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Morocco/Western Sahara

    June 09, 2014
    Lahecen El-Filali (L) holds a photo of his daughter, Amina El-Filali, as he attends a news conference with his wife Zahera Lmealme and his other daughter, Hamida, in Rabat March 21, 2012.

    Amina Filali committed suicide by swallowing rat poison in March 2012. She was 16 years old. Her desperate act showed the depth of her pain and despair: she must have felt that nobody was there to help her.

    We soon learned that Amina had been raped in her small Moroccan town, by a man she was then forced to marry. Imagine being married to your rapist, to be forced to see that person all the time – it would be devastating. 

    He married her because Moroccan law allows rapists to escape prosecution by marrying their victim, if she is aged under 18.

    Amina’s death caused an outcry in Morocco and throughout the region. What shocked people most was that this marriage was sanctioned by law, as well as by a judge who authorized it. It revealed that the state was complicit in covering up a rape. And instead of protecting her as the victim of a crime, the law victimized Amina a second time. 

    This kind of legislation doesn’t just exist in Morocco, but also in Algeria and Tunisia. 

    SHAME IS A POWERFUL FORCE 

    This legal environment prevents women and girls from reporting rape. A victim is not considered as a survivor of a grave act of violence.

    June 09, 2014

    When Amnesty launched My Body My Rights, our global campaign on sexual and reproductive rights, earlier this year, we were met by unfavourable headlines in the Moroccan media. It’s time to set the record straight, writes Aurelia Dondo, North Africa campaigner.

    Our message was clear. Women and girls have the right to live free from sexual violence and have the right to bodily integrity. These rights are known in international law as sexual and reproductive rights. They are universal human rights and governments must ensure they are respected, protected and fulfilled. But some within the Moroccan media were quick to distort the message.

    By depicting Amnesty International as an imperialist organization encouraging sexual misconduct, these media outlets twisted the debate and muddied the issue. In doing so, they disregarded the plight of the survivors of sexual violence we are campaigning for.

    May 20, 2014

    The Moroccan authorities’ use of an anti-terrorism law to prosecute and imprison journalists is a serious blow to freedom of expression and editorial independence, Amnesty International said today, as it highlighted the cases of two men recently targeted under the law.

    Yesterday, authorities further postponed today’s hearing of journalist Ali Anouzla, who risks up to 20 years’ imprisonment for reporting on a video by the armed group al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Meanwhile another Moroccan journalist, Mustapha El Hasnaoui is on his fifth day of hunger strike in protest at his ongoing three-year prison term on terrorism charges for alleged contact with individuals fighting government forces in Syria.

    “Using anti-terrorism legislation as a pretext to punish journalists for their reporting is dealing a serious blow to freedom of expression in Morocco,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

    May 12, 2014

    Belgian-Moroccan citizen Ali Aarrass remains in prison in Morocco, serving a 12 year sentence for illegal use of weapons and participation in a group intending to commit acts of terrorism. The only evidence against him was a confession obtained through torture.

    Ali Aarrass continues to experience some ill-treatment and harassment in detention. International support has played a role in helping to improve his detention conditions.

    Send a message of solidarity to Ali Aarrass in prison. Your messages let Ali Aarrass know that he is not alone, and they let prison officials know that he is not alone.

    January 22, 2014

    The Moroccan Parliament's vote to amend a law so that rapists can no longer escape prosecution by marrying their victims if they are under 18 is an important step in the right direction, Amnesty International said today.

    The organization added that the amendment was long overdue and much more still needed to be done in the country and throughout the region.

    "Today’s vote is a welcome step but Morocco still needs a comprehensive strategy to protect women and girls from violence, with input from women’s rights groups who have been excluded from the process so far," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    “It took 16-year-old Amina Filali’s suicide and nearly two years for the parliament to close the loophole that allowed rapists to avoid accountability. It’s time to have laws that protect survivors of sexual abuse”.

    November 21, 2013

    US President Barack Obama must urge Moroccan King Mohammed VI to scrap laws which see women and girls forced to marry their rapists, and teenagers facing jail for kissing in a public place, Amnesty International said ahead of a meeting between the two heads of state on Friday.

    Several teenage survivors of sexual violence have committed suicide in recent months.

    Public pressure to protect survivors of sexual violence had peaked in March 2012 when 16-year-old Amina Filali swallowed rat poison and killed herself, after being forced to marry the man she said had raped her.

    “It is dreadful that this sort of attitude is enshrined in law. The Penal Code allows rapists to escape prosecution by marrying their victims. This discriminates against women and girls and provide them with little protection when they are subjected to sexual violence,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    October 10, 2013

    Authorities in Morocco must immediately and unconditionally drop charges against three teenagers arrested for kissing and posting a photo on Facebook, said Amnesty International ahead of a court hearing on Friday.

    “It is simply absurd that these teenagers could face a prison term just for kissing and and posting a photo on Facebook,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    “These young people should never have been detained in the first place - there is no imaginable reason why expression of this type ought to result in prosecution. Launching a judicial investigation into a complaint about an act as benign as teenagers kissing is ridiculous. It should be dismissed out of hand.”

    Two 15-year-old boys and one 14-year-old girl were arrested on 4 October in the city of Nador. They were detained for three days and released on bail on 7 October, ahead of a court hearing this Friday.

    All three were charged with “public indecency” under Article 483 of Morocco's Penal Code. If found guilty, they could face up to two years imprisonment and a fine.

    September 18, 2013

    The Moroccan authorities’ detention of journalist and editor Ali Anouzla is an assault on the country’s independent media and he must be released immediately and unconditionally, Amnesty International said today.

    Plain-clothes police arrested Ali Anouzla at his home in Rabat early on Tuesday, shortly after his outspoken Arabic-language online news outlet Lakome published a story about a video by the armed group al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). He has yet to be charged with any crime.

    “We fear Ali Anouzla is being punished for Lakome’s editorial independence and criticism of government policies, in what signals a worrying setback for freedom of expression in Morocco. He is a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    May 16, 2013

    The Moroccan authorities must immediately launch a full, independent and impartial investigation into allegations that six Sahrawi activists – including a child – were tortured in police custody in Western Sahara, Amnesty International said.

    On 15 May, 17-year old El Hussein Bah was jailed in Laayoune, Western Sahara, in spite of a previous decision to release him on bail. He and five other Sahrawis had been arrested on 9 May after protesting for the self-determination of Western Sahara.

    All six have been charged with “violence against public officials”, “participating in an armed gathering”, “placing objects on a road obstructing traffic” and “damaging public property”, punishable with up to 10 years in prison.

    They are currently in pre-trial detention in Laayoune Civil Prison, and there are fears they face unfair trials after reportedly being tortured into making “confessions”.

    May 07, 2013

    “We ask for a reform of all sections of the law that are detrimental to women's rights, such as the ones that favour the honour of the family at the expense of women’s dignity.” Khadua Ryadi, President of the Moroccan Assoc of Human Rights

    In March 2012, 16-year-old Amina Filali swallowed rat poison and killed herself after being forced to marry the man she said had raped her. Amina’s tragic story is not uncommon in Morocco: the law explicitly allows rapists to escape prosecution by marrying their victim.

    The public outcry around Amina’s death led prompted initiatives to amend the law. On January 8, 2014, Morocco’s Lower House Justice, Legislation and Human Rights Commission adopted a proposal to remove paragraph 2 of Article 475 of the Penal Code, which allows a rapist to escape prosecution by marrying his victim if she is aged under 18. A crucial vote in the Moroccan Parliament is scheduled for January 22, 2014.

    Genuine progress towards ending violence and discrimination against women in Morocco requires widespread reform of both long held attitudes and legislation.

    March 01, 2013

    In March 2012, Moroccan 16-year-old Amina Filali swallowed rat poison and killed herself, after being forced to marry the man she said had raped her.

    Amina’s tragic story was not uncommon in Morocco, where Article 475 of the Penal Code has allowed rapists to escape prosecution if they marry the victim.

    But Amina’s tragic end struck a cord in Moroccan society and the ensuing public outcry prompted the authorities to propose a change to the outrageous article in January 2013.

    Human rights organizations including Amnesty International applauded the move but warned that many other articles of the Penal Code needed to be modified if women and girls were to be protected from violence and discrimination.

    “Decency” offences
    Among the provisions of the Moroccan Penal Code challenged by human rights organizations is Article 486.

    Under the section dealing with “decency” offences it defines rape as the act by which “a man has sexual relations with a woman against her will”, and is punishable by five to 10 years’ imprisonment.

    February 25, 2013

    A Moroccan editor is facing imprisonment on charges of disseminating false information after he ran a story alleging that a senior government official spent public money on a champagne dinner, Amnesty International said.

    If found guilty Youssef Jajili faces a possible one-year prison sentence after he published the article in Al-Aan magazine in June 2012 reporting that the minister of industry, trade and new technologies spent 10,000 Moroccan Dirhams (around 1,180 USD) of public money on a private dinner during an official trip to Burkina Faso.

    “The charges against Jajili must be dropped immediately by Court of First Instance in Ain Sebaa in Casablanca. If imprisoned on these charges Youssef Jajili would be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to free expression,” said Amnesty International.

    “This is a stark reminder that despite their promised reforms and pledged commitment to upholding freedom of expression, the Moroccan authorities continue to stifle criticism.”

    February 20, 2013

    Two years after thousands of people took to the streetter thousands of people took to the streets of Rabat, Casablanca and other cities in Morocco calling for reform, repression of protests in Morocco remains routine, said Amnesty International.

    To this day, dozens of activists affiliated with the 20 February movement are reported to be detained for peacefully expressing their views. Some have said they were tortured and ill-treated in custody.

    The 20 February movement, which was formed in the wave of popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa region, demands greater respect for human rights and democracy, better economic conditions and an end to corruption.

    “It is unfathomable that the authorities continue to violently suppress critics in blatant disregard of the new constitution adopted in July 2011, which guarantees the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful demonstration and association,” said Ann Harrison, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa programme.

    February 18, 2013

    The Moroccan authorities must use civilian courts to give fair retrials to 25 Sahrawis and fully investigate their allegations of torture, Amnesty International said today after a military court handed them long prison sentences. 

    On Sunday, the Military Court of Rabat handed down nine life sentences and sentenced 14 other defendants to between 20-30 years imprisonment each. Two other defendants were released having served their two-year sentences in pre-trial detention.

    The convictions relate to violence during and after the Moroccan security forces’ dismantling of the Gdim Izik protest camp in November 2010, during which 11 members of the security forces and two Sahrawis were killed.

    “The Moroccan authorities have ignored calls to try the defendants in an independent, impartial civilian court. Instead they have opted for a military court where civilians can never receive a fair trial.” said Ann Harrison, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

    February 01, 2013

    The trial of 24 Sahrawi civilians before a military court in Morocco is flawed from the outset Amnesty International said today as it called for the defendants to be tried in a civilian court and for an investigation into their torture allegations.

    All of the group, which includes several activists, are on trial in Rabat today in relation to violence during and after the dismantling of the Gdim Izik protest camp near Laayoune, Western Sahara in November 2010, when 11 members of the security forces and two Sahrawis were killed.

    Most of the defendants have said that they were tortured and otherwise ill-treated at different stages of their two-year pre-trial detention. Some are said to have been coerced into signing statements.

    "The trial of civilians before a military court does not meet internationally recognized standards for a fair trial. The 24 accused must be brought before a civilian court with all the human rights guarantees that go along with it, and in no event must anyone be sentenced to death," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Director of the Middle East and North Africa.

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