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US State Department report: Bleak picture of human rights in Morocco, occupied Western Sahara

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US State Department report: Bleak picture of human rights in Morocco, occupied Western Sahara

Washington, 27 April 2024 (SPS) - A US State Department human rights report paints a bleak picture of the human rights situation in Morocco and occupied Western Sahara, listing several violations recorded in 2023.

Particularly critical of the Moroccan authorities, the report highlights a series of human rights violations, including cases of torture in detention, reporting cases of torture in detention, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of demonstrators for the independence of Western Sahara by the security forces.

The report also revealed serious restrictions on freedom of expression and media freedom, including unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists, censorship, and enforcement of or threat to enforce criminal libel laws to limit expression; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.

“Government institutions and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) received reports regarding mistreatment of individuals in official custody. The Public Prosecutor’s Office received six complaints alleging torture and 47 complaints of excessive violence in the first half of the year,” said the document.

The document also noted accusations of degrading treatment by Moroccan security officials of Sahrawi pro-independence demonstrators demanding the release of political prisoners, regretting that the authorities had "rejected complaints about abuses in Western Sahara.”

“The government took steps to investigate officials who allegedly committed human rights abuses and acts of corruption, but investigations into police, security forces, and detention center abuses lacked transparency and frequently encountered long delays and procedural obstacles that contributed to impunity,” stressed the same source.

“According to local NGOs and associations, police sometimes arrested persons without warrants.”

As in previous years, “NGOs asserted that corruption and extrajudicial influence weakened judicial independence. Human rights activists alleged trials sometimes appeared politicized in cases involving the status of the monarchy, Western Sahara, Islam as it related to political life, and national security.”

“Authorities routinely rejected the registration applications of Sahrawi human rights groups. According to Amnesty International, Sahrawi human rights activists remained subject to intimidation, questioning, arrest, and intense surveillance that occasionally amounted to harassment,” according to the US Department of State’s report.

“The OHCHR was not permitted to conduct any visits to the region for the eighth consecutive year and urged the government and other parties to address outstanding human rights problems and enhance cooperation with OHCHR,” said the document.

“The Moroccan government did not issue standing invitations to UN special procedure mandate holders. The government also continued to postpone or fail to answer requested visits from the UN special rapporteur on disability, and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention,” wrote the US Department of State in its report.