CIVICUS

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Morocco

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Last updated on 20.02.2018 at 19:45

Morocco-Overview

In light of the amendments made to the constitution in 2011, the scope of public freedoms has increased in Morocco.

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Morocco shuns international recommendations on civic space

Morocco shuns international recommendations on civic space

Morocco’s worrying response to its recent Universal Periodic Review in September 2017, reflected growing concerns over the respect for human rights. The country rejected several recommendations, many of which cover civic space as well as the rights of vulnerable groups.

Association

Morocco’s worrying response to its recent UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in September 2017 has contributed to growing concerns over the authorities' respect for human rights. The country rejected several UPR recommendations, many of which cover civic space as well as the rights of vulnerable groups. For instance, the recommendation calling for "establishment of procedures for registration of civil society organisations and bringing registration mechanisms in line with international standards" was partially rejected, whereas the recommendations related to "refraining from prosecuting journalists under laws other than the Press and Publications Code" was completely rejected. 

Both international organisations and domestic civic groups alike have expressed concern after Moroccan authorities revised 44 of the recommendations, among which it partially rejected 18 and completely rejected 26. Local groups noted that many of the recommendations which were not accepted sought to protect individual rights or the rights of women. 

Expression

Press freedom and access to information remains a serious concern in Morocco. In November 2017, Media Ownership Monitor in Morocco was released by Le Desk and Reporters Without Borders. This monitoring report sheds light on the level of transparency within the Moroccan media market. In particular, the Media Ownership Monitor has found that the state's concentration of power over media outlets is a threat to freedom of expression, noting that:

“While the state monopoly over the broadcasting sector was set to disappear following the liberalisation process started in 2006, radios and TVs remain largely under its control”.

Peaceful Assembly

Brutal protests from 2016 have continued to cause controversy in Morocco. The death of fishmonger Mohcine Fikri in 2016 sparked protests in Al Hoceima which led to the arrest of 400 people, 360 of whom are still in prison. In late September 2017, the leader of the protest movement Nasser Zefzafi launched a hunger strike for several weeks with thirty other detainees. Domestic and international observers have grown increasingly concerned over Zefzafi's health after being held in solitary confinement for over 176 days. The conditions of the detained protesters have drawn international condemnation from high-profile activists and members of the European Parliament. 

During the first anniversary of the protests in October 2017, Moroccan authorities banned all protest activity in public areas. The ban was issued in response to calls on social media for a fresh wave of street demonstrations to mark the 2016 protests. 

Association

Strong legal safeguards are in place for freedom of association in the Moroccan constitution.

Strong legal safeguards are in place for freedom of association in the Moroccan constitution. The right to associate is governed by Dahir (Royal Decree) No.1-58-376. Article 2 of the law only establishes a notification process in order to register as an organisation; however, in practice the authorities often fail to deliver the registration receipt which is needed to operate and organise meetings. Also, the legislation does not allow organisations to register if their objectives or aims are deemed “contrary to good morals”; to “undermine the Islamic religion”, the monarchy, or the country’s “integrity of national territory”; or if they are considered to “call for discrimination”. Human rights defenders face judicial harassment, intimidation and arrests, especially those working in Western Sahara and on issues regarding self-determination.

Peaceful Assembly

The Moroccan Constitution guarantees the freedom of peaceful assembly.

The Moroccan Constitution guarantees the freedom of peaceful assembly. However Law 76 on Public Assemblies of 2002 imposes certain restrictions. Only legally registered organisations enjoy the right to hold a public demonstration. Organisations which intend to hold public gatherings are required to notify the authorities 48 hours in advance. Authorities can deny permission on the basis of vague provisions which allow them to make discretionary and arbitrary decisions. Apart from a few exceptions, violent protests are not common. There are instances when the security forces have used excessive force to disperse protests, which is more common during demonstrations calling for the self-determination of the Sahrawi population.

Expression

Articles 25 and 28 of the Moroccan Constitution guarantee the freedom of expression in all its forms.

Articles 25 and 28 of the Moroccan Constitution guarantee the freedom of expression in all its forms. However, the legal framework places certain restrictions which prevent the full exercise of this right. Although the Press Code removes prison sentences for forms of expression, the penal code retains prison terms for "insulting the Islamic religion or the monarchic regime or inciting against the territorial integrity of the country.” The government exercises significant control over domestic media organisations. Journalists face harassment, intimidation and the imposition of travel bans, especially those covering and reporting on issues that do not align with the government’s position regarding Western Sahara.