Morocco/Western Sahara: Wafae Charaf and Oussama Housne
Moroccan human rights and political activists Wafae Charaf and Oussama Housne were sentenced to three-year and two-year prison terms respectively in 2014 for “falsely reporting” torture. They were also convicted of slandering Morocco’s police force and ordered to pay compensation, even though neither of them had accused the police. They are prisoners of conscience.
Wafae Charaf said she was abducted after she went to a workers’ protest in Tangiers on 27 April 2014, by men who beat her for several hours and threatened her with further violence if she did not stop her activism.
Oussama Housne said he was abducted and tortured on 2 May 2014, as he was leaving a protest in solidarity with detained activists. He said the men burned him with a heated metal rod and raped him with their fingers. He related his account in a video that was posted on YouTube, prompting the judicial authorities to open an investigation. They concluded he had not been tortured and charged him with false reporting and slander under Articles 264 and 445 of the Penal Code.
Oussama Housne and Wafae Charaf’s convictions followed a statement made on 11 July 2014 by the Moroccan Minister of Justice and Liberties in which he said that while the Moroccan authorities were committed to preventing torture and investigating torture allegations, those making false reports would be prosecuted. Since then, three people have been convicted of making false allegations, including Oussama Housne and Wafae Charaf, who are now in prison. Several others are being prosecuted, including the French NGO Action des chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture (ACAT-France), which campaigns for the abolition of torture worldwide.
The convictions of Wafae Charaf and Oussama Housne send a chilling message to any survivor of torture who considers complaining about their abuse that they might end up behind bars for doing so. Victims and witnesses of torture and other ill-treatment must be protected against retribution or intimidation, including threats of counter-charges, as a result of making complaints. Torture will only be stopped if victims can safely report violations and suspected perpetrators are brought to justice.
Call on El Mustapha Ramid, the Minister of Justice and Liberties, to:
- Ensure Wafae Charaf and Oussama Housne are released immediately and unconditionally;
- Take effective steps to protect complainants, witnesses and others reporting torture from reprisals and intimidation, including threats of counter-charges – including by repealing provisions in the Penal Code which criminalize slander and offending public officials;
- Ensure that all reports of torture and other ill-treatment are promptly, impartially, independently and effectively investigated.
Minister of Justice and Liberties
El Mustapha Ramid
Ministry of Justice and Liberties
Place El Mamounia
Salutation: Your Excellency