US State Dep. Releases its Annual Report on Human Rights in Morocco

The US State Department’s annual Human Rights Report has been released. The results for Morocco primarily reflect areas needing improvement but also acknowledge some of the positive steps the government has taken in key areas.

The comprehensive report covers all human rights issues in Morocco. Areas covered include individual and civil rights, as well as political and workers’ rights. The findings are then measured against internationally established norms.

Though troublesome areas remain, the results did contain several areas of progress in Morocco receiving positive recognition in the report.

Favorable nods were given to the progressive steps Morocco took in 2016 to improve things such as prison conditions and to reduce allegations of torture. In a statement following the report’s release, the US Embassy in Rabat stated that “The United States would like to recognize the positive steps that Morocco took in 2016 to strengthen its respect for human rights.”

The embassy also lauded Morocco’s passage of a new press code and the numerous training sessions given for security forces. The fact that the Supreme Judiciary was given greater independence is also seen as a positive step forward for the Kingdom.

“The United States also recognizes the steps the Government of Morocco made this year to update the penal code and procedures to align with international law and norms, conduct several trainings on human rights for security forces, institute the Supreme Judiciary Council to give the judiciary greater independence, and regularize the status of migrants in the country.”

Overall, however, any progress the Kingdom has made in the area of human rights has been tempered by continuing issues involving “corruption, discrimination against women, and disregard for the rule of law” by security force members. The most troubling aspect to these ongoing issues is the systemic and pervasive nature of extensive corruption in the Kingdom.

The report singled out the “widespread” impunity with which members of the security forces allegedly abuse their positions with “widespread” impunity. In spite of the fact that charges are filed against these individuals, the mechanisms for effectively adjudicating them are themselves drowning in “abuse and corruption.” The system has an ongoing issue with impartiality resulting in many of these cases being dismissed.

Morocco did take measures to improve its treatment of the press in the country with its passage of a new press code. Under the new code, online journalism is on an equal footing with print journalism and average punishments for journalist infractions have been set at fines.

The report points out, however, that journalists and media outlets are still finding themselves subjected to frequent “harassment and intimidation.”

As for Morocco’s migration policy, the report lauds the Kingdom’s work with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian groups to improve the country’s services and support structure for refugees, asylum-seekers and others. Morocco’s increased funding to social services to improve its assistance to migrants and refugees, making healthcare and educational services accessible, are all seen as positive moves.

There was, another positive mention, this time of Morocco’s protection and support for its Jewish community.  It is this protection that is being credited for the current state of security that the Jewish Moroccan community enjoys in the kingdom.

On the political and social front, the US State Department asserted in the report that the recent October 2016 elections in Morocco were “free and transparent.”

The report concludes by saying that 2016 continued an overall trend begun the year before toward granting local authorities more autonomy in terms of “increased budgetary and decision making powers.”

Generally speaking, the report’s findings clearly highlight that steady progress is being made in several key human rights areas in Morocco. This good news should be balanced, however, against the evidence speaking to there still being much work to be done to bring Morocco into line with internationally recognized human rights standards.

The foundation that were established in 2015 and 2016 must continue to be built upon and strengthened by vigorous enforcement of these progressive steps to ensure that new laws and provisions have a practical support system, free from corruption.