MOROCCO: Amnesty International consolidates presence

Since the last Amnesty International mission to the country in June 1998, a number of positive steps have been taken by the authorities, including the release of 28 political prisoners, among them prisoners of conscience, in October 1998 and the liberation of prisoner of conscience Abdessalam Yassine after over a decade of house arrest in May 2000. Political exiles have been allowed to return to the country and the number of reported cases of torture and ill-treatment have continued to decrease.

However, the authorities have failed to properly address the concerns of hundreds of former victims of disappearances and their families, and the relatives of those who died in secret detention. For example: Hocine Boufous, whom the Amnesty International delegation met during this visit, continues to demand in vain information regarding the fate of his brother Mohamed, who 'disappeared' in 1967. Khaled Dik, the son of Jilali Dik, a 'disappeared' who died in the secret detention centre of Tazmamert in 1980, is still anxiously awaiting the restitution of his fathers remains.

Hundreds of former 'disappeared', including Brahim Dahhane, continue to call on the authorities to ensure that full investigations are carried out into the human rights violations they endured.

'Disappearances' are not only crimes of the past, but constitute continuing violations of the rights of the victims and their relatives to truth and justice, said Pierre Sane, Amnesty International's Secretary General.

The family of Belkacem Hakimi, sentenced to life imprisonment after an unfair trial in 1985, told Amnesty International that he was allegedly ill-treated during a recent prison transfer and that they feared for his health and security.

'Belkacem Hakimi and the other 60 or so political prisoners in Morocco should be either released or retried according to international fair trial standards,' added Pierre Sane.

During their visit, the delegation met human rights organisations and Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights's associations to discuss the evolution of the human rights situation in the country and the recent intimidatory measures taken by the authorities against human rights defenders and freedom of expression. They explored future cooperation to protect and promote human rights.

The Amnesty International delegates also met Prime Minister Abderrahmane Youssoufi. In their meeting they raised the demands of the victims and families of victims whom they had met and reiterated the organisations concerns regarding the issue of impunity, the continued detention of five prisoners of conscience, the question of political prisoners and the fate of the remaining, mainly Sahrawi, Adisappeared@.

The Prime Minister reiterated the commitment of his government to continue its efforts to ensure that past human rights violations are dealt with in a fair and just manner and that current cases will be addressed.

The delegation informed the Prime Minister that the awarding of section status to the Amnesty International groups in Morocco was the merited result of years of dedicated work and of campaigning on behalf of victims all over the world. It appealed to the Prime Minister to grant the section charitable status to strengthen their ability to continue to contribute to the protection and promotion of human rights.

The visit also included meetings with Human Rights Minister Mohamed Aoujar and National Education Minister Abdellah Al-Saef, in which the issue of cooperation between the Moroccan Section of Amnesty International and the authorities on human rights education projects was discussed.

Amnesty International delegates held talks with the Conseil Consultatif des Droits de l'Homme (CCDH), Human Rights Advisory Council, to discuss the recent decree on its new composition and expanded mandate. In particular, they discussed the work of the Arbitration Commission in determining financial compensation for victims or their families of 'disappearance' or arbitrary detention. The CCDH explained that the Arbitration Commission's remit concerned financial compensation only, which they considered the most urgent need. However, this should not prevent victims or their families from pursuing other avenues for redress. Pierre Sane welcomed this clarification, adding that in coming to terms with past violations the three vital principles of truth, justice and compensation must be fully addressed.

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