Torture Still Widely Used in Morocco, Amnesty International Says

12:19 AM Aida Alami 0 Comments

RABAT, Morocco — Violent interrogation methods are still widely used by the Moroccan authorities to crush dissent and forcefully extract confessions from detainees, even though the government has pledged for years to eradicate torture, a new report by the human rights group Amnesty International says.

Morocco’s leaders portray the image of a liberal, human-rights-friendly country,” Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International, said in a statement with the report, which was released Tuesday morning. “But as long as the threat of torture hangs over detention and dissent that image will just be a mirage.”

The Moroccan government did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report.
Based on interviews between 2010 and 2014 with more than 150 men, women and children, the report concludes that police and security forces routinely inflicted beatings, asphyxiation, stress positions, simulated drowning, and psychological and sexual violence. People in custody were also routinely denied access to a lawyer.

Amnesty International, which has been denied access to prisons, said that the occurrence of torture had declined modestly in recent years, but that people were still at risk of being tortured when arrested and while in police custody. In the past 12 months, the report says, eight people who filed torture complaints subsequently faced criminal charges of slander.

“We have encountered poor cooperation from the authorities, and we were not given access for research visits,” Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa director of Amnesty International, said in a telephone interview. “There is a gap between what’s on paper and what’s in practice. Torture is not systematic but common. The safeguards that exist currently are not being implemented.”

The assessment comes as the state-run National Human Rights Council announced that it planned to equip prisons and detention centers with video cameras before the end of the year.

The North African kingdom has a long history with torture, going back to King Hassan II. When King Mohammed VI, his son, ascended the throne after King Hassan’s death in 1999, one of his central achievements was to establish an Equity and Reconciliation Commission that denounced the horrors committed during his father’s reign, though nobody was prosecuted.

According to several human rights organizations, the government began resorting to torture after a string of deadly attacks in Casablanca in 2003. Morocco also provided a black site for the Central Intelligence Agency, where terrorism suspects were brutally interrogated.

Last year, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights at the time, Navi Pillay, said during a news conference that the king had pledged to eradicate torture.

“His Majesty King Mohammed VI informed me that he will not tolerate torture, although he could not rule out that there are isolated cases,” she said. “Other officials acknowledged that torture was not state policy but that ‘bad habits’ will take time to eradicate.”

“Measures, including the installation of CCTV in police stations and training for officers, have been proposed,” she added. “The litmus test of such commitments is accountability. Impunity is the most powerful fuel for human rights violations.”

The report released Tuesday, “Shadows of Impunity: Morocco and the Western Sahara,” tells the story of Boubker Hadari, 26, who was arrested during a campus protest.

“They hit me on the head and all over my body with their batons,” Mr. Hadari, a philosophy major, said of the police. “Then one of them said, ‘Throw the dog,’ and they threw me off the roof, which was two stories high. I awoke in a pool of blood on the ground and found them surrounding me, shouting insults and taking pictures. They even insulted me in the ambulance on the way to hospital.”
While Morocco’s penal code and Constitution prohibit torture, the kingdom still seems reluctant to go after those who perpetrate it, said Mr. Luther of Amnesty International.

“We are not saying the situation has gotten a lot worse — Morocco has made progress — but the reforms remain on paper,” he said. “Our big concern is that they didn’t touch impunity for horrendous acts in the past. That impunity has had a toxic effect.”

Read the article on the New York Times' website

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