The Guest Blog

Guest blog post by Mauricio Ruiz, Freelance Journalist

“Morocco has made significant progress in promoting democracy and the respect of human rights,” said Willy Fautré, Director and Co-founder of Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF), on Tuesday June 26th, at the European Parliament. “There are nonetheless a number of issues that still need to be addressed, and the EU ought to use its soft power to help Rabat continue making progress.”

During the event, hosted by S&D and ALDE groups in the European Parliament, Mr. Fautré announced the delivery of a thorough report based on a field mission carried out by HRWF earlier this year. One of the report’s main goals was to determine how much progress had been accomplished in Morocco since the constitutional reform that took place in 2011 under the hospices of King Mohammed VI. “We are here today to get a clear picture of where Morocco stands now, but also of its past. The kind of trajectory it has followed until now, which is also important,” said Mr. Fautré. “The CNDH has been instrumental.”

A key player in the modernisation of the human rights’ cause in Morocco has been the Conseil National de Droits de l’Homme (CNDH), which was also created in 2011. Speaking at the event Ahmed Herzenni, a human rights expert who participated in the reconciliation commission that started in 2004, and chaired the advisory board of human rights council until 2011, said “I would like to thank HRWF for the quality of their report. It is the most balanced one I have read.”

Bulgarian MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk stressed the strategic role of Morocco as a partner and neighbor, which is a bridge between the EU and Africa. “The EU must continue to strengthen its diplomatic relationship with the country, and further cooperate in important matters, such as migration, counterterrorism and de-radicalisation and use its leverage to further improve human rights standards.”

The scope of the report – Human Rights in Morocco: Achievements and Challenges Ahead – was to examine five main points: freedom of association and peaceful assembly; women’s rights and domestic violence; and children’s rights. In the case of freedom of association, the right is protected by the constitution. Close investigations, however, have revealed that some barriers to free association exist in practice. The notification process, which is required by the constitution and has an expected time of maximum 60 days for confirmation, has sometimes been denied with unclear reasons. Also, the constitution prohibits associations that are deemed to be “contrary to good moral, undermining Islamic religion or the integrity of the country.” UN reports have shown that Moroccan authorities have sometimes used this definition too widely in order to justify actions against certain associations.

With regards to freedom of assembly, the legal framework necessary is not well known, and protesters have been tried in the past by military courts. Thanks to actions from the CNDH, a new law prohibits civilians from being tried by military courts.

Elisa Van Ruiten, a gender specialist at HRWF, praised the Moroccan government for the creation of the Nationality Code of 2007 which allows children to take the nationality of their mother at birth, as well as the Family Code of 2004 lifting the obligation for women to have a male guardian. Statutory rape has been criminalized, but marital rape has not; women do not receive equal shares of inheritance (men receive larger portions of land than women).

The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, also known as the Maputo Protocol, has not been ratified by Morocco. “We are calling on the Moroccan authorities to take these results on board and ratify the Maputo Protocol,” said Van Huiten. Numbers from the World Bank show that only 10% of women own businesses and this challenge should also be addressed.

The EU and Morocco signed an Association Agreement in 2000 within the framework of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership. Morocco became a privileged partner of the Union in 2004 with the launch of the European Neighborhood Policy. The country will host the 11th summit of the world forum on migration in Marrakech on December 5-7, 2018.

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