greatest
difficulty in obtaining official approval, although there are
over 20 active Islamist groups. The Government has prohibited
membership in two, Justice and Charity and Jama'a Islamia, due
to their perceived antimonarchy rhetoric. Political parties must
also be approved by the Ministry of Interior, which uses this
power to control participation in the political process.
On January 9, a group of university professors, lawyers, and journalists
formed an association, called Transparency Maroc, dedicated to
fighting corruption at all levels. This organization is also
not sanctioned by the Government. Transparency is operating,
but always in concert with other organizations that are recognized
by the Government.
c. Freedom of Religion
Although the Constitution provides for freedom of worship, only
Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are tolerated in practice.
Islam is the official religion. Ninety-nine percent of Moroccans
are Sunni Muslims, and the King bears the title Commander of the
Faithful. The Jewish community of approximately 6,000 is allowed
to practice its faith, as is the somewhat larger foreign Christian
community. The Baha'i community of 150 to 200 people has been
forbidden to meet or hold communal activities since 1983.
Islamic law and tradition calls for strict punishment of any Muslim
who converts to another faith. Any attempt to induce a Muslim
to convert is similarly illegal. Foreign missionaries either
limit their proselytizing to non-Muslims or conduct their work
The Ministry of Islamic Affairs monitors Friday mosque sermons
and the Koranic schools to ensure the teaching of approved doctrine.
The authorities sometimes suppress the activities of Islamists,
but generally tolerate activities limited to the propagation of
Islam, education, and charity. Security forces commonly close
mosques to the public shortly after Friday services to prevent
use of the premises for unauthorized political activity.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel,
Emigration, and Repatriation
Although the Constitution provides for freedom of movement, in
practice security forces set up checkpoints throughout the country
and stop traffic at will. In some regions the checkpoints have
been maintained in the same places for years, creating what some
characterize as internal frontiers. Reports persist that police
use these checkpoints to demand monetary payments. In the Moroccan-administered
portion of the Western Sahara, movement is restricted in areas
regarded as militarily sensitive.
The Ministry of Interior restricts freedom to travel outside Morocco
in certain circumstances. OMDH, a human rights group, has compiled
a list of individuals who have reportedly been denied passports.
In addition, all civil servants must obtain written permission
from their ministries to leave the country.
In June Maria Oufkir, who had spent 14 years under house arrest,
was able to leave Morocco and emigrate to France. Oufkir is the
daughter of Mohamed Oufkir, a general and Interior Minister during
the 1960's who was implicated in the 1971 coup attempt against
King Hassan. Oufkir died under
mysterious circumstances in 1972. His family spent the following
14 years under house arrest. Although they were nominally released
in 1986, the Oufkir family remained barred from traveling outside
Morocco until Maria Oufkir's move to France. While her flight
has been described as an escape, sources report that the Oufkirs
were issued passports shortly before her departure, and it is
acknowledged that she departed with at least the tacit consent
of the Government.
Moroccans may not renounce their citizenship, but the King retains
the power--rarely used--to revoke it. Tens of thousands of Moroccans
hold more than one citizenship and travel on passports from two
or more countries. While in Morocco, they are regarded as Moroccan
citizens. As a result, the Government has sometimes refused to
recognize the right of foreign embassies to act on behalf of dual
nationals or even to be informed of their arrest and imprisonment.
Dual nationals sometimes complain of harassment by immigration
The Government welcomes voluntary repatriation of Jews who have
emigrated. Moroccan Jewish emigres, including those with Israeli
citizenship, freely visit Morocco. The Government also encourages
the return of Sahrawis who have departed Morocco due to the conflict
in the Western Sahara--provided they recognize the Government's
claim to the region. The Government does not permit Saharan nationalists
who have been released from prison to live in the disputed territory.
The Government cooperates with the U.N. High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in assisting
refugees. There were no reports of forced expulsion of anyone
having a valid claim to refugee status. While Morocco has from
time to time provided political asylum to individuals, the issue
of first asylum has never arisen.
Section 3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of
Citizens to Change Their Government
Constitutional provisions notwithstanding, in practice citizens
do not have the right to change their national government by democratic
means. The King, as Head of State, appoints the Prime Minister,
who is the titular head of government. The Parliament has the
theoretical authority to effect change in the system of government,
but has never exercised it. Moreover, the Constitution may not
be changed without the King's approval. The Ministry of Interior
appoints the provincial governors and local caids. Municipal
councils are elected.
Constitutional changes in 1992 authorized the Prime Minister to
nominate all government ministers, but the King has the power
to replace any minister at will. Any significant surrender of
power from the Crown to the Prime Minister's office was further
diluted when the King transferred to the Secretaries General,
who serve at the King's pleasure, many of the powers previously
vested in the ministers.
Morocco has a unicameral legislature, two-thirds directly elected,
and another third indirectly selected by various labor and professional
organizations. Eleven parties have members in Parliament. The
opposition parties have consistently urged that all members of
Parliament be directly elected by the people. Instead, the King
proposed creating a bicameral legislature, whereby all members
of the lower chamber would be directly elected by the people and
all members of the second chamber indirectly selected. On September
13, a referendum was held in which voters approved a constitutional
amendment creating this bicameral parliament. The referendum
was approved by 99 percent of the vote. The Government reported
that 82 percent of the electorate voted, although most observers
believe this figure is exaggerated. There were no restrictions
on the electorate and there were no serious accusations of fraud.
Allegations of fraud during the 1993 elections are still pending
before the Supreme Court.
Women are underrepresented in government and politics. There
are no female ministers, and there are only two women among the
333 members of Parliament.
Section 4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International
and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human
There are three officially recognized nongovernmental human rights
groups: The Moroccan Human Rights Organization, the Moroccan
League for the Defense of Human Rights (LMDH), and the Moroccan
Human Rights Association (AMDH). A fourth group, the Committee
for the Defense of Human Rights (CDDH), was formed in 1992 by
former AMDH members.
The Royal Consultative Council on Human Rights (CCDH), an advisory
body to the King, exists in sometimes uneasy coordination with
the Ministry of Human Rights, which was established by Parliament.
While their common mission provoked an adversarial relationship
in the past, a clearer division of roles has emerged, with the
CCDH issuing advice on matters such as prison reform, and the
Ministry of Human Rights exercising a principally executive role.
Amnesty International (AI) has local chapters in Rabat, Casablanca,
and Marrakech. These chapters participate in AI international
letter campaigns outside Morocco.
Section 5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
Disability, Language, or Social Status
Although the Constitution states that all citizens are equal,
non-Muslims and women face discrimination in the law and traditional
The law and social practice concerning violence against women
reflects the importance society places on the honor of the family.
The Criminal Code includes severe punishment for men convicted
of rape or violating a woman or a girl. The defendants in such
cases bear the burden of proving their innocence. However, sexual
assaults often go unreported because of the stigma attached to
the loss of virginity. A rapist may be offered the opportunity
to marry his victim in order to preserve the honor of the victim's
family. The law is more lenient toward men with respect to crimes
committed against their wives; for example, a light sentence or
reprimand may be accorded a man who has murdered his wife after
catching her in the act of adultery.
Spousal violence is common. Although a battered wife has the
right to complain to the police, as a practical matter she would
do so only if prepared to bring criminal charges.
Women suffer various forms of legal and cultural discrimination.
The civil law status of women is governed by the Moudouwana,
or Code of Personal Status, which is based on Islamic law. Although
the Moudouwana was reformed in 1993, women's groups still complain
of unequal treatment, particularly under the laws governing marriage
In order to marry, a woman is generally required to obtain the
permission of her "tuteur," or legal guardian, usually
her father. Except in unusual circumstances, only if her father
is deceased may she act as her own "tuteur."
It is far easier for a man to divorce his wife than for a women
to divorce her husband. Rather than asking for a divorce, a man
may simply repudiate his wife. Under the 1993 reforms to the
Moudouwana, a woman's presence in court is required in order for
her husband to divorce her, although women's groups report that
this law is frequently ignored. The divorce can be finalized
even over the woman's objections, although in such cases the court
grants her unspecified allowance rights.
A woman seeking a divorce has several alternatives. She may offer
her husband money to agree to a divorce (known as a Khol'a divorce).
The husband must agree to the divorce and is allowed to specify
the amount that he will be paid--without
limit. According to women's groups, many men pressure their wives
to pursue this kind of divorce. A woman may also file for a judicial
divorce if her husband chooses to take a second wife, if she has
been abandoned by her husband, or if she is a victim of physical
abuse. However, divorce procedures in these cases are lengthy
and complicated. For example, while physical abuse is a legal
ground for divorce, the court will only grant it if the woman
can provide two witnesses to the abuse. Even medical certificates
are not sufficient. If the court finds against the woman, she
is returned to her husband's home. Consequently, few women report
abuse to the authorities.
Under the Criminal Code, women are generally accorded the same
treatment as men, but this is not the case for family and estate
law, which is based on the Malikite school of Islamic law. Under
this law, women inherit only half as much as male heirs. Moreover,
even where the law guarantees equal status, cultural norms often
prevent a woman from exercising those rights. When a women inherits
property, for example, male relatives may pressure her to relinquish
While many well-educated women pursue careers in law, medicine,
education, and government service, few make it to the top echelons
of their professions. Women comprise approximately
35 percent of the work force, with the majority in the industrial,
service, and teaching sectors. The illiteracy rate for women
is 78 percent, compared with 51 percent for men. Women in rural
areas suffer most from inequality. Rural women perform most hard
physical labor, and the literacy rate in the countryside is significantly
lower for women than for men. Girls are much less likely to be
sent to school than are boys. Women who do earn secondary school
diplomas, however, have equal access to university education.
The Government has taken little action to end child labor (see
Section 6.d.). Young girls in particular are exploited as domestic
servants. Some orphanages are knowing accomplices to the practice
of adoptive servitude, in which families adopt young girls who
perform the duties of domestic servants in their new homes. Credible
reports of physical abuse are widespread. The practice is often
rationalized as a better alternative to keeping the girls in orphanages.
This practice is socially accepted, attracts little criticism
and is unregulated by the Government.
Another problem facing orphans of both sexes is lack of civil
status. Normally, men are registered at local government offices;
their wives and unmarried children are included in this registration,
which confers civil status. Civil status is necessary to obtain
a birth certificate, passport, or marriage license. If a father
does not register his child, the child is without civil status
and the benefits of citizenship. It is possible for an individual
to self-register, but the process is long and cumbersome.
People with Disabilities
A high incidence of disabling disease, especially polio, has produced
a large population of disabled persons. While the Ministry of
Social Affairs contends that the Government endeavors to integrate
the disabled into society, in practice this is left largely to
private charities. However, even charitable special education
programs are priced beyond the reach of most families. Typically,
disabled persons survive by begging. The Government continued
a pilot training program for the blind sponsored in part by a
member of the royal family. There are no laws mandating physical
changes to buildings to facilitate access by the disabled.
The Constitution affirms, and the Government respects, the legal
equality of all citizens. The official language is Arabic. Both
French and Arabic are used in the news media and educational institution.
Science and technical courses are taught in French, thereby eliminating
the large, monolingual Arabic-speaking population from these programs.
Educational reforms in the past decade have stressed the use
of Arabic in secondary schools. Failure to similarly transform
the university system has effectively disqualified many students
from higher education in lucrative fields. This is especialy
true among the poor, for whom French training is not always affordable.
Some 60 percent of the population claim Berber heritage. Berber
cultural groups contend that Berber traditions and the three remaining
Berber languages are rapidly being lost. Their repeated requests
to the King to permit the teaching of Berber languages in the
schools led to a royal decree authorizing the necessary curriculum
changes, although no changes have yet occurred.
In June a number of Berber associations issued a communique petitioning
the Government to recognize their language, Amzaghi, as an official
language and to acknowledge the Amzaghi culture as a part of Moroccan
society. The Government thus far has made no response to the
Section 6. Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
Although workers are free to establish and join trade unions,
the unions themselves are not completely free from government
interference. Perhaps half a million of Morocco's 9 million workers
are unionized in 17 trade union federations. Three federations
dominate the labor scene: the Union Marocain de Travail (UMT),
the Confederation Democratique de Travail (CDT), and the Union
Generale des Travailleurs Marocains (UGTM). The UMT has no political
affiliation, but the CDT is affiliated with the Socialist Union
of Popular Forces, and the UGTM to the Istiqlal Party.
In practice the Ministry of Interior is believed to have informants
within the unions who monitor union activities and the election
of officers. Sometimes union officers are subject to government
pressure. Union leadership does not always uphold the rights
of members to select their own leaders. There has been no case
of the rank and file voting out its current leadership and replacing
it with another.
Workers have the right to strike and do so. Work stoppages are
normally intended to advertise grievances and last 48 to72 hours
or less. Secondary school teachers and university professors
held several strikes throughout the year and there were a number
of limited duration strikes in the phosphate, banking, and health
care sectors, and at the port of Casablanca.
On June 5, the CDT and UGTM labor federations joined forces to
stage a 24-hour general strike throughout Morocco to protest perceived
government indifference to the economic and social situation of
the workers. The strike was relatively quiet and violence-free
except in a neighborhood of the northern city of Tangier, where
there was sporadic violence involving teenagers and young adults,
rather than union activists. The UMT did not participate in the
strike and, overall, an estimated 50 to 60 percent of shops and
factories nationwide closed in compliance with the call to strike.
UMT unionists at a yeast production company in Casablanca began
a strike in February, when management fired a union representative.
The strike continues as the plant owner received permission to
import yeast to make up for shortages in the market.
Unions belong to regional labor organizations and maintain ties
with international trade secretariats.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The right to organize and bargain collectively is implied in the
constitutional provisions on the right to strike and the right
to join organizations. Trade union federations compete
among themselves to organize workers. Any group of eight workers
may organize a union and a worker may change union affiliation
easily. A work site may contain several independent locals or
locals affiliated with more than one labor federation.
In general the Government ensures the observance of labor laws
in larger companies and in the public sector. In the informal
economy, and in the textile and handicrafts industries, both the
Government and management routinely ignore labor laws and regulations.
As a practical matter, unions have no judicial recourse to oblige
the Government to enforce labor laws and regulations.
The laws governing collective bargaining are inadequate. Collective
bargaining has been a long-standing tradition in some parts of
the economy such as the industrial sector, especially heavy industry,
but the practice has not spread to other sectors such as the service
and informal sectors. The wages and conditions of employment
of unionized workers are generally set in discussions between
employer and worker representatives. However, wages for the vast
majority of workers are unilaterally set by employers.
Employers wishing to dismiss workers are required by law to notify
the provincial governor through the labor inspector's office.
In cases where employers plan to replace dismissed workers, a
government labor inspector provides replacements and mediates
the cases of workers who protest their dismissal. Any worker
dismissed for committing a serious infraction of work rules is
entitled by law to a court hearing.
There is no law specifically prohibiting antiunion discrimination.
Employers commonly dismiss workers for union activities regarded
as threatening to employer interests. The courts have the authority
to reinstate such workers, but are unable to ensure that employers
pay damages and back pay.
Ministry of Labor inspectors serve as investigators and conciliators
in labor disputes, but they are few in number and do not have
the resources to investigate all cases. Unions have increasingly
resorted to litigation to resolve labor disputes.
The labor law applies equally to the small Tangier export zone.
The proportion of unionized workers in the export zone is about
the same as in the rest of the economy.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by the International
Labor Organization's (ILO) Convention 29, which was adopted by
royal decree. When authorities become aware of instances of
forced labor, courts enforce the decree. However, in practice,
the Government lacks the resources to inspect all places of work
to ensure that forced labor is not being used.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
Abuse of the child labor laws is common. The law prohibits the
employment or apprenticeship of any child under 12 years of age.
Education is compulsory for children between the ages of 7 and
13 years. Special regulations cover the employment of children
between the ages of 12 and 16 years. In practice, children are
often apprenticed before age 12, particularly in the handicraft
industry. The use of minors is common in the rug-making industry
and also exists to some extent in the textile and leather goods
industries. Children are also employed informally as domestics
and usually receive little or no wages. Safety and health conditions
as well as wages in enterprises employing children are often substandard.
Ministry of Labor inspectors are responsible for enforcing child
labor regulations, which are generally well observed in the industrialized,
unionized sector of the economy. However, the inspectors are
not authorized to monitor the conditions of domestic servants.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The June 5 general strike led to negotiations among the Government,
the manufacturers' association, and the labor confederations over
increasing the minimum wage and improving health benefits, social
benefits, and housing. In August all three parties agreed to
a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage retroactive to July
1, raising it to approximately $193 (1,661 dirhams) per month
in the industrialized sector and to approximately $9.41 (80.96
dirhams) per day for agricultural workers. Neither provides a
decent standard of living for a worker and family--even with government
subsidies for food, diesel fuel, and public transportation. In
many cases, several family members combine their income to support
the family. Most workers in the industrial sector earn more than
the minimum wage. They are generally paid between 13 and 16 months
salary, including bonuses, each year.
The minimum wage is not enforced effectively in the informal and
handicraft sectors, and even the Government pays less than the
minimum wage to workers at the lowest civil service grades. To
increase employment opportunities for recent graduates, the Government
allows firms to hire them for a limited period at less than the
The law provides for a 48-hour maximum workweek with no more than
10 hours in any single day, premium pay for overtime, paid public
and annual holidays, and minimum conditions for health
and safety, including a prohibition on night work for women and
minors. As with other regulations and laws, these are not universally
observed in the informal sector.
Occupational health and safety standards are rudimentary, except
for a prohibition on the employment of women in certain dangerous
occupations. Labor inspectors endeavor to monitor working conditions
and accidents, but lack sufficient resources. While workers,
in principle, have the right to remove themselves from work situations
that endanger health and safety without jeopardizing their continued
employment, there were no reports of any instances in which a
worker attempted to exercise this right.
Source: U.S. State Department Report on Human Rights Practices