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Morocco/Western Sahara

    October 17, 2019

    Responding to the news that journalist Hajar Raissouni, sentenced to one year in prison over an “unlawful” abortion, was released last night, after she, her fiancé and the three members of medical staff involved in the case received a royal pardon, Heba Morayef, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Director, said: 

    “Hajar Raissouni’s release comes as a huge relief and is undoubtedly a cause for celebration for her and her family. But the fact remains that she and the four others involved in this case should never have been detained or convicted in the first place.

    “A royal pardon does not erase the grave injustice they have suffered. Their convictions should be quashed and their records cleared.

    “Hajar Raissouni’s case shows just how much work is still needed to protect women’s rights in Morocco. The Moroccan authorities must urgently decriminalise abortion and repeal all other laws that discriminate against women.”

    Background:

    October 07, 2019

    Hajar Raissouni via youtube

    DOWNLOAD PDF OF UA 121/19 HERE

    On 31 August 2019, Moroccan police arrested journalist Hajar Raissouni on suspicion of carrying out an abortion, despite lack of evidence supporting the claims. She was arrested as she left a doctor’s clinic in Rabat, along with her fiancé Amin Rifaat, the doctor and two medical staff.

    On 30 September 2019, the Court of First Instance in Rabat sentenced Hajar Raissouni to a year in prison for having an abortion and sex outside of marriage. Her fiancé, Amin Rifaat, was also sentenced to one year in prison for assisting with an abortion and for sex outside marriage. 

    September 06, 2019

    The Moroccan authorities must immediately release and drop all charges against journalist Hajar Raissouni, who has been accused of having an abortion and having sex outside of marriage, said Amnesty International ahead of her trial session on 9 September in Rabat. 

    Hajar Raissouni, who works for the independent daily newspaper Akhbar al-Yaoum, was arrested on 31 August along with her fiancé Amin Rifaat, as they left a doctor’s office in Rabat. The doctor and two others working at the clinic were also arrested on suspicion of carrying out an abortion.

    “The arrest of Hajar Raissouni and four others is completely unjust and these allegations are an outrageous invasion of her privacy,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    January 18, 2019

    Responding to the news that the appeals court in Al Hoceima has upheld the conviction of Nawal Benaissa, confirming her 10-month suspended prison sentence with a fine, Heba Morayef Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa said:

    “This verdict is an appalling miscarriage of justice. Nawal Benaissa’s only ‘crime’ was to join peaceful protests to demand the rights of people in the Rif region. The Moroccan authorities are blatantly targeting Nawal Benaissa for her role in the Hirak El-Rif movement and are making an example of her to intimidate others who may wish to speak out. Instead of continuing with their crackdown against peaceful protesters and human rights defenders, the authorities should immediately quash her conviction and drop all the charges against her.”

    Background

    November 14, 2018

    Responding to the news that a Moroccan court has upheld a five-year prison sentence against El Mortada Iamrachen, a local imam and Hirak protester from the northern Rif region of Morocco, for peacefully expressing his views in two Facebook posts, Amnesty International’s MENA Regional Director Heba Morayef said:

    “Today’s verdict is another appalling blow for freedom of expression in Morocco and a blatant miscarriage of justice.

    “With this prison sentence El Mortada Iamrachen is being cruelly punished merely for expressing his opinions on Facebook. He has already been held in solitary confinement for 11 months in violation of the prohibition of torture and other ill-treament. The fact that he will be imprisoned for years for peacefully expressing his views is abhorrent.

    "El Mortada Iamrachen appears to have been targeted because of his role as an advocate of peaceful protests. His conviction is the latest example of the Moroccan authorities’ stepping up their crackdown on dissent by prosecuting and intimidating protesters from the Hirak movement.

    October 17, 2018

    Moroccan authorities must overturn the conviction of Nawal Benaissa, a peaceful protester from the Hirak movement who has been repeatedly intimidated and harassed simply for standing up for the rights of people in the country’s northern Rif region, Amnesty International said ahead of her appeal hearing tomorrow.

    The human rights defender was prosecuted over comments she posted on Facebook between June and August 2017, in which she called on residents of Al Hoceima province to join protests and criticized the security forces’ excessive use of force against demonstrators. 

    “Joining peaceful protests and speaking out to demand respect for human rights are not crimes. Nawal Benaissa’s conviction is a clear attempt to intimidate her into silence and criminalize her activism and role in the Hirak movement. The authorities must overturn her conviction and sentence and drop all charges against her immediately,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director.

    June 27, 2018

    The guilty verdicts and heavy sentences returned in the cases of 53 Hirak protesters in Casablanca must be overturned due to the unfair nature of their trials, Amnesty International said today.

    Protest leaders Nasser Zefzafi and Nabil Ahamjik were last night sentenced to 20 years in prison, along with two other protesters, in connection with protests in the Rif region in 2017. Other protesters were given prison sentences ranging from one year to 15 years.

    “These convictions are unsafe given the extremely unfair nature of the trials,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director.

    “Nasser Zefzafi and others who have been convicted and imprisoned for protesting peacefully for social justice or covering demonstrations online should never have been on trial in the first place. He must be released and his conviction overturned.”

    February 22, 2018
    Amnesty International publishes State of the World’s Human Rights report for 2017 to 2018 “Last year our world was immersed in crises, with prominent leaders offering us a nightmarish vision of a society blinded by hatred and fear. This emboldened those who promote bigotry, but it inspired far more people to campaign for a more hopeful future,” says Salil Shetty, head of Amnesty International

    The world is reaping the terrifying consequences of hate-filled rhetoric that threatens to normalize massive discrimination against marginalized groups, Amnesty International warned today as it launched its annual assessment of human rights.

    Nevertheless, the organization found that a growing movement of both first-time and seasoned activists campaigning for social justice provides real hope of reversing the slide towards oppression.

    The report, The State of the World’s Human Rights, covers 159 countries and delivers the most comprehensive analysis of the state of human rights in the world today.

    August 11, 2017

    At least 66 people detained over mass protests in Morocco’s northern Rif region have reported suffering torture and other ill-treatment in custody including being heavily beaten, suffocated, stripped naked, threatened with rape and insulted by police, sometimes to force them to “confess”, said Amnesty International.

    The organization is calling on Morocco’s authorities to ensure a thorough, independent and impartial investigation into their claims, and for any “confessions” extracted under duress to be excluded from trial proceedings. One protester is also under investigation for “falsely reporting” that police tortured him.

    “These protesters took to the streets calling for social justice and better services, yet have faced torture and other ill-treatment, in the form of brutal beatings, rape threats, insults and other abuse. It is vital that the authorities thoroughly investigate these claims and that those behind this reprehensible abuse are brought to justice,” said Heba Morayef, North Africa Research Director for Amnesty International.

    July 19, 2017
      A court today convicted 23 Sahrawi activists over deadly clashes in Western Sahara after failing to exclude evidence tainted by allegations of torture during the trial hearings, said Amnesty International.   Early this morning the Rabat Court of Appeals sentenced the defendants to prison terms ranging from two years to life imprisonment in connection with the clashes that followed the forcible dismantlement of a protest camp in Gdim Izik, Western Sahara, in 2010, killing 11 members of the security forces and two Sahrawi protesters.  
    July 17, 2017
    Verdict Awaited for Sahrawis Charged in Fatal 2010 Clashes   The Moroccan judicial authorities should ensure that upcoming verdicts in a mass trial are not based on confessions or statements implicating other defendants obtained under torture or other ill-treatment during police interrogations, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said today.  
    June 07, 2017

    Moroccan authorities are flouting their international obligations to give protection to refugees by entrapping a group of 25 Syrian refugees in a desert area on the border between Morocco and Algeria and denying them access to asylum and urgent humanitarian assistance said Amnesty International.

    The group of Syrians, including 10 children, have been stuck for the past two months in a buffer zone within Moroccan territory, 1km from the oasis of Figuig in Morocco and 5km away from Beni Ounif in Algeria. They had been surviving on informal assistance and supplies from locals in Figuig facilitated by the Moroccan border police, but according to the refugees this stopped on Friday morning. The Moroccan border police has thus far not given Moroccan human rights groups and humanitarian organizations, including the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), access to the area.

    June 02, 2017

    The Moroccan authorities have carried out a chilling wave of arrests rounding up scores of protesters, activists and bloggers in the Rif, northern Morocco, over the past week following months of protests demanding an end to marginalization of communities and better access to services in the region, said Amnesty International.

    Some of those detained have been denied prompt access to their lawyers in police custody. In some cases lawyers who were able to see their clients in court in Al Hoceima said they bore visible injuries and reported being beaten upon arrest. There are also fears that peaceful protesters and bloggers covering the protests on social media could be among those facing trial and potential state security-related charges.

    April 18, 2017

    The UN must prioritize human rights monitoring for the situation in Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara and Sahrawi refugee camps across the border in Tindouf, Algeria, Amnesty International urged ahead of a Security Council vote next week on 27 April to renew the mandate of its peacekeeping presence in the area.

    The UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) does not currently have a mandate to document or report on the human rights situation despite the fact that abuses continue to be committed by both the Moroccan authorities and the Polisario Front, a Sahrawi pro-independence movement, which administers Sahrawi refugee camps near Tindouf, southern Algeria.

    June 28, 2016

    Tomorrow’s trial of seven journalists and activists in Morocco for training citizen journalists could set a dangerous precedent for restricting freedom of expression, Amnesty International said.

    Seven defendants face trial in Rabat after running a citizen journalism training programme using smartphones.

    “The trial of these journalists is a worrying test case for press freedom in Morocco. The accusations that journalists and citizens reporting freely in their country are compromising state security, and the risk that they may be imprisoned, are deeply alarming,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Interim Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.  

    Five of the defendants, including historian Maati Monjib, are accused of “threatening the internal security of the state” through “propaganda” that may threaten “the loyalty that citizens owe to the State and institutions of the Moroccan people” under Article 206 of the Penal Code, according to official court papers. They could be imprisoned for up to five years if found guilty.

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