Sentenced for common law crimes, especially sex crimes, many Moroccan journalists and opponents are the target of “suppression techniquescarried out by the Moroccan authorities, aiming to silence them, says Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report published Thursday, July 28.
“Authorities have used a handbook of crude methods to crack down on opponents, while working to maintain Morocco’s image as a country that respects rights.“, explained Lama Fakih, HRW’s director for the Middle East and North Africa, as quoted in a press release.
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“Hidden political attacks”
These techniques “forming an ecosystem of repression aimed not only at silencing critical voices, but also at intimidating all potential critics of the stateMoroccan, observing human rights organization based in New York. In this 141-page document, he relies on detailed case studies of eight reporters and opponents to support “the procedural errors in handling these cases“which, indeed,”disguised political attacks“. Among the best-known cases: of Omar Radi and Soulimane Raissouni, two independent journalists sentenced on appeal in 2022 respectively to six and five years in prison for “sexual assault“(and”spy“for the first).
Another journalist, Taoufik Bouachrine, an influential Arabic-speaking columnist, has been in prison since 2018, sentenced to 15 years in prison for “rape“and”human trafficking“. All three deny these accusations, claiming to have been targeted for their opinions critical of power. The authorities, they, ensure that justice is independent and that these condemnations “nothing to do with itwith their journalistic work.
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But for HRW, “Trials targeting opponents are often marred by serious violations of the right to due process“. For example, the NGO refers to pre-trial detention “long and without justificationby Omar Radi and Soulimane Raissouni for one year, the maximum period provided by Moroccan law. It also pointed to the denial of justice in “call the witnesses needed by the defense, without giving reasonable reasons“, or judgments pronounced in the absence of the accused, such as the historian and defender of human rights, Maâti Monjib.
“Defamation and intimidation”
Furthermore, the HRW report criticized “fierce smear campaigns“created by the media”aligned with the Moroccan security services“, referring to Chouf TV sites — “specializes in scandalous videos and articles–, Le360 and Barlamane. These campaigns ofharassment and bullying“doubled by”digital and video surveillance“, especially through the Pegasus spyware, designed by the Israeli company NSO, says the NGO. Last summer, Morocco was accused of using Pegasus to hack the phones of many national and foreign numbers to the public, according to an extensive investigation carried out by an international media consortium based on data obtained by the organizations Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International.
The Moroccan government flatly denies itthese false and baseless allegationsand many legal proceedings have been initiated, especially in France where the courts have recently ruled these proceedings inadmissible. In its recommendations, Human Rights Watch asked the Moroccan authorities to “respect for the right to peaceful expression and privacy“. He also encouraged themend the methods used against critical journalists, human rights defenders and civil society activists“.
For its investigation, HRW said it conducted interviews with 89 people inside and outside Morocco. Arrested Monday in Parliament in “the practices of some foreign human rights organizations“, the Minister of Justice Abdellatif Ouabih replied that Morocco accepted their observations but “denies bad faith exploitation of reports for political purposes“.
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