Morocco: Human rights organizations warn against increased restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and demonstration

Civic Space 7 min read
ARTICLE 19

ARTICLE 19, Adalah Association for Fair Trial and EuroMed Rights express their deep concern about the frequent attacks and trials against journalists, individuals and associations when they exercise their rights of freedom of expression, association and demonstration, in full contradiction with Morocco’s Constitution, laws and international commitments.

Violations concerning freedom of expression and press

On 28 March 2019, four journalists were sentenced to six months of suspended sentence and a fine of 10,000 dirhams (1,000 USD) after a complaint was filed against them by the President of the Chamber of Councilors, who accused them of publishing information concerning the work of the investigation Commission on the Moroccan Retirement Fund. They were subject to this sanction due to the publication of true information, within the framework of their journalistic profession, concerning the proceedings of a private hearing of the former Prime Minister.

On 18 April 2019, journalist Omar Al-Radhi was interrogated by the National Judicial Police Division for about 4 hours because of a tweet he posted on his Twitter account, coinciding with the confirmation of the preliminary sentences against the detainees of the “Al-Rif Movement”. Following his interrogation, Al-Radi posted on his Facebook page information about the investigation, saying he was asked to “explain every word of the text of the tweet,” which is considered harassment to the Journalist and a violation of his right to freedom of expression.

The signatory organizations consider the referral of journalists on the basis of Criminal Law to be a clear violation of the provisions of Article 28 of the Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of the press and Article 4 of Law No. 88.13 on press and publication, which explicitly stated that “this Law, together with Law No. 89.13 on the statute of Professional Journalists and Law No. 90.13 on the National Press Council, constitute a Code for Press and Publication.” Thus, all cases related to press and publication should be limited to these legal texts.

The existence of two legal systems on publication crimes is also a matter of concern, since the exclusion of press and publication legislation in cases against individuals other than journalists, and replacing it with criminal law, is a violation of international standards that stipulate the mandatory respect of the principle of legal security and the principle of equality of individuals in the exercise of their rights, including the right to freedom of expression.

Violations of freedom of association

In 2019, there have been several violations of the right to freedom of association, for example through the disruption of meetings of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights due to Moroccan authorities’ delay in responding to the association’s request for approval of the conference venue and a license to post banners, in preparation for convening its twelfth National Conference.

Moreover, on 16 April 2019 an appeal judgement was issued confirming the initial judgment of 26 December 2018 for the dissolution of the “Racines” association because of a discussion panel published online, in violation of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association, as enshrined in Articles 25 and 29 of the Moroccan Constitution and international law, where the dissolution sanction applies only in extreme cases, where violence occurs, which was not the case for “Racines”.

Violation of the right to demonstrate

The signatory organizations express their deep concern about the escalation of attacks on demonstrators and the use of unjustified and excessive violence by security forces to disperse protests, resulting in severe injuries among the protesters, such as what happened to the “coordination of contracted professors”.

The “Working Group for “Al-Rif” and the Whole Nation” was banned from organizing a human rights seminar in Al-Hoceïma for a group of human rights activists, after a notice was given to the local authority in the name of the Human Rights Forum branch of Al-Hoceïma, in Northern Morocco, on 8 April 2019, which was refused and they were denied use of public halls.

On 10 April 2019, security forces blocked an Amnesty International stand that was expected to be organized in front of the Parliament building as part of its advocacy activities for the abolition of the death penalty in Morocco. A play entitled “justice does not kill but it makes life thrive ” was scheduled to be presented on the road opposite to the Parliament building. Despite the legal statement of Amnesty International, security forces showed up and informed the attendees of the decision of state authorities to ban the stand and related activities.

On 10 April 2019, the local authorities in Beni Mellal banned a solidarity stand with the detainees of Al-Rif movement and the journalist Hamid Al-Mahdawi in the square of Bani Mellal town. Some of the activists came to the stand covering their mouths to express their solidarity with Nasser Al-Zafzafi and his friends who sue their mouths in prison, and slogans demanding the release of detainees detained in the aftermath of the Al-Rif movement, before the security forces intervened to disperse the stand.

It should be noted that the administrative authorities have repeatedly violated the rights to assembly and peaceful demonstration, referring to legal texts containing administrative and legal restrictions that limit the exercise of these rights and freedoms. We suggest that a full review of these legal texts is necessary in light of the 2011 Constitution provisions and Morocco’s international commitments.

Signatories:

  • ARTICLE 19
  • Adalah Association for Fair Trial
  • EuroMed Rights