Morocco: Civil society condemns arrests of peaceful protesters
The Regional Coalition for Women Human Rights Defenders in the Middle East and North Africa and Global Civil Society Alliance CIVICUS, express grave concerns over the arbitrary arrests of peaceful protesters and call on the Moroccan authorities to release all those in detention. So far at least 127 protesters have been detained in the wake of the brutal crackdown on demonstrations in the north of Morocco.
Over the last seven months, protesters in al-Hoceima city in Morocco’s Rif have denounced what they see as the economic, social and cultural marginalisation of the Rif and have been calling on authorities to listen to their demands. Security forces responded by arresting protesters, accusing them of undermining state security and committing criminal acts. Bloggers have also been arrested and detained for covering the protests and the brutal police response online. Most of those in detention have been denied access to lawyers and family members and some have stated that they have been physically assaulted and tortured.
“The arrests and detention of peaceful protesters is at variance with Morocco’s international human rights commitments and its 2011 constitution that recognizes the right to peaceful assembly and expression. All those arrested should be released immediately and allegations of torture and assault of those detained investigated” said Nidal Azhary President of the Morocco-based Free Feminist Union.
On 29 May 2017 Nasser Zefzafi leader of the grassroots group movement, Al-Hirak al Shaabi, was arrested and accused of undermining state security. This was followed by the arrests of other members of the movement including Silya Ziani and Najib Ahamjik. Since 26 May more than 83 protesters were prosecuted in al-Hoceima; 32 of them have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from 2 to 18 months for participating in the protests. Many others have been transferred to Casablanca where they are awaiting trial. They are charged with attacking official personnel, rioting and protesting without official permission.
The protests initially began in October 2016 when Mohsen Fikri, a fishmonger, was killed in a rubbish truck when he attempted to remove sword fish that had been seized from him by the authorities who accused him of selling them illegally.
We call on the Moroccan authorities to release all those in detention and drop all charges against them.