Report on Human Rights
Practices for 1997Morocco
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.
In August King Hassan named an interim government, composed largely
of technocrats. Also in August, the present Parliament, which
was created in 1993, unanimously passed two laws creating a 270-seat
upper house, and a 325-seat lower house. On November 14, lower
house deputies were elected by direct universal suffrage; on December
5, the upper house was selected by labor unions, professional
organizations, and local government authorities. There were widespread,
credible reports of vote buying by political parties and the Government
and excessive government interference in the legislative elections.
The fraud and government pressure tactics led most independent
observers to conclude that the results were heavily influenced,
if not predetermined, by the Government. All opposition parties
criticized the Government; some called for a boycott of Parliament.
The judiciary is subject to bribery and government influence.
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 serious human rights abuses.
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. Economic
growth is highly dependent on agricultural output, and has experienced
wide fluctuations in recent years due to a series of debilitating
droughts. While good rainfall during 1996 resulted in gross domestic
product (GDP) growth of 12 percent, erratic rainfall was expected
to contribute to a slightly negative growth in 1997.
The Government's human rights record remained
largely the same, and serious problems persisted in several areas.
Citizens do not have the right to change their government; however,
in the November elections, the opposition gained an important
plurality, which observers noted could be a step toward increased
democratization. Security forces occasionally abuse and torture
detainees and prison conditions remain harsh. Authorities sometime
ignore legal provisions for due process during arrest and detention.
The Government's use of force to disperse student protesters
in Casablanca in January and February resulted in numerous violations
of citizens' human rights. Security forces beat students, many
of them innocent bystanders, and the Government failed to thoroughly
investigate increased allegations of abuse by the security forces.
During the June local election campaign, police arrested over
130 left-wing activists who called for an election boycott in
contravention of Article 90 the Electoral Law, which forbids "inciting
voters to abstain from voting." The judiciary is subject
to corruption and Interior Ministry influence. Authorities at
times 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 several occasions
during the year protesters were seriously beaten, and scores were
arrested. Dissenters' religious freedoms are constrained; missionaries
who contravene a law barring proselytizing face expulsion without
due process, and converts from Islam to other religions experience
security force intimidation and occasional imprisonment. 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 exploitative domestic servitude. Unions
are subject to government interference.
A large number of 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 influence over the judicial system. In naming
the interim government, the King consolidated several ministerial
portfolios, and eliminated the Human Rights Ministry from the
Government; however, he named a former Human Rights Minister as
Minister of Justice.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect
for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
Security forces violently broke up student
demonstrations in November and severely beat protesters. One
student, Moncef Azzouzi, reportedly died of head injuries caused
by security force beatings (also see Sections 1.c., 1.d., 2.a.,
Although human rights groups reported no
extrajudicial killings in 1997, they 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 1996 have been investigated
or publicly resolved. These include the deaths in custody under
mysterious circumstances of Mohamed Tarbaoui and Youssouf Rami
in late December 1996. According to security forces, Tarbaoui
died of a heart attack on a public street, while Rami died of
injuries after he threw himself through a glass door. Human rights
groups dispute these explanations. In addition, there were no
new developments, nor any investigations into the 1996 deaths
in custody of several other persons, i.e., Salhi, Lahssen, M'rabet,
Mernissi, Daghdagh, Benderweesh, Fedaoui, Bouhdoun, Hammouch,
and Rachid Rami.
Detainees claimed that several prisoners
died during the year due to harsh prison conditions and inadequate
medical care (see Section 1.c.).
There were no new cases of disappearance
for the second consecutive year. This contrasts with 1995 when
there were reports of over 20 such cases. 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 disappeared
over 20 years ago.
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 the Government has since
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.
The Moroccan Human Rights Organization
(OMDH) and other human rights groups continued to pursue the issue
of unresolved disappearances. The OMDH reports that its efforts
to meet early in the year with the Minister of Justice and Human
Rights to discuss this issue were unsuccessful. The Moroccan
Association for Human Rights (AMDH) maintains a list of 68 persons
who disappeared between 1961 and 1995 for whom no information
There were no developments in the disappearance
of Abdullah Sherrouq, a student, who was reportedly detained by
security services on June 22, 1981. After 16 years, his family
has 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 pays a monthly stipend of
$500 (5000 dirhams) to the 28 former prisoners who survived 18
to 20 years in solitary confinement without health care or sanitary
facilities at Tazmamart prison. 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, however, none of
them has yet obtained government assistance in this regard, despite
public complaints. A former Tazmamart detainee, Mohamed Iffiaui,
complained to the press that the Government refused his application
for a passport and denied him a voter registration card. The
Government claims that Iffiaui does not appear on the voter lists
and has not requested a passport.
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment
The Government claims that the use of torture
has been discontinued, but newspapers and other sources indicate
that security forces still torture and abuse 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 (see Section 1.a.).
In a January crackdown on Islamist student
activities on campus, security forces beat students, many of them
innocent bystanders (see Section 2.b.). Police also beat student
protesters at Hassan II University in September (see Section 2.b.).
Students arrested in the January-February crackdown on Islamist
students on campuses alleged that they were beaten during their
initial detentions. In July the OMDH reported that demonstrators
arrested in Ait Ishak for protesting against fraud in the election
of the local council chief were detained overnight and tortured
at the offices of a local Interior Ministry official. Police beat
textile workers in February (see Sections 2.b. and 6.b.), and
the Government used force against demonstrators during the June
local elections (see Sections 3). Security forces violently broke
up several student demonstrations, beating students so severely
that some (reportedly as many as 20 in one instance) were placed
in intensive care. One student reportedly died due to injuries
caused by security force beatings (also see Sections 1.a., 1.d.,
2.a., and 2.b.).
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. In May the AMDH complained
about conditions in Kenitra central prison, which contributed
to the deaths of eight prisoners who were already in poor health.
Also in May, prisoners at Oukacha prison in Casablanca wrote
to an Arabic language newspaper to report eight deaths from February
to April due to malnutrition and an absence of medical care.
These allegations follow a 1996 open letter from detainees at
Kenitra prison alleging seven deaths due to poor conditions.
In September 28 prisoners died when a fire broke out at the Oukacha
prison. In response, the Justice Minister admitted that the prison,
designed for 5,000 inmates, actually held 8,831. There Government
claims to have granted prisoners' demands for daily visits, access
to newspapers, and better medical care, but there was no independent
confirmation of such changes.
The Government does not generally permit
prison visits by human rights monitors.
Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Legal provisions for due process have been
revised extensively in recent years, although reports indicate
that the authorities 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 or torture
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 an initial period of 2 months, prosecutors may
order up to five additional 2-month extensions of pretrial detention.
Thus, an accused person can be kept in pretrial detention for
up to 1 year.
Security forces beat and arrested students
in a number of demonstrations on campus across the country in
November (also see Sections 1.a., 1.c., 2.a., and 2.b.).
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 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 1996, Serfaty's wife was stopped at the
Casablanca airport and prohibited from entering the country.
Serfaty has appealed his expulsion, and awaits a response.
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 the 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.
Parliament authorized the creation of special
tribunals in January to hear commercial complaints and resolve
all small- claims cases, thus easing the burden on the traditional
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 a cursory hearing, 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.
During student demonstrations in January,
the OMDH condemned the Government's use of an administrative circular,
signed by three ministers, which conferred responsibility for
security on campuses upon Justice Ministry magistrates, giving
them an inappropriate public security role.
In June the OMDH and AMDH charged that
members of the Party of the Democratic and Socialist Avante-garde,
known by its French acronym PADS, did not receive fair trials
for having called for an elections boycott. Many of the over
130 PADS members arrested throughout the country were sentenced
to short prison terms for violating laws banning calls for election
boycotts, distribution of unauthorized tracts, illegal gatherings,
and civil disturbances. Many PADS members were charged and convicted
of violating Article 90 of the Electoral Code, among other statutes,
which provides for 1 to 3 months' imprisonment and a fine of $127
to $527 (1,200 to 5,000 dirhams) for "anyone...who incites
one or more voters to abstain from voting." The PADS detainees
were swiftly tried, often receiving only cursory legal defenses
before receiving their sentences (see Section 2.a.).
The 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." The Ministry of Interior claims that
there are 55 Islamists serving sentences for offenses that range
from arms smuggling to participating in a bomb attack on a hotel
in Marrakech. However, some of these prisoners remain in prison
for having called for an Islamic state in 1983. International
human rights groups estimate of the number of persons in prison
for advocating independence for the Western Sahara vary from none
to 700. The AMDH lists 42 political prisoners who were detained
between 1984 and 1996.
Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or
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. Authorities frequently
ignore these provisions.
Government security services monitor certain
persons and organizations, both foreign and Moroccan; government
informers monitor activities on university campuses.
Section 2 Respect
for Civil Liberties, Including:
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. The
Government also supports two semiofficial dailies, the French-language
Le Matin and the Arabic-language Assahra, in addition to providing
subsidies to the rest of the press through price supports for
newsprint and office space. 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, 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
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.
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 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. In January authorities banned the January 25
issue of the London- based Arabic language weekly Al-Mustaqilla,
which carried an article about Islamic fundamentalism in Morocco.
In February authorities delayed distribution of copies of the
Paris-based English language daily International Herald Tribune
that carried commentary critical of Morocco. In January journalists
appealed the Prime Minister's November 1996 order banning Al Ousboua
Al Siasia, a popular tabloid widely distributed in major cities,
for publishing unflattering stories on children of top officials,
including those of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Interior.
Nonetheless, the tabloid remains closed. In November the Government
seized copies of Le Monde and The Economist that carried articles
critical of the Government. The December 11 edition of the French
weekly L'Express also was banned due to an article critical of
the November elections and speculation on the uncertainties of
the post-Hassan era.
The Government controls RTM radio broadcasts.
Another major broadcaster is the French-backed MEDI-1, which
operates from Tangier and reaches throughout Morocco and North
Africa. While nominally private and independent, MEDI-1 practices
self-censorship, as do other Moroccan media outlets. The Government
owns the only television stations whose broadcasts can be received
in most parts of the nation without decoders or satellite dish
antennas. In 1996 the Government purchased a majority share in
2M, formerly the country's sole private station, which can be
received in most urban areas. 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 his position has become the chairman of the board. Since then,
a government-approved committee has monitored broadcasts for objectionable
material. 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
or Internet access.
In April Malika Malik, host of a popular
monthly talk show on television channel 2M, was dismissed for
failing to control the statements of guests appearing on her show.
During the March broadcast, a journalist appearing on her program
had asked a political party leader a question that alleged the
Interior Minister's complicity in election fraud. She was reemployed
by her former employer, the Ministry of Social Affairs, in August.
During the local election campaign, the
Government arrested over 130 demonstrators of the left-wing PADS
party for having distributed tracts calling for a boycott of the
elections. Most of the detainees received 1- to 3-month sentences
and moderate fines for calling for an election boycott, creating
civil disturbances, and gathering illegally (see Section 1.e.).
The universities enjoy relative academic
freedom in most areas, but are barred from open debate on the
monarchy, the Western Sahara, and Islam. Government informers
monitor campus activities (see Section 1.f.) and rectors are approved
by the Ministry of Interior. Police beat students on several
occasions (sec Sections 1.c. and 2.b.).
University students, many of whom were
member of the Islamist Justice and Charity Organization (JCO),
demonstrated on campus across the country November 25-27 to protest,
among other issues, transportation and lack of freedom to gather.
In many cases, security forces violently intervened to break
up the many sit-ins, gatherings, and marches. On November 25,
confrontations at Mohammed Ben Abdullah University in Fez led
to several casualties. One student, Moncef Azzouzi, reportedly
died of head injuries sustained from beatings by the security
forces. Three other persons were seriously injured, with one
now in intensive care. More students in Fez were injured on November
27 when, after news of Azzouzi's death, they organized a march
to the University from the hospital where he and others were treated.
Police intervened and beat some students so severely that they
were placed in intensive care (some reports put the number at
Students in Tangiers sponsored a sit-in
and hunger strike on November 27 to protest lack of transportation
and freedom of assembly. Security forces reportedly intervened
violently and arrested many students. One was placed in intensive
care and others were hospitalized. In Casablanca and Mohammedia,
an altercation on November 28 led to the arrest of two students
at the Faculty of Law for illegally gathering on campus (also
see Sections 1.a., 1.c., 1.d., and 2.b.).
Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Although the Constitution provides for
freedom of assembly, 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 a continuation of 1996 protests, members
of the Association of Unemployed University Graduates, an unofficial
organization not sanctioned by the Government, continued to hold
periodic sit-ins in front of the Union Marocaine du Travail (UMT)
labor union's Rabat headquarters to protest high unemployment
and government inaction. There was little official reaction until
August 22, when the police used force to block another association
of unemployed university PhD graduates from marching to Parliament
to demand jobs, injuring several marchers. Earlier, on August
14, police used force to intimidate protesters from the same group
who gathered peacefully at the Foreign Ministry to present a petition
to the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. A government
representative accepted the student petitions and the crowd dispersed
In February police beat textile workers
in Sale who were demanding better pay and conditions during a
sit-in organized at the factory gates (see Section 6.b.).
In January the Government initiated a crackdown
on student demonstrations over transportation costs which were
being exploited by Islamic fundamentalist groups. The Islamist
groups provoked the security forces by taking the demonstrations
outside the campus boundaries for the first time. In Casablanca
elite security forces entered campuses, breaking up any gatherings,
and beating students, many of whom were innocent bystanders not
involved in Islamist activities. In one instance, security forces
herded students out of a library where they had been studying
and beat them with truncheons as a warning not to become active
in Islamist activities.
In September police violently broke up
demonstrations of students protesting conditions on the Hassan
II University campus and lack of freedom to assemble and pray.
Police beat several students and arrested up to 25 of the demonstrators.
In November security forces violently broke up several student
demonstrations on campus across the country, severely beating
protesters and causing numerous injuries, including one death
(also see Sections 1.a., 1.c., 1.d., and 2.a.).
The Constitution provides for freedom of
association, however, the Government limits this right in practice.
Under a 1958 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 anti-monarchy rhetoric. Political parties
must also be approved by the Ministry of Interior, which uses
this power to control participation in the political process.
However, individual Islamists are not barred from participating
in recognized political parties.
Freedom of Religion
Although the Constitution provides for
freedom of religion, only Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are
tolerated in practice.
Islam is the official religion. Ninety-nine
percent of citizens are Sunni Muslims, and the King bears the
title commander of the faithful. The Jewish community of no more
than 5,000 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
Islamic law and tradition calls for strict
punishment of any Muslim who converts to another faith, although
voluntary conversion is not a crime under the Criminal or Civil
Codes. Any attempt to induce a Muslim to convert is illegal.
Foreign missionaries either limit their proselytizing to non-Muslims
or conduct their work quietly. In June in Tangier, two U.S. citizens
were briefly detained and subsequently expelled after authorities
suspected that they intended to proselytize. In August in Settat,
five South Africans were expelled for the same reason. At the
same time an American was refused permission to reenter Morocco
from a brief trip outside the country because of suspicion that
he was engaged in proselytizing. Also in August in Fez, an American
was expelled after he was charged with proselytizing and possession
of Arabic-language Bibles.
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. Authorization to construct new mosques is strictly
controlled by the Government.
The Government permits the display and
sale of bibles in French, English, and Spanish, but confiscates
Arabic language bibles and refuses licenses for their importation
Throughout the year, some members of Morocco's
small Baha'i community were convoked by Interior Ministry officials
for questioning concerning their faith and meetings. Some Baha'is
have been denied passports, while others were permitted to travel
abroad only for medical emergencies.
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. The OMDH
and AMDH have compiled lists of individuals who have reportedly
been denied passports. The AMDH's list includes 70 persons.
In addition, all civil servants and military personnel must obtain
written permission from their ministries to leave the country.
Baha'is experience difficulty in obtaining travel documents (see
In June 1996, 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 and in prison. Although 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 inspectors.
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 that 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 created a bicameral legislature
in 1997. Sixteen 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 June 13, Morocco held municipal council
elections, followed by balloting for regional professional councils.
In the wake of the June election, political parties accused each
other of manipulation and vote-buying, and claimed government
intervention on behalf of candidates. Allegations of fraud during
the June elections are still pending before the Election Commission.
The OMDH condemned the prominent role of the Interior Ministry
in the June elections, as well as the numerous allegations of
vote-buying both by the Government and political parties, electoral
list manipulation by the Government, and electoral card falsification.
The OMDH also criticized the arrest of members of the PADS party,
who were detained for distributing tracts that called for an election
boycott, as well as the Government's use of force against demonstrators
in Ait Ishak, near Khenifra.
In August King Hassan convoked a special
session of Parliament to ratify two laws creating a bicameral
assembly. On August 17, Parliament unanimously approved these
laws, which created a 325-seat lower house to be filled by direct
elections, and a 270-seat upper house whose member would be elected
by various professional and regional councils. There were widespread,
credible allegations of vote buying and government manipulation
in the November legislative elections. The fraud and government
pressure tactics led most independent observers to conclude that
the election results were heavily influenced, if not predetermined,
by the Government. All opposition parties criticized the Government,
and some called for a boycott of Parliament. Two winners renounced
their seats; alleging unsolicited government interference on their
behalf. The Government is investigating some of the complaints,
other it is deliberately ignoring.
Women are underrepresented in government
and politics. Since August, for the first time, there are 4 female
Secretaries of State in the 28-member Cabinet. There are 2 women
among the 325 members of Parliament's Chamber of Deputies and
2 women in the Chamber of Counselors.
Section 4 Governmental
Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation
of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
There are three officially-recognized
nongovernmental human rights groups: the Moroccan Human Rights
Organization (OMDH), 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, counsels the palace
on matters such as prison reform. In naming the interim government,
the King consolidated several ministerial portfolios, thereby
eliminating the Human Rights Ministry from the Government; however,
he named a former Human Rights Minister as Minister of Justice.
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
Although the Constitution states
that all citizens are equal, non-Muslims and women face discrimination
in the law and traditional practice.
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.
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.
The Criminal Code includes severe punishment
for men convicted of rape or sexually assaulting 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.
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 and divorce.
In order to marry, a woman is generally
required to obtain the permission of her "tuteur," or
legal guardian, usually her father. Only in unusual circumstances
may she act as her own "tuteur."
It is far easier for a man to divorce his
wife than for a woman 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 frequently is 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 to be paid--without limit. According
to women's groups, many men pressure their wives to pursue this
kind of divorce. A woman also may 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.
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 provides for equal
status, cultural norms often prevent a woman from exercising those
rights. When a woman inherits property, for example, male relatives
may pressure her to relinquish her interest.
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 constitute
approximately 35 percent of the work force, with the majority
in the industrial, service, and teaching sectors. The Government
reports that the illiteracy rate for women is 67 percent, compared
with 41 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, especially in rural areas when the quality
of schooling is inferior to urban areas. Women who do earn secondary
school diplomas, however, have equal access to university education.
The Government provides compulsory education
for children between the ages of 7 and 13. The Government conducts
an annual campaign to vaccinate children against childhood diseases.
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 institutions. 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 especially 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
In June 1996, 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 petition.
Section 6 Worker
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 Marocaine
du Travail (UMT), the Confederation Democratique du 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 with the Istiqlal
It is widely believed that the Ministry
of Interior has informants within the unions who monitor union
activities and the election of officers. Sometimes union officers
are subject to government pressure. Some unions, particularly
the UMT, experienced increased harassment and violent intervention
by security forces in efforts to break up its work stoppages during
the year. 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. For example, in March the CDT held its third
national congress, during which it reelected Noubir El Amaoui,
who ran unopposed, as Secretary General.
Workers have the right to strike and do
so. Work stoppages are normally intended to advertise grievances
and last 48 to 72 hours or less. The public health care sector
experienced numerous strikes of limited duration throughout the
year. Employees in the banking, education, and phosphates sectors
also held limited strikes. In January taxi drivers in the Rabat
area held a strike over issues including insurance costs and vehicle
Unions belong to regional labor organizations
and maintain ties with international trade union secretariats.
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 8
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 longstanding
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,
as occurred at textile plants in Sale in February (see Section
2.b.). 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.
Labor law reform is such a controversial
issue that a draft revised Labor Code has remained under discussion
in parliamentary committee for 3 years.
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.
Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Forced or compulsory labor was prohibited
in 1957 when the International Labor Organization's (ILO) Convention
29 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.
The Government prohibits forced and bonded
labor by children, but does not enforce this prohibition effectively.
The practice of adoptive servitude, in which families adopt young
girls who serve as domestic servants, is socially accepted, and
the Government does not regulate it. Physical abuse in such cases
is widespread (see Section 5).
Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
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 rugmaking 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.
The law prohibits forced or bonded labor by children, however
the Government does not enforce the law effectively (see Section
6.c.). The practice of adoptive servitude is often characterized
by physical abuse (see Sections 5 and 6.c.).
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.
The Government lacks the resources to enforce
laws against child labor. In fact, there is general acceptance
of the presumption that, to learn properly traditional handicraft
skills, it is necessary for children to start working at a young
age. In addition, many persons argue that having children working
to learn a craft is better than having them live on the streets.
In July the Government announced a new
voluntary labeling system for carpet exports to certify that no
child labor was involved in production. The system is cosponsored
by German rug importers. However, the Government does not monitor
non-participating handicraft producers who violate child labor
Acceptable Conditions of Work
The June 1996 general strike led to negotiations
that have continued throughout the year 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 1996, all three parties agreed
to a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage retroactive to July
1, raising it to approximately $166 (1,661 dirhams) per month
in the industrialized sector and to approximately $8.10 (80.96
dirhams) per day for agricultural workers. Neither figure 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 minimum wage.
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.
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
Source: U.S. State Department Report on Human Rights Practices