Morocco's strategic location has shaped its history. Beginning with the Phoenicians, many foreigners were drawn to this area. Romans, Vandals, Visigoths, and Byzantine Greeks successively ruled the area. Arab forces began occupying Morocco in the seventh century A.D., bringing their civilization and Islam. The Alaouite dynasty, which has ruled Morocco since 1649, claims descent from the Prophet Muhammad.
Morocco's location and resources led to early competition among European powers in Africa, beginning with successful Portuguese efforts to control the Atlantic coast in the 15th century. France showed a strong interest in Morocco as early as 1830. Following recognition by the United Kingdom in 1904 of France's "sphere of influence" in Morocco, the Algeciras Conference (1906) formalized France's "special position" and entrusted policing of Morocco to France and Spain jointly. The Treaty of Fez (1912) made Morocco a protectorate of France. By the same treaty, Spain assumed the role of protecting power over the northern and southern (Saharan) zones.
Nationalist political parties, which subsequently arose under the French protectorate, based their arguments for Moroccan independence on such World War II declarations as the Atlantic Charter (a joint U.S.-British statement that set forth, among other things, the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they live). A manifesto of the Istiqlal (Independence) Party in 1944 was one of the earliest public demands for independence. That party subsequently provided most of the leadership for the nationalist movement.
France's exile of the highly respected Sultan Mohammed V in 1953 and his replacement by the unpopular Mohammed Ben Aarafa, whose reign was perceived as illegitimate, sparked active opposition to the French protectorate. France allowed Mohammed V to return in 1955, and the negotiations that led to Moroccan independence began the following year.
The Kingdom of Morocco recovered its political independence from France on March 2, 1956. Through agreements with Spain in 1956 and 1958, Moroccan control over certain Spanish-ruled areas was restored. The internationalized city of Tangier was reintegrated with the signing of the Tangier Protocol on October 29, 1956. The Spanish enclave of Ifni in the south became part of Morocco in 1969. Spain, however, retains control over the small enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in the north.
The Moroccan Constitution provides for a monarchy with a Parliament and an independent judiciary. Ultimate authority rests with the King. He presides over the Council of Ministers; appoints the Prime Minster following legislative elections; appoints all members of the government taking into account the Prime Minister's recommendations; and may, at his discretion, terminate the tenure of any minister, dissolve the Parliament, call for new elections, or rule by decree. The King is the head of the military and the country's religious leader. Upon the death of his father Mohammed V, King Hassan II succeeded to the throne in 1961. He ruled Morocco for the next 38 years, until his own death in 1999. His son, King Mohammed VI, assumed the throne in July 1999.
Since the constitutional reform of 1996, the bicameral legislature consists of a lower chamber, the Chamber of Representatives, which is directly elected and an upper chamber, the Chamber of Counselors, whose members are indirectly elected through various regional, local, and professional councils. The councils' members themselves are elected directly. The Parliament's powers, though limited, were expanded under the 1992 and 1996 constitutional revisions and include budgetary matters, approving bills, questioning ministers, and establishing ad hoc commissions of inquiry to investigate the government's actions. The lower chamber of Parliament may dissolve the government through a vote of no confidence.
In March 1998, King Hassan named a coalition government headed by opposition socialist leader Abderrahmane Youssoufi and composed largely of ministers drawn from opposition parties. Prime Minister Youssoufi's government is the first government drawn primarily from opposition parties in decades, and also represents the first opportunity for a coalition of socialist, left-of-center, and nationalist parties to be included in the government.
The highest court in the judicial structure is the Supreme Court, whose judges are appointed by the King. The Youssoufi government continues to implement a reform program to develop greater judicial independence and impartiality. Morocco is divided into 16 administrative regions; the regions are administered by Walis and governors appointed by the King.
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion and Jewish and Christian communities openly practice their faiths; however, the Government places certain restrictions on Christian religious materials and proselytizing, and several small religious minorities are tolerated with varying degrees of official restrictions. A small foreign Hindu community has received the right to perform cremations and to hold services. Baha'is are forbidden to meet or participate in communal activities. The Government monitors the activities of mosques and places other restrictions on Muslims and Islamic organizations whose activities are deemed to have exceeded the bounds of religious practice and become political in nature. The Constitution provides that Islam is the official religion, and designates the King as "Commander of the Faithful" with the responsibility of ensuring "respect for Islam."
The Government does not license or approve religions or religious organizations. The Government provides tax benefits, land and building grants, subsidies, and customs exemptions for imports necessary for the observance of the major religions.
The Ministry of Islamic Affairs monitors Friday mosque sermons and the Koranic schools to ensure the teaching of approved doctrine. At times the authorities suppress the activities of Islamists, but generally tolerate activities limited to the propagation of Islam, education, and charity. Security forces sometimes close mosques to the public shortly after Friday services to prevent the use of the premises for unauthorized political activity. The Government strictly controls authorization to construct new mosques. Most mosques are constructed using private funds.
The Government bars the Islamic JCO as a political party and subjects prominent members to constant surveillance and at times prevented them from obtaining passports. The Government also arrested and prosecuted JCO members and blocked publication of JCO newspapers.
The teaching of Islam in public schools benefits from discretionary funding in the Government's annual education budget, as do other curriculum subjects. The annual budget also provides funds for religious instruction to the small parallel system of Jewish public schools.
Since the time of the French protectorate (1912-56), a small foreign Christian community has operated churches, orphanages, hospitals, and schools without any restriction or licensing requirement being imposed. Missionaries who conduct themselves in accordance with societal expectations largely are left unhindered. However, those who proselytize publicly face expulsion.
Islamic law and tradition call for strict punishment for any Muslim who converts to another faith. Citizens who convert to Christianity and other religions sometimes face social ostracism, and in the past a small number have faced short periods of questioning by the authorities. Voluntary conversion is not a crime under the Criminal or Civil Codes; however, the authorities have jailed some converts on the basis of references to Koranic law. Any attempt to induce a Muslim to convert is illegal. Foreign missionaries either limit their proselytizing to non-Muslims or conduct their work quietly.
In 2000 the Gendarmerie Royale summoned several members of the foreign Christian community for questioning concerning the practice of their faith. The Gendarmerie began an investigation into their activities at that time. The investigation reportedly still was ongoing at year's end 2001. Despite not possessing resident visas, the subjects of the investigation continued to face no problems residing in, exiting, and returning to the country.
The Government permits the display and sale of Bibles in French, English, and Spanish, but confiscates Arabic-language Bibles and refuses licenses for their importation and sale, despite the absence of any law banning such books. Nevertheless, Arabic Bibles reportedly have been sold in local bookstores. There were no known cases in which foreigners were denied entry into the country because they were carrying Christian materials, as occurred in the past.
The small Baha'i community has been forbidden to meet or participate in communal activities since 1983; however, there were no reports during the year 2001 that the Government summoned members of the Baha'i Faith for questioning or denied them passports, as had occurred in previous years.
The Government encourages tolerance and respect among religions. The King sponsored an inter-faith memorial ceremony on September 16 for the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. Muslim, Christian and Jewish religious leaders presided. Prime Minister Youssoufi and numerous other ministers attended the ceremony, which was held in Rabat's Catholic cathedral.
The Government annually organizes in May, 2001, the "Fez Festival of Sacred Music," which includes musicians from many countries representing many religions. The Government has organized in the past numerous symposiums among local and international clergy, priests, rabbis, imams and other spiritual leaders to examine ways to reduce religious intolerance and to promote interfaith dialogue. Each year during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, the King hosts colloquiums of Islamic religious scholars that include examination of ways to promote tolerance and mutual respect within Islam and between Islam and other religions.
INCIDENCE OF CRIME
The crime rate in Morocco is low compared to industrialized countries. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. In the UN reports, murders are referred to as "intentional homicides." Aggravated assaults are referred to as "major assaults," and larcenies are referred to as "thefts." According to the United Nations Fifth Annual Survey on Crime, crime recorded in police statistics shows the crime rate for the combined total of all Index crimes in Morocco to be 19.94, per 100,000 inhabitants in 1994. (Note that Morocco did not report data for robbery, burglary, and auto theft.) Using 1994 data for only murder, assault, rape, and thefts, this compares with 1064.68 for Japan (country with a low crime rate) and 3503.8 for USA (country with high crime rate). For intentional homicides, the rate in 1994 was 0.71 for Morocco, 0.56 for Japan, and 9.0 for USA. For major assaults, the rate in 1994 was 8.59 for Morocco, compared with 14.34 for Japan, and 430.2 for USA. For rapes, the rate in 1994 was 3.59 for Morocco, 1.39 for Japan, and 39.2 for USA. The rate for thefts in 1994 was 7.05 for Morocco, compared with 1048.39 for Japan and 3025.4 for USA. (Note that USA data were drawn from the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, since USA has not yet reported this data to UN for 1994.)
TRENDS IN CRIME
According to UN data, between 1990 and 1994 the rate for all recorded Index offenses decreased from 27.72 to 19.94 per 100,000 in Morocco, a decrease of 28.1%. The rate of intentional homicide increased from 0.37 to 0.71, an increase of 91.9%. However, the rate for major assaults increased from 0.12 to 8.59, an increase of 7058.3%. The rate of rape increased from 2.62 to 3.59, an increase of 37.0%. Thefts decreased from 24.61 to 7.05, a decrease of 71.4%.
The security apparatus includes several overlapping police and paramilitary organizations. The Border Police and the National Security Police are departments of the Ministry of Interior; the Judicial Police falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice; and the Royal Gendarmerie reports to the Palace. Some members of the security forces continued to commit serious human rights abuses, although such abuses decreased somewhat during the year 2001. While there were some well-publicized prosecutions for abuses by security forces, the failure to prosecute most other cases raised concerns regarding the Government's commitment to resolving the problem.
The law prohibits torture, and the Government claims that the use of torture has been discontinued; however, some members of the security forces still tortured or otherwise abused detainees. The Penal Code stipulates sentences up to life imprisonment for public servants who "use or oblige the use of violence" against others in the exercise of their official duties. By law, pretrial-investigating judges must, if asked to do so or if they themselves notice physical marks that so warrant, refer the detained person to an expert in forensic medicine. However, according to legal experts affiliated with human rights groups, judges often ignored this requirement in practice.
On February 20, 2001, in Sale, a person died in custody as a result of police abuse. A policeman was tried on October 26 and convicted of torture resulting in death. He has appealed the conviction; the court has not yet handed down its sentence at year's end 2001.
In January 2000, Ali Akzkane died while in police custody in Tiznit. The Inspector General of the National Security Police investigated the matter. The investigation determined that Akzkane had been suffering from depression and had committed suicide in his jail cell. The autopsy was not made public. The Government did not file any charges.
In July 2000, a Royal Armed Forces patrol took Mustapha Najaiji and another person into custody. According to the other person, the patrol beat Najiaji at a Ministry of Interior holding cell. Najiaji later fell down, lost consciousness, and stopped breathing, at which time the security forces released the second person. The security forces reported Najiaji committed suicide by hanging himself. The second person later claimed Najiaji died from beatings by the security forces. The Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH) reported that the autopsy indicated that Najiaji had been the victim of violence before his death, and expressed concern regarding the slow pace of the investigation. No charges were filed in the case during the year 2001 and the investigation was ongoing at year's end 2001.
Police authorities stopped Farah Mohammed near Oujda in 1999. Eyewitnesses reported he was beaten and kicked into unconsciousness. He later died in police custody. In August 1999, three police and security officers were arrested in the case. They were convicted of torturing Mohammed and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
After a lengthy delay, the trial of three policemen accused of manslaughter in the 1996 death of Hassan Mernissi resumed in September 2000. The prosecution maintained that Mernissi was beaten to death while in detention. The defendants maintain that Mernissi was drunk and knocked his head against the cell bars until he died. The autopsy indicated that he bled to death. After a 2-year investigation, the case finally went to trial in September 2000, was delayed until March, 2001, and was still pending at year's end 2001.
In August 2000, the media reported allegations by Abderrahmane Jamali that police officers in the Ain Sebaa-Hay Al-Hassani station in Casablanca had tortured him for 3 days, once in the presence of a citizen who had filed a complaint against him. Press reports alleged that the incident began when the plaintiff twice filed a complaint against Jamali for abuse of confidence and theft. After the prosecutor dismissed the first complaint for lack of proof, the plaintiff requested a reopening and more thorough investigation of the case. Press reports alleged that Jamali subsequently was detained, tortured for 3 days, and then convicted and sentenced by a Casablanca court to 5 months' imprisonment. Jamali reportedly fainted during the sentencing hearing, and became ill within days of his incarceration. After his family sent a letter to the prison director requesting the director's intervention, he was sent to various medical facilities. At Averroes Hospital, doctors in August 2000 detected an infection allegedly transmitted by parasites found on rodents. According to the Party of Progress and Socialism's French-language daily newspaper Al-Bayane, doctors also found signs of "physical cruelty" on Jamali's body. The marks reportedly included contusions and bruises on his neck and knees. A doctor at Averroes wrote a letter to Al-Bayane claiming that the infection Jamali contracted "does not explain all of the signs that we observed during (his) clinical examination." Jamali later filed complaints against three agents of the judicial police for torture; the Casablanca police department announced in August 2000 that it had opened an investigation into the charges. Some newspapers called for an investigation into the court's handling of the case because the judge and prosecutor allegedly failed to inquire into the detainee's fragile state of health, as required by law. No charges were filed in this case during the year 2001, and the investigation was ongoing at year's end 2001.
In September 2000, the media reported on two cases of alleged torture by a Royal Gendarmerie officer in Zaio. According to the reports, the officer tortured two persons in order to extort money from their family and friends. In one of the cases, a cafe owner alleged that the officer slapped him in September 2000 in front of his customers, used force to remove him from his establishment, and subjected him to various forms of torture at brigade headquarters. In the second case, an elderly woman brought suit against the same officer for torturing her son and extorting approximately $450 (5,000 dirhams) from her to stop the torture. After he was informed of the cases, Zaio's municipal president (who also is a Member of Parliament) reportedly referred the cases immediately to the national authorities. An investigation into the alleged torture cases was ongoing at year's end 2001; no charges have been filed in either case.
In 2000 the OMDH appealed to the Interior Minister to implement a series of proposed measures, including measures reinforcing individual protections against torture through the full implementation of the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, providing for the destruction of police files on former political prisoners or exiles, and ending illegal punitive detention measures by local authorities. According to the OMDH, torture in detention largely continues to escape the notice of the judiciary. The OMDH noted that the implementation of judges' instructions on eliminating the use of torture has been "exceedingly slow." While the OMDH admitted that the use of torture has diminished over the years, it claimed that it has not disappeared. The OMDH alleged in its report that those who commit such abuses "do so with impunity in almost all cases." The NGO called on the Government to harmonize domestic law with its responsibilities under the U.N. Convention Against Torture, to ensure full independence for the judiciary, and to punish those who resort to torture.
An investigation remains ongoing into charges of police abuse of protesters and persons in custody during late 1999 in Laayoune. No charges were filed in connection with the abuse and the investigation was closed. A Sahawari student claimed to have been tortured with burning cigarettes by police during detention following large-scale demonstrations by mostly Sahrawi students near the Marrakech University campus in May 2000. A university student arrested in Rabat following solidarity protests with Sahrawi students in May 2000 claimed to have been beaten severely and interrogated regarding his links with other Sahrawi students and human rights activists; charges against him and 13 others were dismissed in November 2000. Due to OMDH's efforts, the allegations in these cases were investigated; however, no charges were filed as a result.
The Government continued to admit past torture and abuses; however, it has not prosecuted those responsible. In 2000 the Government permitted publication of "The Unachieved Past," regarding the harsh conditions in the Kenitra high security prison (the author has since been awarded a literary prize from the King himself for his most recent novel). The authorities also permitted publication of a comic book called "They Even Starve Rats," which vividly recounted the torture, injustice, and humiliation that the author and others suffered at the hands of the authorities.
Human rights groups maintained that poor medical care in prisons results in unnecessary deaths. The National Prison Administration continues to allow prison site visits by human rights groups, the press, and foreign diplomats.
There were no new cases of confirmed disappearance for the sixth consecutive year. However, the AMDH claimed that the continued practice of incommunicado detention without informing family members of those detained was evidence of the continued practice of forced disappearance.
The Constitution states that the home is inviolable and that no search or investigation may take place without a search warrant, and the law stipulates that a search warrant may be issued by a prosecutor on good cause; however, authorities sometimes ignored these provisions.
The Constitution does not prohibit arbitrary arrest or detention, and police continued to use arbitrary arrest and detention. Although legal provisions for due process have been revised extensively in recent years, reports indicate that authorities sometimes ignored them. Although police usually make arrests in public and during the day, they do not always identify themselves and do not always obtain warrants. Preventive detention is limited to 48 hours, with one 24-hour extension allowed at the prosecutor's discretion. In state security cases, the preventive detention period is 96 hours; the prosecutor also may extend this time. Defendants are denied access to counsel during this initial period, which is when the accused is interrogated and abuse or torture is most likely to occur. Some members of the security forces, long accustomed to indefinite precharge access to detainees, continue to resist the time limits, which were adopted in 1997.
The police are required to notify a person's next of kin of an arrest as soon as possible. However, lawyers are not always informed promptly of the date of arrest, and thus are not always able to monitor compliance with the preventive detention limits. While the law provides for a limited system of bail, it rarely was granted. However, defendants in some instances are released on their own recognizance. The law does not provide for habeas corpus or its equivalent. Under a separate military code, military authorities may detain members of the military without warrants or public trial.
Although accused persons generally are brought to trial within an initial period of 2 months, prosecutors may request up to five additional 2-month extensions of pretrial detention. Thus, an accused person may be kept in detention for up to 1 year prior to trial.
On May 3, 2001, in the Western Saharan city of Laayoune, the local headquarters for the Democratic Confederation of Labor (CDT) issued a statement claiming that security forces forcibly dispersed a sit-in by unemployed graduates outside the Employment Department Headquarters. Some of the students sought refuge in the Confederation Democratique du Travail (CDT) headquarters. Five demonstrators reportedly were injured and seven CDT members arrested. The statement called for the release of those arrested. They received a royal pardon in November.
Forced exile is provided by law; however, there were no known instances of its use during the year 2001.
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary; however, the courts remain to some extent subject to extrajudicial pressures, including government influence. Some members of the judiciary are corrupt. The Government continued to implement reforms intended to increase judicial independence and impartiality. In 1999 the Ministry of Justice created a system of commercial courts for business litigation and began to implement a 5-year reform plan that emphasized transparency, accountability, and professionalism. The OMDH and other groups have criticized the Government regarding the slow pace of judicial reform. During the past 3 years, the administrative courts frequently have ruled against local governments that exceeded their authority. However, the Government was slow in providing restitution and damages.
There are four levels in the common law court system: Communal and district courts, courts of first instance, the Appeals Court, and the Supreme Court. While in theory there is a single court system under the Ministry of Justice, other courts also operate, including: The Special Court of Justice, which handles cases of civil servants who are implicated in corruption; administrative courts, which deal with the decisions of the bureaucracy; commercial courts, which deal with business disputes; and the military tribunal, which tries cases involving military personnel and, on certain occasions, matters pertaining to state security (although state security cases also may fall within the jurisdiction of the regular court system).
Although there is a single court system for most nonmilitary matters, family issues such as marriage, divorce, child support and custody, and inheritance are adjudicated by judges trained in Shari'a (Islamic law) as applied in the country. Judges considering criminal cases or cases in nonfamily areas of civil law generally are trained in the French legal tradition. All judges trained in recent years are graduates of the National Institute for Judicial Studies, where they undergo 3 years of study heavily focused on human rights and the rule of law. It is not necessary to be a lawyer to become a judge, and the majority of judges are not lawyers.
In general detainees are arraigned before a court of first instance. If the infraction is minor and not contested, the judge may order the defendant released or impose a light sentence. If an investigation is required, the judge may release defendants on their own recognizance. If the judge determines that a confession was obtained under duress, the law requires him to exclude it from evidence. However, according to reliable sources, cases often are adjudicated on the basis of confessions, some of which are obtained under duress.
While appeal courts may in some cases be used as a second reference for courts of first instance, they primarily handle cases involving crimes punishable by 5 years or more in prison. In practice defendants before appeals courts who are implicated in such crimes consequently have no method of appeal if a judgment goes against them. The Supreme Court does not review and rule on cases sent to it by courts of appeal; in its role as a court of cassation, the Supreme Court may overturn an appellate court's ruling on procedural grounds only. The absence of appeals for defendants in such crimes therefore becomes more problematic given the fact that an investigation into the case by an examining magistrate is mandatory only in those crimes punishable by sentences of life imprisonment or death.
Justice Minister Azziman continued his efforts to end petty corruption in the judiciary. The caseload for the Special Court of Justice has increased, and the Justice Ministry publicizes the disciplinary action taken against judicial personnel. Nonetheless, the court system remained subject to extrajudicial pressures. Observers alleged that petty bribery remained a routine cost of court business. In some courts, especially in minor criminal cases, observers alleged that defendants or their families must bribe court officers and judges to secure a favorable ruling.
The Special Court of Justice, despite its resource constraints, increasingly has prosecuted public servants for corruption. On April 24, the Special Court of Justice announced the verdict in its first major public financial case. It acquitted 2 defendants and sentenced 14 others to prison terms from 6 months to 15 years, plus restitution. The case involved embezzlement of $2.16 million (24 million dirhams) from the Professional Millers Association. Since 1999 the Special Court of Justice has reviewed 59 cases involving prison administration personnel. On November 9, the Minister of Justice reported that since mid-1998, 707 disciplinary cases involving the misconduct of justice system personnel had been opened. Of these 129 were judges, 49 of whom had been removed permanently from the bench.
Following the installation of a new Government in 1998, the judiciary's relationship with the Ministry of Interior began to be less dependent. Nevertheless, judges continue to work closely with the Interior Ministry's network of local district officials, or "caids" (although as judicial police, caids technically fall under the jurisdiction of the Justice Ministry), who legally are charged with the responsibility of questioning criminal defendants. Caids prepare the written summary of an arrest and subsequent interrogation. The summary is admissible in court as an element of the evidentiary process and can carry great weight with the judge. In the last several years, the Ministry of Justice began to attempt to assert its authority and control over judges; however, such control was not realized by year's end.
The law does not distinguish political and security cases from common criminal cases. In serious state security cases (offenses deemed against the Monarchy, Islam, or the territorial integrity of the country), communications between the Ministry of Interior and the court are more direct. At the Government's discretion, such cases may be brought before a specially constituted military tribunal, which is subservient to other branches of the Government, especially the military and the Ministry of Interior.
Aside from external pressures, resource constraints also affect the court system. Consequently, criminal defendants charged with less serious offenses often receive only a cursory hearing, with judges relying on police reports to render decisions. Although the Ministry of Justice provides an attorney at public expense for serious crimes (when the offense carries a maximum sentence of more than 5 years), appointed attorneys who are not paid adequately often provide inadequate representation.
During the year 2001, the courts continued to handle an increasing number of cases that involved sensitive human rights issues, most of which were covered openly and extensively by national and international media. Defense attorneys continued to claim that judicial processes in these cases were marked by significant irregularities, and that such irregularities infringes on the right to a fair trial for the accused.
A number of persons were tried during the year 2001 for their participation in protests in December 2000. They had been arrested in December 2000 in connection with peaceful demonstrations held to celebrate the International Day of Human Rights, during which security forces violently attacked human rights activists, members of the JCO, and unemployed university graduates. Between February 1 and March 1, 2001, 64 JCO members were convicted (and several acquitted) in trials in Rabat, Fez and Marrakech. Prison sentences ranged from 3 months (suspended) to 1 year and fines of up to approximately $450 (5,000 dirhams). In addition 36 AMDH members were convicted for organizing an unauthorized demonstration, including the president, Abderrahmane Benomar, and other leading AMDH members. On May 16, 2001, they received sentences of 3 months plus fines of approximately $270 (3,000 dirhams). The cases were criticized in the domestic and international press. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch declared that "intimidating human rights defenders with jail sentences for exercising their right of freedom of expression is unacceptable." On November 21, the Rabat Court of Appeals overturned the conviction of the AMDH members. The Court held that the AMDH had requested permission for the event, but that the Ministry of the Interior had not denied it in writing, as it was required to do.
In July Ahmed Boukhari, a former intelligence agent, made public allegations regarding the Government's role in the 1965 Paris disappearance of socialist activist Mehdi Ben Barka. Within a month, the authorities incarcerated Boukhari on charges of issuing bad checks. On August 28, the Casablanca-Anfa Court of First Instance sentenced Boukhari to one year in prison and a fine of approximately $14,000 (155,000 dirhams) for writing bad checks in the early 1990's. The defense maintained that Boukhari previously had been convicted and punished for issuing some of the checks in 1998. On October 16, the Casablanca Court of Appeals ruled, in Boukhari's favor, determining that Boukhari already had already been sentenced and punished for issuing the 1998 checks. For issuing the remaining checks, the Court of Appeals reduced Boukhari's sentence to 3 months' imprisonment and a fine of approximately $1,350 (15,000 dirhams). The Court of Appeals blamed the prosecution for not providing the file of the earlier conviction during the trial, and based its decision on that ground.
However, on December 5, Boukhari appeared in court in a defamation suit brought against him by three former intelligence officers whom Boukhari alleged were involved the kidnaping and murder of Ben Barka. All three requested damages of approximately $90,000 (1 million dirhams). On December 12, Boukhari was sentenced to 3 months in prison and ordered to pay approximately $28,800 (320,000 dirhams), including $9,000 (100,000 dirhams) to each of the former agents.
The Ben Barka case continues to embarrass the Government. The King himself, in an August interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, declared he wanted the truth to come out concerning the disappearance of Ben Barka. Most Moroccans see this case as a patent, heavy-handed attempt by the Government to prevent Boukhari from talking about the Ben Barka disappearance. Nevertheless, the press reported on this case in great detail.
The Supreme Court and the Courts of Appeals issued several decisions during the year 2001 concerning continuing cases originally tried in previous years. In November 2000, 14 Islamist students who had been arrested during violent clashes between students and police at Mohammedia University earlier in November were convicted of disturbance of public order and sentenced to 2 years' imprisonment and fines ranging from $45 to $135 (500 to 1,500 dirhams). The alleged victims of the students' vandalism did not appear at the trial to testify or to be cross-examined. On January 2, amidst extremely tight security, due to concerns over possible demonstrations by Islamist supporters, the case was opened by the Casablanca Court of Appeals, and then rescheduled for January 23. After a hearing on January 23, the Court of Appeals acquitted one person, reduced two sentences to 8 months, reduced one sentence to 7 months, and reduced the remaining sentences to 4 months.
Mustapha Adib, an Air Force captain, originally was tried in December 1999 before a military court for allegedly violating the Military Code and libeling the military. The authorities detained Adib after he spoke out against military corruption and harassment to a journalist from the French newspaper Le Monde. In February 2000, a military court convicted Adib. The court denied the defense's requests that the court make the trial public, allow the defense to summon more than a dozen defense witnesses and present documentary evidence, and recuse one of the military judges, who was a former superior of Adib's. The judge whom the defense asked be recused allegedly was responsible for blocking Adib's promotions after Adib made the allegations of corruption in a 1998 letter to then-Crown Prince Sidi Mohammed (now King Mohammed VI). The military tribunal sentenced Adib to the maximum prison term of 5 years and expelled him from the air force. Human rights activists criticized the conduct of the trial; the OMDH issued a report in February 2000 contending that closed trials unjustly influenced the results and accused the court of partiality in refusing to recuse Adib's former superior. After deciding on a "silent defense" to protest the military court's conduct of the case, the attorney representing Adib characterized the trial as a "travesty of justice." In June 2000, the Supreme Court overruled the military court and announced that a new military tribunal composed of different judges would retry the case.
A newly constituted military court in Rabat retried Adib's case in October 2000, and after 3 days of hearings, during which the court again refused to hear witnesses requested by the defense, the military court found Adib guilty of the charges initially brought against him. The court sentenced Adib to 21/2 years in prison and expelled him from the military. On February 21, the Supreme Court denied Adib's final appeal. The case remains very visible. The truth regarding Adib's accusations of corruption was not a defense and, in fact, never was contested. On September 24, Adib published a letter from Sale Prison, distributed through human rights groups. The letter announced Adib's sixth hunger strike and protested his arbitrary detention, his lack of a fair trial, the flagrant pressure placed on the judges, and the silence and negligence of the authorities concerning his case. An article in the weekly newspaper Le Journal criticized the silence of the Prime Minister, who previously had discussed "whistleblower" laws to protect such persons as Adib and had publicly praised Adib's efforts to fight corruption. Adib remains an Amnesty International "Prisoner of Conscience," and in 2000 was awarded a Transparency International Integrity Award.
In April 2000, a Moroccan court in the Western Sahara city of Laayoune sentenced five Sahwari youths to prison terms of between 5 and 10 years for the "formation of a criminal organization" after their alleged participation in a March 2000 stone-throwing event, which reliable sources say was spontaneous, unorganized, and lasted only 5 minutes. Human rights activists criticized the handling of the trial, particularly the court's refusal to hear witnesses who allegedly would have testified that two of the defendants were elsewhere at the time of the incident. The prosecution allegedly presented no evidence that the five defendants were the ones who had thrown rocks during this incident. One defense attorney alleged that the judicial police investigating the affair committed several illegal acts by unlawfully entering homes of the defendants and detaining them, torturing the accused during their detention, and forcing them to sign police reports under duress, which they were not allowed to read, and which they claimed contained falsehoods. The decision has been appealed to the Supreme Court; however, before the trial could be held, the five youths were granted a royal pardon in November.
Four Sahrawis who were sentenced in 2000 to 4 years in prison for threatening the internal security of the state also were granted a royal pardon in November.
In November the King pardoned all those arrested during the September 1999 protests in the Western Sahara city of Laayoune. A total of 56 prisoners were released.
According to some groups, the Government continued to hold a number of political prisoners. The AMDH states that 20 political prisoners remained in detention at years' end on charges of trying to smuggle arms into Algeria. Unlike in the past, according to the OMDH, the Government held no political prisoners at year's end 2001; OMDH had claimed that seven political prisoners remained in detention in 2000.
In the past, the Ministry of Interior claimed that there were 55 Islamists serving sentences for offenses that ranged from arms smuggling in the 1980's to participating in a bomb attack on a hotel in Marrakech in 1994. There also have been past claims that some of these Islamists were imprisoned solely for calling for an Islamic state during the 1980's. The AMDH claims that two members of the "Group of 26," an Islamist group involved in smuggling arms into the country from Algeria in the mid-1980's, remained in prison. The other 24 members completed their sentences or otherwise were released at various times between 1994 and the end of the year. Various international human rights groups' estimates of the number of persons in prison for advocating independence for the Western Sahara vary from none to 700. Amnesty International identifies 60 persons whom it considers to be political prisoners. According to several human rights organizations, achieving consensus on a definitive number of political prisoners is extremely difficult, mainly because conditions in the Western Sahara complicate attempts to confirm whether Sahrawis were imprisoned solely for their political affiliation or open advocacy of Western Saharan independence, or whether they were imprisoned for other actions in violation of the law. The AMDH claims that it knows of no persons imprisoned for having overtly advocated Western Saharan independence. The Government does not consider any of its prisoners to be political prisoners.
Although the Government claims that it no longer holds political prisoners, it permits international humanitarian organizations to visit prisoners whom such organizations consider to be imprisoned for political reasons; however, no organizations visited such prisoners during the year 2001.
There are two sets of laws and courts--one for Jews and one for Muslims--pertaining to marriage, inheritance, and family matters. The family law courts are administered, depending on the law that applies, by rabbinical and Islamic authorities who are court officials. Parliament must authorize any changes to those laws. Non-Koranic sections of Islamic law on personal status are applied to non-Muslims and non-Jews.
As of year 2001, prison conditions remain harsh, although there have been some improvements in medical care and overcrowding. Credible reports indicate that harsh treatment and conditions continue, often as a result of chronic overcrowding. Despite being designed to hold 4,000 inmates, Oukacha Central Prison in Casablanca currently holds more than 7,000 prisoners. Human rights groups allege that poor medical care in prisons results in unnecessary deaths. In addition to extreme overcrowding, malnutrition and lack of hygiene continue to aggravate the poor health conditions inside prisons.
According to a February, 2001, article by the newspaper Liberation, most prisons lack adequate medical care and supplies for prisoners, with the exceptions of the prisons at Sale and Casablanca. Almost one half of prisons do not have a full-time doctor, and new inmates are not provided a screening physical. However, 42 physicians now work full-time for the prison system, compared with 2 in 1988. Extremely harsh conditions have been reported inside the detention center of Ain Atiq outside of Rabat. While Ain Atiq's status as a detention or social center is not defined clearly, it often receives homeless, vagrant, and persons with mental disabilities, in addition to juvenile delinquents. Negligence at Ain Atiq reportedly has led to serious problems, such as hygienic and nutritional deficiencies, and harsh general living conditions. The center also is reportedly underequipped, understaffed, and unable to provide adequate medical care. In the past, human rights organizations have called for Ain Atiq's closure, as well as of other similar centers.
In an article in May,2001, Liberation reported the results of 15 visits to prisons conducted by the Moroccan Prison Observatory (OMP) between February and July 2000. The NGO reported that the Moroccan prisons housed 55,000 prisoners, despite being designed to hold only 39,000. It also reported problems of corruption, drug use, and violence. The report also criticized the prisons for mixing young, first-time offenders with hardened criminals, as well as the lack of training and education for inmates. In response the Ministry of Justice claimed that the OMP arrived at its conclusions without visiting all the prisons. It also noted that 12 of the existing 43 prisons are being enlarged and 19 more prisons are under construction.
The Ministry of Justice's Penitentiary Administration, which administers all Moroccan civil prisons, uses the services of 126 doctors. Prisoners have benefited from vaccination programs, and the prison medical budget has grown 61 percent since 1998. The Penitentiary Administration has autopsied deceased inmates since 1993. The Administration also was examining alternatives to incarceration for some criminals.
In May, 2001, the AMDH issued a communique reporting that 14 prisoners had died in Ukasha (also spelled "Oakacha") Prison in Casablanca during 2000, and that 11 had died through May 15. The AMDH claimed that the cause was diseases contracted by the prisoners, all of which were "the result of the inhuman and unhealthy conditions of the Ukasha prison." The AMDH also requested investigations into the deaths. The Government did not respond. On October 2, the newspaper Al Ahdath Al-Maghribiyah followed up with an article entitled "Will an Investigation Ever Take Place on the Causes of Death in Ukasha Prison?" According to the article, some prisoners blamed poor sanitary conditions in Ukasha for the increasing deaths there. The article claimed the doctor assigned to care for 8,000 prisoners spent only half days at the prison and neglected prisoner's health needs.
On March 30, 2001, the prison in Kenitra invited doctors, journalists, and members of the OMP for the observance of "Spring of Prisoners" day, designed to improve prison conditions through public awareness. Also in late March, 2001, the National Prison Administration hosted a visit by an international women's group (including a diplomatic and international spouse association) to the women's wing of Sale Prison. Near the end of the year, during Ramadan, the King made an unprecedented prison visit to observe conditions.
The Constitution provides for the equality of all citizens; however, non-Muslims and women face discrimination in the law and in traditional practice.
Spousal violence is common. Although a battered wife has the right to file a complaint with the police, as a practical matter she would do so only if prepared to bring criminal charges. While physical abuse legally is grounds for divorce, a court will grant a divorce only if the woman is able to provide two witnesses to the abuse. Medical certificates are not sufficient. If the court finds against the woman, she is returned to her husband's home. Thus, few women report abuses to the authorities.
The Criminal Code provides for severe punishment for men convicted of rape or sexual assault. The defendants in such cases bear the burden of proving their innocence. However, sexual assaults often go unreported because of the stigma attached to the loss of virginity. While not provided for by law, victims' families may offer rapists the opportunity to marry their victims in order to preserve the honor of the family. Spousal rape is not a crime.
The law is more lenient toward men with respect to crimes committed against their wives; for example, a light sentence may be accorded a man who murders his wife after catching her in the act of adultery. However, such "honor crimes," a euphemism that refers to violent assaults with intent to commit murder against a female for her perceived immodest or defiant behavior, remain extremely rare in Morocco.
Prostitution is prevalent, especially in urban centers. There are thousands of teenagers involved in prostitution. Although prostitution itself is against the law, the Government does not prosecute women who have been coerced into providing sexual services. Trafficking in persons, particularly in child maids, is a problem.
Women are subjected to various forms of legal and cultural discrimination. The civil law status of women is governed by the Code of Personal Status (known as the "Moudouwana"), which is based on the Malikite school of Islamic law. Although the Code of Personal Status was reformed in 1993, women's groups still complain of unequal treatment, particularly under the laws governing marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Women do not automatically lose child custody in divorce cases. However, the courts generally rule in favor of the parent who did not file for the divorce. Citizenship passes through the father. In order to marry, a woman generally is required to obtain the permission of her legal guardian, usually her father. It is much easier for a man to divorce his wife than for a woman to divorce her husband. Under Islamic law and tradition, rather than asking for a divorce, a man simply may repudiate his wife outside of court. Under the 1993 reforms to the Code of Personal Status, a woman's presence in court is required in order for her husband to divorce her, although women's groups report that this law frequently is ignored. However, human rights activists reported that in one NGO-sponsored test in the late 1990's, officials refused to order a divorce without the wife being present, despite offers of bribes. Nevertheless, women's groups complain that men resort to ruses to evade the legal restrictions. The divorce may be finalized even over the woman's objections, although in such cases the court grants her unspecified allowance rights.
A woman seeking a divorce has few practical alternatives. She may offer her husband money to agree to a divorce (known as a khol'a divorce under Islamic law). The husband must agree to the divorce and is allowed to specify the amount to be paid, without limit. According to women's groups, many men pressure their wives to pursue this type of divorce. A woman also may file for a judicial divorce if her husband takes a second wife, if he abandons her, or if he physically abuses her. However, divorce procedures in these cases are lengthy and complicated.
Under the Criminal Code, women generally are accorded the same treatment as men, but this is not the case for family and estate law, which is based on the Code of Personal Status. Under the Code of Personal Status, women inherit only half as much as male heirs. Moreover, even in cases in which the law provides for equal status, cultural norms often prevent a woman from exercising those rights. For example, when a woman inherits property, male relatives may pressure her to relinquish her interest.
While many well-educated women pursue careers in law, medicine, education, and government service, few make it to the top echelons of their professions. Women constitute approximately 35 percent of the work force, with the majority in the industrial, service, and teaching sectors. In 1998 (the last official statistics available) the Government reported that the illiteracy rate for women was 67 percent (83 percent in rural areas), compared with 41 percent for men (50 percent in rural areas). Women in rural areas are most affected by inequality. Rural women perform difficult physical labor. Girls are much less likely to be sent to school than are boys, especially in rural areas, where the quality of schooling is inferior to urban areas and demands on girls' time for household chores often prevent school attendance. Some families also keep girls at home because of the lack of facilities in rural schools. Improving and extending the network of rural schools to increase girls' school attendance has been a priority of the Youssoufi government. The 4.8 percent increase in primary school attendance this school year is attributable largely to the increased numbers of girls attending school. Women who earn secondary school diplomas have equal access to university education.
The Government and the King continued to promote their proposal to reform the Personal Status Code (Moudawana) in order to advance women's rights. Islamists and some other traditional segments of society firmly opposed the proposal, especially with respect to its more controversial elements, such as reform of women's legal status in marriage and family law issues.
On March 8, 2001, the King, Prime Minister, and several other ministers met with 40 representatives of women's organizations at the Royal Palace. In April the King created a Consultative Commission for the Moudawana. However, in September, the ADFM and nine other organizations, collectively named the Spring of Equality, issued a communique concerning the Moudawana. The communique expressed disappointment that changes to the Personal Status Code had not yet been approved, offered specific recommendations for such changes, and urged the Consultative Commission to expedite its work. On October 17, the AMDH issued a statement in support of these demands, but refused to present its case before the Consultative Commission. The Commission had not announced publicly any actions taken regarding reform of the Moudawana by year's end.
On May 7,2001, in the newspaper Liberation, the Democratic League for Women's Rights criticized some imams for attacking female poet Hakima Chaoui in their sermons, and for harming Islam in general by giving less importance to women.
The European Union and the Government created a national center dealing with women's issues, which works with the Ministry in Charge of the Condition of Women, Protection of the Family, and Children, and Integration of the Handicapped.
The Moroccan Bar Association and the Government have opened 15 support centers to assist victims of violence.
On November 8, one feminist columnist, Nouzha Skalli, called for a quota system. She noted that only 3 of 600 members of Parliament were female, and only 85 of 22,600 municipal councilors. In her article, published after the Green March 2001 holiday, she noted that she was 1 of 35,000 females who actually took place in the Green March in 1975, when 10 percent of the 350,000 positions were reserved for women under a quota system in place for the event.
A total of 76 NGO's work to advance women's rights and to promote women's issues. Among these are the Democratic Association of Moroccan Women, the Union for Women's Action, and the Moroccan Association for Women's Rights, which advocate enhanced political and civil rights, as well as numerous NGO's that provide shelters for battered women, teach women basic hygiene, family planning, and child care, and promote literacy.
Women's groups also are concerned about the September 2002 elections. On October 13 in Casablanca, the Spring of Equality and other organizations held a conference regarding the role of women in the elections. The stated goal was increased numbers of women who vote and who run for office through a two-phase training process. The British Government helped subsidize an NGO pamphlet that urged rural women to exercise their right to vote.
Children born to a Moroccan father may experience difficulty in leaving Morocco without the father's permission. These children are considered under Moroccan law to be Moroccan citizens. Even if the children bear American passports, immigration officials may require proof that the father has approved their departure before the children will be allowed to leave Morocco. Although women, regardless of their nationality, are normally granted custody of their children in divorces, the father must approve the children's departure from Morocco. Women must obtain permission to move the children more than 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) from their last residence before the divorce. American women married to Moroccans do not need their spouse's permission to leave Morocco.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
The law provides for compulsory education for children between the ages of 7 and 13; however, not all children between these ages attend school due to family decisions and shortfalls in government resources, and the Government does not enforce the law. According to government statistics, the percentage of children attending primary school increased by 4.8 percent in the 2000-01 school year; the Government has set a goal of having all children in school by 2006.
The Government has had difficulty addressing the problem of child labor. Young girls are exploited as domestic servants on a very large scale. Teenage prostitution in urban centers has been estimated in the thousands by NGO activists. The clientele consists of both foreign tourists and citizens. More young girls than boys are involved; however, young boys also work as prostitutes.
The practice of adoptive servitude, in which urban families employ young rural girls and use them as domestic servants in their homes, is prevalent. Credible reports of physical and psychological abuse in such circumstances are widespread. Some orphanages have been charged as knowing accomplices in the practice. More often parents of rural girls "contract" their daughters to wealthy urban families and collect the salaries for their work as maids. Adoptive servitude is accepted socially, is unregulated by the Government, and has only in recent years begun to attract public criticism. However, at the end of 2000, the Moroccan UNICEF chapter and the National Observatory of Children's Rights (ONDE), headed by Princess Lalla Meryem, the King's sister, began a human rights awareness campaign regarding the plight of child maids. The ONDE continued to publish public service advertisements in leading publications. In addition, UNICEF and other donors in 2000 funded a pilot project in Casablanca, working through Moroccan NGO's, to aid young girls by providing basic education, health care, and recreational opportunities for child maids at five drop-in centers.
The Government has had difficulty addressing the problem of child labor. The number of children working illegally as domestic servants is high: 45.4 percent of household employees under the age of 18 are between the ages of 10 and 12, and 26.4 percent are under the age of 10, according to an April joint study by the Moroccan League for the Protection of Children and UNICEF. The legal minimum age of employment is 15 years. The report denounced the poor treatment a number of the children received, such as being forced to work all day with no breaks. The League demanded that the minimum age for employment be raised and that the Labor Code under consideration strengthen the protection of child workers.
Another problem facing abandoned children of both sexes is their lack of civil status. Civil status is necessary to obtain a birth certificate, passport, or marriage license. In general men are registered at local government offices; their wives and unmarried children are included in this registration, which confers civil status. If a father does not register his child, the child is without civil status and the benefits of citizenship. It is possible for an individual to self-register, but the process is long and cumbersome. While any child, regardless of parentage, may be registered within a month of birth, a court order is required if registration does not take place in that time. Abandoned children in some cases receive kafala (state-sponsored care).
Several NGO's, including the Bayti Association and the Moroccan League for the Protection of Children, work to improve legal protection for children and to help at-risk children. There are several shelters in the major cities that provide food and lodging for street children, while other NGO's work to reduce the exploitation of street children and to cure those street children with drug addictions.
During the week of April 16, Princess Lalla Meryem hosted the first Summit of African First Ladies on Childhood in Marrakech. The members adopted the "Marrakech Declaration," pledging to "promote, protect, and consecrate girls in Africa." On October 31, Princess Lalla Hasna presided at the official opening of the SOS Children's Village south of Casablanca, the third one to open in Morocco.
TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
The law does not specifically prohibit trafficking in persons; under the Penal Code perpetrators are prosecuted either as scam artists, corrupters of minors, or persons who force others into prostitution. Trafficking in persons is a problem.
Prostitution is prevalent, particularly in cities with large numbers of tourists, as well as near towns with large military installations. NGO activists estimate that there are thousands of teenage prostitutes in urban centers. There were reports that women and girls were forced into prostitution. On February 8, 2001, L'Opinion reported that 26 persons had been arrested for involvement in trafficking in minors. The persons arrested allegedly worked for a network that reportedly operated in Sale, Rabat, Casablanca, Marrakech, Tangier, Tetouan, and Agadir on a large scale. The preferred targets were girls aged under 14. According to the weekly newsmagazine Maroc Hebdo International, as of October 26, 155 persons had been prosecuted for the sexual exploitation of children. Of those, 128 were in prison. Their victims included 101 boys and 66 girls.
Moroccans also are trafficked abroad. Traffickers approach their victims by offering them money. In those cases where unwitting Moroccan women have been recruited to perform sexual services outside of the country, traffickers usually have deceived them into thinking that they will be filling secretarial or domestic servant jobs. In November the press reported the uncovering of a trafficking network in which young Moroccan women paid $2,000 in return for fictional hotel work contracts and travel to Amman, Jordan, where they were forced into prostitution. This was similar to a scam reported in 1999 between Morocco and the Persian Gulf states. In October the press also reported the arrest of nine persons in Casablanca running a secret emigration network offering fraudulent work contracts and transport to Europe in return for payments of about $4,000.
Internal trafficking is a problem, particularly of women for sexual exploitation or of young girls for domestic service. The practice of adoptive servitude, in which families employ young girls and use them as indentured servants, is a large scale problem that is accepted socially, and the Government does not regulate it. The Planning Ministry, in a 2001 study funded by UNICEF, concluded that some 13,000 girls under 15 are working as child maids in Casablanca alone. Reports of physical and psychological abuse in such cases are widespread; four percent of the girls report sexual abuse by members of the employer's household. Some orphanages have been charged as knowing accomplices in providing these young child maids; however, more often, parents of rural girls "contract" their daughters as maids to wealthier urban families and collect their salaries.
The country is also a transit point for trafficking and alien smuggling. From January 1 to June 30, the Spanish Government arrested approximately 35,000 persons attempting to enter Europe illegally from Morocco, of whom 15,000 were from other African countries or Asia. Those potential victims of trafficking who were detained, jailed, or deported usually were third country nationals transiting the country en route to Europe.
In October, the Government hosted the Arab-African Forum against Sexual Exploitation of Children, under UNICEF auspices. The conference included frank discussion of a subject that is commonly taboo. The Government requested that the participants present their results at the World Congress against Sexual Exploitation of Children in Japan in December.
A national campaign against the employment of child maids and promoting schooling for all children was launched in October 2000 and continued throughout 2001. The campaign was organized by a domestic NGO with support from the Government, as well as UNICEF and other donors. The National Observatory for Child Welfare provided legal counsel to victims of abuse. Responses to cases of child maid abuse vary depending on the situation. The shared government and NGO goal is to return them to their families if possible; if not, they may be placed in a women's or girls' shelter.
Several domestic NGO's, as well as a branch of Terre Des Hommes, a Swiss-based international NGO, help victims of trafficking by assisting and rehabilitating street children, educating delinquents and runaways, assisting single mothers to become financially independent, educating youths and prostitutes about the dangers of unprotected sex, and advocating in favor of women's rights.
Over the past decade, Morocco has been a major producer and exporter of cannabis of which an estimated 2,000 tons are transported annually to Europe where it is consumed primarily as hashish. There is no evidence that this cannabis reaches the U.S. in significant amounts, however. Despite government of Morocco's (GOM) efforts in recent years, the supply-and-demand aspects of the narcotics trade is more attractive than the minimal threat posed by the uneven pursuit and punishment of hashish producers and principals involved in trafficking networks. This reality coupled with GOM counternarcotics budgetary constraints does not bode well for a near-or long-term cessation of hashish production and/or trafficking in Morocco.
Morocco consistently ranks among the world's largest producers of cannabis. European Union (EU) law enforcement officials estimate that up to 85,000 hectares are devoted to cannabis production, most of which is processed into hashish, resin, or oil and exported to Algeria, Tunisia, and Europe. On a more positive note, money laundering and precursor chemicals are virtually non-factors for Morocco.
While cannabis is the traditional drug of choice for Moroccans, there is also a small but growing domestic market for harder drugs, such as heroin and cocaine. Newspaper reports on Morocco's role as a major producer and exporter of drugs allege a connection between local drug traffickers and international cartels such as Latin American cocaine rings; however, these allegations have never been substantiated.
With the exception of the January 1996 GOM creation of the Coordination Unit for the Struggle Against Drugs (UCLAD), there have been no recent policy initiatives launched by Moroccan authorities. In 1996, the last year for which figures are available, the Moroccan government seized almost 40,000 kilograms of cannabis and 7,000 kilograms of cannabis resin. The government also arrested 18,794 Moroccans and foreigners for drug offenses.
The GOM's announced programs would, if fully implemented, bring it substantially into compliance with the UN Drug Convention's goals and objectives. However, progress in actually implementing announced programs was minimal in 1998. The government's purpose in creating UCLAD was to improve cooperation and centralize control on all drug-related matters. However, European diplomats believe the operation lacks the resources to fulfill its mandate. With the exception of computers and related materiel previously provided, the EU will continue to withhold anti-narcotics assistance until UCLAD is fully operational. Absent greatly increased funding, the aims of the UN Drug Convention will remain unattainable in Morocco.
Morocco's domestic laws provide general authority to prosecute drug producers and traffickers. As part of an anti-drug initiative launched by King Hassan in 1992, 10,000 police were detailed to drug interdiction efforts in the north and Rif mountains in 1995. Approximately two hundred checkpoints remain scattered throughout the region. Also, soldiers staff hundreds of observation posts along the Mediterranean coast, and the navy carries out routine sea patrols and responds to sightings by the observation posts.
Most observers believe that corruption continues to be widespread. The government of Morocco does not promote drug production or trafficking as a matter of policy, and it contests accusations that government tolerates the drug trade.
Morocco is a party to the 1961 UN Single Convention and its Protocol, and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Morocco is also a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, but Morocco's Parliament has not yet passed implementing legislation. There is a 1989 narcotics cooperation agreement with the U.S. that calls for cooperation in the fight against illicit production, trafficking, and abuse of narcotics and a 1993 MLAT between Morocco and the U.S. Morocco also has anti-narcotics or mutual legal assistance treaties with the EU, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and the UK.
Most Moroccan cannabis is cultivated by small farmers in the northern or Rif region, although some is also grown in the Souss Valley of the south. Unofficial sources estimate that 80,000-85,000 hectares are devoted to cannabis production, and claim that this number has increased by a factor of ten in the last decade. The average hectare of cannabis produces 2 to 8 metric tons of raw plant. The GOM has stated that it is committed to the total eradication of cannabis production. Given the economic dependence of the northern part of the country on cannabis-cannabis crops are estimated to yield two billion U.S. dollars in revenues annually-eradication is only feasible if accompanied by a highly subsidized crop substitution program. Consequently, the GOM has not yet made a serious attempt at eradication.
There are reports that Morocco is used as a transshipment point for hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine entering Europe. However, with the exception of the six tons of cocaine which inadvertently washed up on the Moroccan coast in July 1997, there have been no substantial seizures of hard drugs in Morocco.
The GOM does not acknowledge a significant hard drug addiction problem and does not actively promote reduction in domestic demand for cannabis. It has established a program to train the staffs of psychiatric hospitals in the treatment of drug addiction.
U.S. policy goals in Morocco are designed to encourage GOM anti-narcotics efforts; to cooperate with Moroccan law enforcement officials in curtailing production and transshipment of drugs; to provide training in law enforcement techniques; to promote GOM adherence to bilateral and international agreement requirements; to provide support, as appropriate, for existing Moroccan-European cooperation in this area; and to encourage greater international cooperation to control Moroccan production and export of drugs.
Pursuant to the 1989 Agreement, the U.S. and Morocco maintain occasional contact on anti-narcotics issues. The U.S. has provided training and anti-narcotics intelligence where applicable, and most recently conducted regional drug interdiction training in Morocco in December 1997.
The U.S. will continue to monitor the narcotics situation in Morocco, cooperate with the GOM in its anti-narcotics efforts, and, together with the EU, provide law enforcement training, intelligence, and other support where possible.
Internet research assisted by Melissa Francescut