|The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001. Please see www.state.gov for material released since President George W. Bush took office on that date. This site is not updated so external links may no longer function. Contact us with any questions about finding information. |
NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.
TITLE: MOROCCO HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993 DATE: JANUARY 31, 1994 AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE MOROCCO The Constitution of Morocco provides for a constitutional monarchy with a pluralistic political system, a representative Parliament, and an independent judiciary. Recent changes to the Constitution ostensibly increase the power of the Prime Minister and Parliament relative to the Crown. In practice, however, ultimate authority rests with the King, who retains the discretion both to dismiss ministers and to dissolve Parliament in order to rule by decree. Two-stage parliamentary elections in 1993 produced gains for opposition parties in the first stage which were reversed, amid credible reports of government manipulation, in the second stage. The security apparatus comprises several overlapping police and paramilitary organizations whose activities are coordinated by the national government. The Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST), Surete Nationale, and judicial police are under the Ministry of Interior, while the Gendarmerie Royale reports directly to the Palace. Security forces continued to commit human rights abuses, including torture. Evidence was released, in the notorious "Tabit affair," showing that senior Surete Nationale officers had systematically abused hundreds of women over several years. (Several officials were tried and convicted, while Tabit himself was executed--see Section 1.c.). Morocco has a mixed economy based largely on agriculture, fishing, light industry, phosphate mining, tourism, and remittances from Moroccans working abroad. An illegal drug trade also is a significant factor. Since the early 1980's, Morocco has pursued an economic reform program that has contributed to generally strong economic growth and low inflation, although these developments have been set back by a drought now in its second year. The Government recently launched a program of privatizing state-owned enterprises. The Government of Morocco took several steps in 1993 to address human rights concerns, including establishing a Deputy Minister for Human Rights, ratifying several international conventions on human rights, and amending laws on polygamy, divorce, and spousal support to mandate more favorable treatment of women. The Royal Consultative Council on Human Rights (CCDH) formed working groups to investigate various areas of human rights concerns, opened dialogs with domestic human rights groups, and recommended to the King that government ministries become more responsive to inquiries about possible human rights abuses. Closer scrutiny, however, reveals many of these steps to be cosmetic. Credible reports of routine abuse of prisoners continued unabated, and at least three deaths in custody can reasonably be attributed to torture. Freedom of speech and press continued to be restricted, especially in cases perceived to affect the security of the State. Other principal problems included limitations on the right of citizens to change their government, arbitrary arrest and detention, a weak and malleable judiciary, and restrictions on the freedoms of travel, assembly and association, and religion, and additional constraints on women's rights. RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from: a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing Credible reports document that at least three persons died in police custody in 1993 due to Moroccan security force brutality. The most publicized police brutality case involved the death on May 16 of Mustapha Hamzaoui in the jail at Khenifra. Hamzaoui, a former law student and activist with the left-wing Moroccan Association of Unemployed Graduates, was arrested on May 15 on suspicion of verbally assaulting four young women. According to Khenifra authorities, he was interrogated twice while in custody and then committed suicide by hanging. Alleging that the body bore evidence of multiple cigarette burns and mutilated genitalia, Hamzaoui's family refused to accept his remains without the performance of an autopsy. Although the Ministry of Justice sent a physician to examine the body, no autopsy report was made public. Khenifra authorities subsequently released a statement confirming the finding of suicide and impugning Hamzaoui's character. Despite appeals and a legal motion filed by the OMDH, no further government investigation or response has been made. Hamzaoui's family is reportedly under government pressure to drop the matter. In another case, Abdellah Bentawet died while in detention in a Tangier jail. He was arrested on June 1 after being involved in an altercation. Members of his family allege that, while they were visiting the detainee, a security agent began to beat him and demanded payment of approximately $16 for his release, which the family refused to make. On the following day, Bentawet's family was informed that he had committed suicide. Moroccan authorities have not responded to repeated requests by human rights organizations for an investigation. In a third case, Mounir Azzag, a 22 year-old Tangier resident was arrested on October 9 after an argument with police about a parking infraction. On October 11, his family was notified that he had committed suicide while in custody. Called to the morgue, his family reported that the body bore a large facial cut and that the authorities refused to allow them to view the entire body. An autopsy ordered by local authorities found no indications of violence yet concluded that death was caused by hanging. The police involved in the Hamzaoui, Bentawet, and Azzag deaths were all employed by the Ministry of the Interior. No disciplinary actions have been instituted against them. b. Disappearance There were no reported permanent disappearances in 1993. Temporary "disappearances" continued to result from the practice of holding persons in pretrial incommunicado detention, without notifying families or attorneys, for longer than the legal limit of 48 hours. In May the Moroccan Human Rights Organization (OMDH) published a list of 24 persons who disappeared between 1973 and 1987, most after arrest or conviction on charges related to political activity. OMDH's requests to the Ministries of Justice and Interior for information regarding the welfare and whereabouts of these persons have gone unanswered. Other human rights organizations have published much higher estimates of the number of persons who have permanently disappeared after last being seen in the custody of Moroccan security forces. The Government has never acknowledged any such cases, including the 300 Sahrawis (native Saharans) released without comment in 1991 after detention for up to 15 years. As one of many examples, repeated appeals to Moroccan authorities for information regarding the fate of Abdelhaq Rouissi, a trade unionist who disappeared after his arrest 29 years ago, have been met either with silence or summary dismissal. c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Although the Government ratified the Convention Against Torture in June, credible reports persist of security force involvement in physical abuse, including torture and degrading treatment, of detainees. Disinterested former prisoners reported that detainees suspected of politically motivated crimes were more likely than other detainees to be subjected to physical abuse. Harsh treatment reportedly continued after conviction, with guards subjecting prisoners to random violence and deliberately depriving them of family visits, sleep, baths, blankets, medical care, food, and access to study materials. There were no reports that torturers were held accountable for their actions in 1993. Moreover, although they have the power to do so, prosecutors appear reluctant to order medical examination in cases where torture is alleged. The arrest and conviction in 1993 of a senior Surete Nationale official revealed a disturbing record of systematic rape and assault of women. One official, Mohammed Tabit, was found guilty on hundreds of charges of rape and assault perpetrated over a period of several years during which he served in various posts within the Surete Nationale, including as Commissioner of a Casablanca precinct. Under pretense of police business, Tabit typically would lure his victims to a Casablanca apartment where he would assault them while videotaping his activities. He was assisted in his crimes by several Surete Nationale officials. Tabit himself was executed. In addition to those who were convicted in connection with the affair, several high ranking government officials were removed without comment. The press held those personnel changes to be indicative of widespread knowledge within the Government of Tabit's activities throughout his career. Prison conditions in Morocco are harsh. At least 15 persons died in prisons in 1993 due either to illnesses contracted as a result of unhealthy prison conditions or lack of medical care for preexisting illnesses. Inmate hunger strikes to protest prison conditions, especially by Islamist inmates (i.e., prisoners whose crimes were motivated by pursuit of the doctrines of political Islam), have become commonplace. Three prisoners died in a 2-week period in a single prison in Casablanca, each within days of beginning a short sentence for a minor crime. There is no evidence to establish overt security force involvement in these deaths, which appeared to result from a lack of basic medical care, sanitation, and nutrition. Acknowledging the substandard conditions in Moroccan prisons, CCDH has established a working group to recommend improvements. However, the Government, citing economic constraints, continued in 1993 to decline to invest significant resources to improve penal living conditions. Earlier reports of the closing and destruction of the Tazmamart detention facility, notorious for its harsh treatment of prisoners, have not been verified. After years of denials, King Hassan acknowledged for the first time in a May interview that the facility had existed. However, the Government refused to comment on past or present activities at the Tazmamart site or to provide an accounting of the prisoners who were confined there, many of whom apparently died there. The few surviving prisoners who were released from Tazmamart have indicated that their continued liberty is conditioned upon their silence regarding the circumstances of their imprisonment. There is no indication that the Government is investigating Tazmamart abuses for the purpose of bringing those responsible to justice. d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile Legal guarantees of procedural due process in Morocco, extensively revised in recent years, are frequently ignored. Arrests usually take place in public, but police sometimes refuse to identify themselves. Warrants are not always used. The law requires that a detainee be brought before a judge within 48 hours of detention (extendable to 96 hours upon approval of the prosecutor) and informed of the charges against him. Under the revised due process rules, incommunicado (garde a vue) detention is limited to 48 hours, with a one-time 24-hour extension upon request by the prosecutor. An accused person must be brought to trial within 2 months of arrest, with up to five extensions of 2 months each allowed at the discretion of the prosecutor. Detainees are denied counsel during the initial period of detention when torture is most likely to take place. Counsel is allowed only as of the first cross-examination, and many cases are resolved without cross-examination. According to Moroccan human rights groups, compliance with the new due process rules has been irregular. Some members of the security forces, long used to indefinite precharge access to detainees, continue to resist the new rules. Lawyers are sometimes not informed as to the date of detention and are thus unable to monitor garde a vue detention limits. However, there were no known instances in 1993 of the once common practice of indefinite incommunicado detention. Moroccan law creates a limited system of bail that is rarely used, although defendants are 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. Abdessalem Yassine, leader of the banned Islamist organization Justice and Charity, remained under house arrest in his home after 2 years of detention without trial. His family members are only occasionally allowed to visit him. No other visits are allowed. Indicative of its subordination to the Ministry of the Interior, CCDH has not publicly questioned the propriety of the Ministry's confinement of Yassine. There are no known instances of Moroccans being sentenced to exile. e. Denial of Fair Public Trial Morocco has a dual legal system: a secular system based in part on French legal tradition and a parallel Islamic system which adjudicates family matters and inheritance law for Moroccan Muslims. The secular system includes courts of original jurisdiction, appellate courts, and a Supreme Court. Judges in this system are university-trained attorneys who have undergone further specialized training prior to assuming their positions. Political and security offenses are not distinguished from common criminal offenses under Moroccan law. All criminal matters are tried in the secular courts. In general, cases are brought before a court of first instance which may call for a hearing quickly to bring cases to trial. The detainee is informed of charges and questioned by the judge who decides if the charges have merit. If the infraction is minor and not contested, the judge may release the detainee or impose a light sentence. If a lengthy investigation is required, the judge may release detainees on their own recognizance. Criminal cases are frequently resolved by confessions. Disinterested former prisoners continued to report attempts by authorities to extract confessions under duress. The Islamic court system consists only of trial courts, and their decisions may not be appealed. Although judges in this system are clerics who traditionally were not trained in the law, judges named to the bench in recent years have been formally educated in Islamic law. Cases are decided on the basis of the Koran or the derivative Shari'a and are often tried without attorneys. Both the secular and Islamic courts are susceptible to extrajudicial pressures. Secular court judges are not well paid. Cash payments to unscrupulous judges are widely reported to be commonplace in routine criminal cases. Likewise, judges hearing cases involving challenges to royal authority or state policy are vulnerable to political pressure, especially from the Ministry of Interior. The accused in such cases do not enjoy the procedural safeguards needed to ensure a fair trial. Comments made by the prosecutor during the Tabit trial, for example, clearly indicated that the sitting judge was following instructions from the Ministry of the Interior and the Palace. Islamic court judges are paid by the parties for services in settling inheritance cases, with compensation often a percentage of the assets involved. Aside from external pressures, the secular 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 (when the alleged offense carries a maximum sentence of over 5 years), appointed attorneys often provide inadequate representation. Proceedings in the cases of three labor leaders convicted of expressing antigovernment views were concluded in 1993. In May the Court of Appeal upheld the conviction of Noubir Amaoui who was sentenced in 1992 to 2 years in prison for defaming the Government after a trial widely criticized for being politically motivated and for procedural irregularities and restrictions on public and press access. In July Amaoui was granted a royal pardon and released. Driss Laghnimi was convicted in 1993 for insulting the person of the King during a public discussion between members of different unions. He also received a royal pardon following denial of his appeal in April. The Court of Appeal also upheld the conviction of Ahmed Belaichi who was sentenced in 1992 to 3 years in prison for "affront to the military" after a trial in which several defense witnesses were not permitted to testify. He remains in prison. Moroccan human rights organizations periodically publish lists of prisoners "of opinion," prisoners accused of armed conspiracy or violence for political reasons, and prisoners convicted following demonstrations or strikes. These groups estimate that Moroccan prisons now hold 500 to 600 prisoners in these categories, of whom approximately 100 are held for crimes of politically motivated violence, and approximately 300 were arrested in connection with strike or demonstration activities. Because the Government defines several categories of speech as criminal (see Section 2.a.), it regards political prisoners as common criminals. f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence The Constitution states that the home is inviolable and that no search or investigation may take place without a search warrant issued in compliance with the law. Current law stipulates that a search warrant may be issued by a prosecutor on good cause. This stipulation is not always observed, however, and there continue to be reports of illegal searches of the homes and offices of suspected political activists. Government security services, generally operating under the direction of the Ministry of the Interior, selectively monitor certain persons and organizations, both foreign and Moroccan, including their telephones and mail. University campuses are under close surveillance, and there is an extensive informant system, especially on campuses and in cities. Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: a. Freedom of Speech and Press The Constitution provides for freedom of expression, but by Moroccan law and tradition negative commentary is forbidden on three topics: the monarchy, Morocco's claim to the Western Sahara, and the sanctity of Islam. Statements on these subjects may be deemed crimes against state security. In addition, many Moroccans are careful not to criticize the foreign or domestic policies of the Government for fear of reprisal. Mustapha Dadao, a Marrakech student arrested in 1992 for allegedly shouting offensive slogans at a May Day rally, was convicted in January of "insult to the King" and sentenced to 5 years. A year was added to his sentence when he commented that his trial had been "superficial." Fifteen Oujda students were convicted in January of "illegal demonstrations and distribution of untruthful tracts susceptible of disturbing the public order" and received sentences ranging from 1 month to 1 year. In March two students received 2-month sentences for protesting against a new examination schedule. In June five Khenifra youths received 3-month sentences for holding a demonstration protesting the death in detention of Mustapha Hamzaoui. (See Section 1.a.) Press freedom is significantly restricted, though the limits are not clearly defined. A 1958 decree gives the Government the authority to register and license domestic newspapers and journals. In practice, authorities 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 and may be seized; the publisher's license may be suspended and equipment destroyed. Article 55 of the Press Code empowers the Government to censor newspapers directly by ordering them not to report on specific items or events. The Government tolerates satirical and often stinging editorials in the opposition parties' dailies. The tone of those editorials became especially sharp during the 1993 election campaigns. The press also continued in 1993 to report allegations of torture and other harsh treatment, abuse of authority, and prisoners' complaints of degrading conditions. In particular, the flagrant abuses perpetrated by Casablanca police officers revealed during the Tabit trial were widely reported. In November the opposition news daily L'Opinion ran a series of editorials critical of the state of democracy in Morocco. The paper's editor was summoned to the office of the Minister of Interior. The paper thereafter ran an open letter to the Minister condemning his alleged threat to imprison the editor. Other opposition papers have subsequently editorialized in support of L'Opinion's stance against the Minister. Government control of the media generally is exercised through directives and "guidance" bulletins from the Ministry of Interior. The media regularly engages in self-censorship, prompted by a desire to avoid the Government's attention and possible sanctions. The Government owns the official press agency, Maghreb Arab Press, and the Arabic daily Al Anbaa. The Government owns the only television station receivable nationwide without cable or satellite dish antennas. Dish antennas are available, though expensive, and permit free access to a wide variety of foreign broadcasts. Morocco's sole private station can be seen in most urban areas with the rental of an inexpensive decoder. Northern residents can receive Spanish stations with standard antennas. The Government does not impede reception of foreign broadcasts. A great number of foreign news publications are available, particularly from Europe and the United States. Although generally tolerating a broad spectrum of opinion in the foreign press distributed in Morocco, the Government continued in 1993 to ban those editions of foreign publications that contained articles about Morocco deemed particularly offensive. For example, distribution of the February 6 and March 29 editions of Le Monde were blocked apparently because they contained articles describing efforts of a major Moroccan company to acquire a foreign radio station, offering an unflattering appraisal of Moroccan-French relations, and questioning the fairness of the Moroccan elections. Moroccan authorities searched the hotel room of a British journalist, who was preparing a story on the Tabit trial, questioned her regarding her activities, and later confiscated her notes at the airport. Moroccan universities enjoy relative academic freedom in most areas, but the Government prohibits academic investigation of the Islamic roots of the monarchy. Limited research and publishing on Islam and Islamic fundamentalism is tolerated. Ministry of Interior approval is a prerequisite to tenure in all disciplines. Professors complain that the Ministry often confers tenure on political, rather than purely academic, grounds. b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association Although the the Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association, this right is significantly limited by three decrees, dating from 1935, 1939, and 1958, which permit the Government to suppress even peaceful demonstrations and mass gatherings. Several groups were subject to government restraints on speech in 1993. In the aftermath of the Tabit affair, 19 Moroccan women's groups organized a march in Rabat against sexual harassment. It was to be the first of its kind in Morocco and was expected to draw thousands of participants. Without explanation, the Government denied permission for the march. Authorities broke up a variety of peaceful demonstrations in 1993, often injuring and arresting the participants. In April a sit-in organized by the Moroccan National Association of Unemployed Graduates to call attention to the lack of employment available to recent graduates was forcibly dispersed by authorities. In June a sit-in organized by a group of blind students to publicize their ineligibility for unemployment compensation was similarly disrupted by authorities. In November several members of this group were injured or arrested when police forcibly broke up another demonstration in front of the Ministry of the Interior. The Government continued to impede the ability of human rights groups to hold public meetings, often by denying necessary permits. Another effective restraint on assembly rights is imposed by the Government's practice of closing mosques to the public shortly after religious services, thereby removing any potential for the practice, common in other Muslim countries, of using mosque premises for political activity. The right to form organizations is limited. Under a 1958 decree, persons wishing to create an organization must obtain the approval of the Ministry of the 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 sanction. Twenty-nine Islamist groups have been active within Morocco. Membership in two of these groups, Justice and Charity and Jama'a Islamia, has been outlawed due to perceived antimonarchy rhetoric. Political parties must also be approved by the Ministry of the Interior, which uses this power to control participation in the political process. c. Freedom of Religion Islam is the official religion of Morocco. Ninety-nine percent of Moroccans are Sunni Muslims, and the King bears the title "Commander of the Faithful." The Jewish community of approximately 7,000 is permitted to practice its faith, as is the somewhat larger foreign Christian community. Members of these religions are legally forbidden to proselytize, although several dozen evangelical missionaries conduct services and bible meetings which are attended by some Moroccan Muslims. Although the Constitution provides for freedom of worship, only Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are tolerated in practice. The King has pronounced all other religions to be heresies. The Baha'i community of 150-200 people has been forbidden to meet or hold communal activities since 1983. According to Islamic law and tradition, conversion of any kind from Islam is strictly prohibited, and any attempt to induce a Muslim to convert is punishable by imprisonment. In October Mustapha Zmamda, a Moroccan Muslim, was sentenced to 3 years in prison after he refused to discontinue correspondence with the directors of a Christian radio program broadcast to North Africa from France. A Brazilian missionary who hosted bible meetings attended by Zmamda was fired from his teaching position, reportedly after the Ministry of the Interior threatened to revoke the operating license of his employer unless he was dismissed. The Government monitors Friday mosque sermons and the curriculum of Koranic schools to insure that approved doctrines are taught. Fundamentalist Islamic activities are sometimes repressed but are largely tolerated so long as they remain restricted to the propagation of Islam and educational and charitable activities. Islamist groups that question the King's status as Commander of the Faithful and those that engage in violence are suppressed. d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation Although freedom of movement within Morocco is provided for in the Constitution, in practice security forces set up roadblocks throughout the country and stop traffic at will. In some regions the roadblocks have been maintained in the same places for years, creating what some characterize as internal frontiers. In the Western Sahara, which is administered by Morocco, movement is restricted in areas regarded as militarily sensitive. The Interior Ministry restricts the freedom to travel outside Morocco in certain circumstances. For example, it has refused to issue passports to a number of Moroccans, including certain political activists, former political prisoners, and Baha'is. In February the OMDH published a list of 52 former political prisoners, human rights monitors, lawyers, and others who continued to be denied passports. In a series of spring meetings, CCDH members met with Ministry of the Interior officials and requested status reports on several passport applications. By years' end the Ministry issued passports to 46 persons on the OMDH list. Some former political prisoners, after being issued passports, were denied exit at border points on the basis that government computers had not been updated to reflect their eligibility to leave. There continued to be reports of instances in which police seized passports at border points or otherwise blocked the exit of Moroccans trying to leave the country, usually without explanation. Women must have permission from either their fathers or husbands to obtain a passport. A divorced woman must have her father's permission to obtain a passport and, if she has custody of the children, she must have permission of the children's father for passports to be issued to the children. Although the King has characterized the male consent requirement as contrary to Islam and the Constitution, no changes in these provisions were made in 1993. There are frequent allegations of corruption in the passport offices; applicants are reportedly forced to pay gratuities to obtain application forms and to make sure that the application is not lost in the bureaucratic labyrinth. All Moroccan civil servants must obtain written permission from their ministries to leave the country each time they wish to do so. Moroccans may not renounce Moroccan citizenship, but the King has the rarely used power 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 receive information concerning their arrest and imprisonment. Dual nationals also complain of harassment by Moroccan immigration inspectors. Moroccan law encourages voluntary repatriation of Moroccan Jews who have emigrated; Moroccan Jewish emigres, including those with Israeli citizenship, freely visit Morocco. The law also encourages the return of Saharans who have opposed Morocco in the Western Sahara conflict. Returning former members of the Polisario, a group seeking independence for the Western Sahara, who are deemed to pose no threat to security are integrated into Moroccan life. Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government Moroccan citizens do not enjoy the right to change their 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 the Interior appoints provincial governors. Municipal councils are elected. Constitutional changes in 1992 vested in the Prime Minister the power to nominate all other government ministers. However, the King retained the right to replace any minister at will. Any significant surrender of power from the crown to the Prime Minister's office was further obviated by an April decree by which the King greatly increased both the power and the pay of the secretaries general of the ministries. The decree effectively delegated to the secretaries general many of the powers previously vested in the ministers. The secretaries general serve at the pleasure of the King. The first parliamentary elections in 9 years were held in 1993. Under reforms implemented in 1992, electoral commissions were empowered to oversee the election process and to hear complaints of irregularities, but the conduct of the elections remained in the hands of the Interior Ministry. Of the 333 members of Parliament, 222 are elected directly by universal adult suffrage, while 111 are elected indirectly by various business, labor, and agricultural organizations. In the direct elections held in June, opposition parties did very well. This first phase of the elections received generally favorable marks from international observers. Although informed observers expected opposition parties to solidify their gains in the indirect elections in September, the second stage left opposition parties barely short of the strength needed to form a coalition government and resulted in widespread charges of election fraud and manipulation, ranging from the strong-arming of association members responsible for nominating candidates to the falsification of voting lists. Several new parties were created during the elections. Sixteen parties are now officially recognized by the Interior Ministry. 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 (LMDDH), and the Moroccan Human Rights Association (AMDH). LMDDH, associated with the Istiqlal Party, and AMDH, associated with the Party of the Socialist Avant Garde, have formed a coordinating committee and generally issue joint communiques. The LMDDH and the nonpartisan OMDH accepted invitations to participate in CCDH activities. All three groups report that ministries, usually Justice and Interior, invariably fail to respond or even acknowledge their inquiries regarding particular human rights cases. Investigations by Moroccan human rights groups are generally conducted with neither government hindrance nor cooperation. As noted in Section 2.b., the authorities continued to impede the ability of human rights groups to hold public meetings and in one instance picked up a human rights group leader for several hours of questioning about the group's activities. At the urging of CCDH, the Government in 1993 allowed the first visit by an international human rights group in 3 years. In an interview prior to the arrival of a delegation from Amnesty International (AI), King Hassan II pointedly attacked AI's methods and credibility. Nevertheless, the delegation came away, after 18 hours of meetings with the CCDH, encouraged by the Government's willingness to engage in a human rights dialogue. AI representatives returned in December. In general, however, the Government does not cooperate with international investigations of allegations of human rights abuses in Morocco. It generally does not respond to inquiries about specific political prisoners made by diplomatic missions. If allowed in the country, human rights monitors are generally refused access to people or conditions they want to see. In 1990, in response to criticism of Morocco's human rights performance, the King created the CCDH, among whose responsibilities was the representation of Morocco at international human rights forums such as the United Nations Human Rights Commission and with foreign nongovernmental organizations. CCDH's powers are not commensurate with its mandate from the King to expose and correct abuses of human rights. While it proposes reforms to the Palace and some of its recommendations, such as a reduction in the period of permissible precharge detention, are implemented, its capacity to investigate a particular report of abuse is limited to making inquiry of the concerned ministry, usually Interior, and awaiting a reply. CCDH has neither the authority to hold government officers responsible for abuses nor the inclination to condemn publicly the consistent failure of ministries to respond to its inquiries. A Moroccan government official served as interim president of the preparatory commission for the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights in Geneva. Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status Women Moroccan women suffer various forms of discrimination, both legal and cultural. Under the Criminal Code, women are generally accorded the same treatment as men. Women are not accorded equal treatment under family and estate law, which is based on the Malikite school of Islamic law. In marriage, for example, a husband may repudiate his wife, but the wife may not repudiate her husband. The situations under which a woman may sue for divorce are far fewer than those permitted to men. Women inherit only half as much as their male siblings. Moreover, even where the law guarantees equal status, cultural norms often prevent a woman's exercise of those rights. When a Moroccan woman inherits property from a father or husband, for example, male relatives may force her to sign over her interest. Many well-educated women succeed in breaking into the professional ranks, particularly in the areas of law, medicine, education, and government service. There are, however, few women in the top echelons of their professions. Women comprise approximately 24 percent of the work force, with the majority of them in the industrial, service, and teaching sectors. Women have the right to vote and to run for office. Some women have been elected to municipal councils and two women were elected to Parliament in 1993. There are no women on the CCDH, nor are there any women serving as government ministers. Women suffer most from inequality in the rural areas. Rural women perform most hard physical labor; the rate of literacy, particularly in the countryside, is noticeably lower for women than for men; and girls are much less likely to be sent to school than are boys. Women who earn their secondary school diploma, however, have equal access to university training. The law and social practices governing violence against women reflect Morocco's Islamic culture and the importance placed on the honor of the family. The Criminal Code includes severe punishment for men who are convicted of raping or violating a woman or girl, and the defendant bears the burden of proving his 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. Although a woman who is the victim of wife beating has the right to complain to the police, as a practical matter she could do so only if prepared to file for divorce and leave her husband's home. The law excuses the murder or injury of a wife who is caught in the act of committing adultery. A woman would not be excused for committing violence against her husband under the same circumstances. The civil law status of Moroccan women is governed by the Moudouwana, or Code of Personal Status, which is based in part on the Koran. With the active support of the King, limited reform of the Moudouwana, consistent with the mandates of the Koran, were effected in 1993. The amendments allow a wife to divorce a husband who announces an intent to take a second wife; grant a wife unspecified allowance rights, based on the husband's income, in cases where a husband files for divorce without legal justification; and recognize a wife's priority of right to custody of any children after a divorce. Women's groups in Morocco unsuccessfully requested that the Moudouwana changes include expanded rights to combat spousal violence, a problem they believe to be commonplace. Presently, a wife's charge of spousal abuse, even if proven, merely entitles her to divorce with no mandatory economic support. Hence, victims of spousal abuse are unlikely to report its occurrence to authorities. Children Morocco launched in November a campaign to vaccinate children against preventable diseases. However, the Government takes little action to promote child welfare in the areas of child labor (see Section 6.d.) and education. The announced illiteracy rate is 55 percent, and the actual rate is higher, especially in rural areas. At year's end, the Moroccan daily 'L'Opinion summarized several cases involving the physical abuse of young maids by their employers. At least two 1993 cases were before Moroccan courts. In the first, a Casablanca police officer and his wife were arrested for severely beating a 6-year-old maid recruited from poor rural relatives. In the second, a military officer's wife from Meknes was arrested for the murder of a 14-year-old maid who died after admission to a hospital exhibiting symptoms of torture and starvation. After citing scores of examples of the abuse of young girls employed as domestics, 'L'Opinion concluded that documented cases were merely the "tip of the iceberg" and accused the Government of callous indifference to the problem. National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities The Constitution affirms the legal equality of all Moroccans, and the Government does not discriminate based on ethnicity. The official language of Morocco is Arabic, and the languages of instruction and the news media are Arabic and French. Science and technical curriculums are taught in French, thereby eliminating the large monolingual Arabic population from these programs. Moroccan educational reforms over the past decade have stressed use of Arabic in secondary schools. Failure to similarly transform the university system has functionally disqualified many students, especially those from poorer homes where French tutoring is not practicable, from higher education in lucrative fields. People with Disabilities A high incidence of disabling disease, especially polio, has produced a large population of disabled persons in Morocco. Wlhile the Ministry of Social Affairs contends that the Government endeavors to integrate the disabled into society, this in practice is left largely to private charities. However, charitable special education schools are priced beyond the reach of most families. Most typically, disabled persons survive by begging. The Government recently initiated a pilot training program for the blind. There are no laws guaranteeing access for the disabled. Section 6 Worker Rights a. The Right of Association The Constitution guarantees "the right of association and the right to join any trade union and political organization." Workers are free to form and join unions, and the right is exercised widely. According to the trade union federations, well over a million of Morocco's 9 million workers are unionized; 5 percent of the work force is a more accurate estimate. Substantial numbers of workers in the public sector are unionized. Three of the 17 existing trade union federations dominate the labor scene; all are organizationally independent of the Government. They are the Union Marocaine de Travail (UMT), the Confederation Democratique de Travail (CDT), and the Union Generale des Travailleurs Marocains (UGTM). The UMT has no political affiliation, the CDT is linked to the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), and the UGTM to the nationalist Istiqlal Party. Unions are not entirely free of government influence. The internal intelligence services of the Interior Ministry keep the Government fully apprised of trade union activity, and the selection of union officers and the carrying out of their duties are sometimes subject to government pressure. Within individual unions, the right to select one's own leaders is usually recognized. However, some violations occur; in May the UMT's national headquarters unilaterally replaced the regional leaders in the town of El Jadida by forcefully expelling the local leaders and replacing them with their own. Under the Constitution, workers have the right to strike and do so. Most work stoppages are intended to advertise grievances; they usually last 24 hours or less. However, strikes can be prolonged and arise not only from economic demands or working conditions but also from union rivalries. Partially in response to a royal warning not to disturb social peace prior to the parliamentary elections, there were relatively few strikes in early 1993, and the labor scene remained relatively quiet after the June elections in anticipation of the formation of a new, more prolabor government. Teacher trainees performing 2 years of civil service conducted a sit-in and hunger strike in the summer to demand permanent positions; the first attempt at the sit-in in July was broken up by police, and some protesters were arrested. A number of limited 1- and 2-day strikes closed most college and high school campuses for several days in February and March as teachers struck over longstanding grievances, including pay, working conditions, and benefits. There were similar 2-day strikes in the public health, railroads, and postal sectors in March. The release from prison of CDT Secretary General Noubir Amaoui and UGTM activist Driss Laghnimi in July was seen as a sign of greater government willingness to cooperate with labor following the success of prolabor parties in the June legislative elections. The International Labor Organization (ILO) Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA), reviewing several complaints at its 1993 sessions about arrest of trade unionists for participating in strikes or distributing material expressing political opinions, expressed concern that the Government had not respected workers' right to freedom of association. Unions and union federations are free to affiliate internationally and do so actively. The UMT rejoined the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions in 1990 after an absence of many years. Unions belong to regional labor organizations and maintain ties with international trade secretariats. b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively The Constitution includes labor organizations among the entities that serve to "organize and represent the citizens." An implied right to organize and bargain collectively is exercised, but laws protecting collective bargaining are not highly developed. The multiplicity of trade union federations creates competition to organize workers. Any group of eight workers may organize, and a worker may change trade union affiliation. Thus, a single factory may contain several independent locals or locals affiliated with more than one labor federation. In both the process of organizing and during collective bargaining, labor laws are widely observed most often in the corporate and parastatal sectors of the economy, where ad hoc government mediation and arbitration procedures to promote worker-employer negotiations are easily applied. These mediation procedures do not in practice limit unions' freedom to bargain collectively. The unions' most common complaint against employers is that they refuse to negotiate seriously. In the informal and underground economies and in the textile and handicrafts fields, labor laws and regulations are poorly enforced. Small employers, especially in the agricultural sector, are often ignorant of labor laws and regulations. While the right to organize and bargain collectively exists in both the Constitution and labor law, the Government does not always protect this right. As a practical matter, the unions have no judicial recourse to oblige the Government to act when it has not met its obligations under the law. Moreover, political considerations often lead the Government to hinder the full exercise of worker rights in an effort to control the unions. In some parts of the industrial and parastatal sectors there is a long-established tradition of collective bargaining, but this practice is not spreading to emerging sectors of the economy. The wages of unionized workers are established through practices that include discussions between employer and worker representatives. However, wages for the vast majority of nonunionized workers are set unilaterally by the employer, ostensibly respecting the minimum wage law. In the industrial sector, collective bargaining agreements are often invoked in legal disputes when a worker claims to have been reprimanded or dismissed for trade union activity. Employers usually cite work-related reasons for the dismissals. An employer intending to fire workers without replacing them must apply in advance to the provincial governor through the Labor Inspector's office. In cases where employers plan to replace fired workers, the Labor Inspector provides replacements and mediates the cases of workers who protest their dismissal. Any worker fired for a serious infraction such as sabotage is entitled by law to a court hearing. Notwithstanding the constitutional provision noted above, Morocco's ratification of ILO Convention 98 on the right to organize and bargain collectively, and some case law, there is no specific law prohibiting antiunion discrimination by employers. Employers regularly fire workers for trade union activity that they see as threatening to employer interests. Reinstatement is sometimes ordered by courts, but legal proceedings can be expensive and time-consuming. Labor complainants are often vindicated in court proceedings, but court decisions awarding damages and back pay can be difficult to enforce. Ministry of Labor inspectors serve as investigators and conciliators in labor disputes; however, the inspectors are not very effective because they are few in number, carry heavy workloads, and do not have the resources to investigate all cases. In addition to pursuing their complaints through the Ministry of Labor's inspectors, unions increasingly are going directly to court with their complaints. ILO committees repeatedly cited the Government in 1993 for failing to respond adequately to union allegations of violations of trade union rights such as dismissing and arresting trade unionists and repressing demonstrations. In May the CFA concluded that protection against antiunion discrimination is not satisfactorily guaranteed by the Government. Moroccan labor law applies equally to the small Tangier export zone. The proportion of unionized workers there is about the same as in Morocco as a whole. c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor Apart from its ratification of both ILO conventions against forced labor, Morocco has no legal or constitutional prohibition against forced or compulsory labor, but, as far as is known, it is not practiced. d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children Children may not be legally employed or apprenticed before age 12. Special regulations govern the employment of children between the ages of 12 and 16. Those under the age of 16 may not work nights (between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.) nor more than 10 hours a day. The normal workday is 8 hours; only in a few exceptional professions are any workers permitted to work more than 10 hours per day. In practice, children are often apprenticed before age 12, particularly in handicraft work. The argument is made that they need to acquire skills, such as weaving or rug making, before they reach the age of 12. Five years of primary education is compulsory, starting at age 7, but enforcement in the countryside and poorer urban areas is lax. Safety and health conditions as well as salaries in enterprises employing children are often substandard. The use of minors is common in the rug-making and tanning trades, many of whose products are exported. Children are also employed informally as domestics and usually receive little or no wages. Poverty and a pervasive cultural acceptance of child labor keep abuse of the child labor laws prevalent nationwide. In 1993 a Casablanca policeman and his wife were arrested for severely beating a 6-year old maid, recruited from poor, rural relatives. The Ministry of Labor, through its corps of labor inspectors, is responsible for enforcing child labor regulations. Child labor laws are generally well observed in the industrialized, unionized sector of the economy. However, the inspection mandate of labor inspectors does not include domestic employees. e. Acceptable Conditions of Work There was no change in 1993 to the minimum wage of about $150 (1,350 dirhams) per month, effective as of May 1992. Despite food, diesel fuel, and public transportation subsidies, a family cannot maintain a decent standard of living on the minimum wage of a single worker. The labor unions have long called for a minimum wage of about $220. In many cases, several members, some of them working in the informal economy, combine their income to support the family. The minimum wage is not enforced effectively in the informal and handicraft sectors. It is enforced fairly effectively in the industrialized, unionized sector, though members complain that employers often, by means of deductions and other techniques, pay their workers less than the law requires. In an effort to increase employment opportunities for recent graduates, firms are permitted to hire them for a limited period for less than the minimum wage. Firms are not allowed to replace them with other low-paid trainees when the limited employment period ends. Most workers in the industrial sector of the economy, except for those employed in garment assembly, earn more than minimum wage. Moreover, workers are customarily paid between 13 and 16 months' salary for every 12-month year. The informal sector provides a safety net for those who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed. The extensive parallel economy employs directly or indirectly an estimated 50 to 75 percent of the working population, often in part-time jobs. The law provides a 48-hour maximum workweek and a 24-hour rest period, with not more than 8 hours (with certain exceptions) for any single day, premium pay for overtime, paid public and annual holidays, and minimum conditions for health and safety, including the prohibition of night work for women and minors. As with other regulations and laws, these are observed unevenly, if at all, in the informal sector. Labor inspectors endeavor to monitor working conditions, accidents, and labor disputes, but lack sufficient resources and authority to investigate many complaints and mandate full compliance with the law.
[end of document]
to 1993 Human Rights Practices report home page.
Return to DOSFAN home page.
This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.