US human rights report infuriates Morocco
Casablanca - Moroccan officials summoned the US ambassador to protest a US State Department report alleging human rights violations in the North African country. Morocco said the document was “biased” and threw back charges of rights problems in the United States.
US Ambassador to Morocco Dwight Bush was called in by Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita, who was joined by Mohamed Yassine Mansouri, head of the Intelligence Agency (DGED), to protest the report.
The annual State Department report on human rights in Morocco, published April 13th, alleged torture during interrogations, unfair trials, arrests and harassment of journalists. The report said eight activists were imprisoned for “making false allegations of torture”.
That report came after non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other governments alleged human rights violations. Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid criticised items published by NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
“These NGOs should know that today’s Morocco is not yesterday’s,” he said.
Ramid, during an appearance before parliament, acknowledged there were shortcomings in human rights in Morocco but added: “Many changes have been noted in this area.”
The opposition slammed the government for “certain human rights violations that cannot be denied”.
Among allegations in the State Department document was the sentencing of activist Ouafae Charaf to two years in prison for “allegedly falsely reporting being abducted and tortured by unknown persons”.
Rabat issued a statement in March denying the reliability of the US report’s assertions, calling them “sloppy,” “outrageous” and “biased”.
“The United States is not empowered to assess the situation of human rights in Morocco because they themselves commit many violations in the matter,” Ramid said.
According to a statement issued by the Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman, Bourita and Mansouri presented three cases that demonstrated “the proven manipulation and blatant factual errors that taint the State Department’s report”.
The first case involved Charaf. Rabat insisted the judicial investigation and legal phone tapping conducted by the public prosecution concluded categorically that Charaf “invented the script of her alleged abduction and encouraged members of her own family to make false statements to corroborate her thesis”.
The second case was that of Osama Housn. The State Department’s report said Housn was given a three-year prison sentence for “making false allegations of torture” and “reporting crimes that he was aware were non-existent”.
However, a judicial investigation said his friend Charaf had denied his claims and said he was with her at the time he claimed to have been kidnapped, the Moroccan statement said.
The third case involved Hamid Mahdaoui, news editor of Badil website, who was given a four-month prison sentence, which was suspended, for defamation of the head of the General Directorate for National Security (DGSN), Abdellatif Hammouchi, according to the State Department’s report.
Rabat vehemently denied the allegation against Hammouchi, who was not in charge of DGSN at the time of Mahdaoui’s accusation against him.
“The facts cited in the report have not been checked, demonstrating the negligence or bad faith of the editors,” said the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s statement.
“Serious allegations such as those contained in the State Department’s report give the impression that these institutions do not fulfil their missions. They are an insult to the active commitment and dedication of their members.”
The US embassy in Rabat apologised on May 20th for the “unintentional error” regarding Hammouchi, which found its way to the report “while at that time he was not in that position”.
Moroccan Communication Minister Mustapha el-Khalfi lashed out at the US report at a National Press Forum in Laayoune.
“The report is an unprecedented turnaround… a frank questioning of this report is necessary because we refuse to take lessons and be subject to any supervision,” he said.
The US report stated that “systematic and pervasive corruption undermined law enforcement and the effectiveness of the judicial system (in Morocco]), adding that “impunity was pervasive” with no credible statistics on prosecutions of corrupted officials.
The flare-up between Morocco and the United States came a month after Rabat issued a statement regretting that Washington “introduced elements of pressure, constraints and weakening and acted against the spirit of the partnership” between the two countries” following the US-drafted adopted UN Security Council Resolution 2285 on the Western Sahara conflict.