The Moroccan Association for Human Rights presented its thematic report on ” the reality of public freedoms in Morocco during the year 2021“, which saw the maintenance of the state of health emergency for the second consecutive year, and in which it stopped on the different types of attacks on freedoms in 2021.
Regarding freedom of opinion and expression, the AMDH noted in its report, presented this Thursday, January 13 at the association’s headquarters in Rabat, that ” the Moroccan state tried to exploit the pandemic to pass bill n°22.20 relating to the use of social networks, the articles of which were characterized by the imposition of broad restrictions on freedom of opinion and of expression on the Internet, and the strengthening of censorship of publications and social networks, in total contradiction with international obligations in the field of human rights“.
A bill which was finally shelved following the pressure of Moroccan public opinion and the vast campaign of indignation against this law, underlines the report.
On the other hand, the AMDH report goes back to the decision of the public prosecutor, which took place just after the state of health emergency, and which initiated a ” arrest and prosecution of thousands of male and female citizens accused of violating state of health emergency measures“.
According to the Home Office, the report continues, ” 1,530,000 citizens were arrested for violating the state of health emergency, between July 25, 2020 and April 22, 2021. 280,000 of them were brought to justice, i.e. more than 18%“, emphasizes the same source, who estimated that “ this may be one of the reasons behind prison overcrowding and the increase in the number of inmates in prisons by 5% compared to last year“.
” This trend of arrests contradicts what the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary General of the United Nations, who have called for working to reduce the prison population, as a measure supposed to be included in the measures taken. to deal with the pandemic“, further notes the report.
In 2021, Morocco also experienced an exceptional and unprecedented decline in freedom of opinion and expression, of the media, of the press and of publications on social networks, estimates the AMDH.
” As arrests and trials of journalists and bloggers continued, in an authoritarian context marked by repression and restrictions on media freedoms, defamation newspapers and websites (close to the government) continued to attack journalists independents and human rights defenders in general, with total impunity“, expressed the report, recalling to this effect that the organization “ Reporters Without Borders had ranked Morocco 136th out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index in 2021.
Thus, the association indicates that it has followed ” 170 cases of arrests and prosecution during the pandemic period, where some defendants were tried, including journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders and social movement activists, contract teachers, or following the social events that have took place in the city of M’diq, the Zerkan tribe in the Guercif region, the city of Guelmim, Kelaâ des Megouna and Boumalne Dades or even following the protests against the imposition of the vaccination pass, which took place in Marrakech and Tangier » .
Regarding the vaccination pass, the AMDH expressed its astonishment at the imposition of this document in the courts of the Kingdom, considering this measure as ” a violation of the rights of litigants, civil servants, and even magistrates, after the prohibition of certain lawyers and judges from accessing the courts“, which represents a national first, underlines the report.
With regard to the right to assembly and peaceful demonstrations, the AMDH notes in its report that during the year 2021, and under the state of health emergency, ” the violent intervention of the forces of order, prohibition and repression have become a basic rule with, as justification, the preservation of health and public order“.
” To this end, the forms of peaceful protest have known the intervention of the authorities, responsible for applying the law, and who have followed up on the violation rules and international principles, at their head, the ten principles relating to peaceful assemblies, since the state of health emergency turned into an undeclared state of exception, during which the State generally did not respect the principles of necessity and proportionality, or the so-called Syracuse principles“, explained the association.
Faced with all these human rights violations raised by the report during the year 2021, the AMDH has made several recommendations to remedy them, in particular “the release of all political and opinion detainees, the right to peaceful assembly and demonstration, the end of the prosecution of journalists and bloggers on social networks as well as protesters among contract teachers, the unemployed and human rights activists“.
Similarly, the association recommends the ” promulgation of a special law aimed at protecting human rights defenders from all forms of harassment by enabling them to enjoy all their rights in accordance with the spirit of the Universal Declaration for the Protection of Defenders“.
The association also advocates the lifting of the state of health emergency with the need to set a deadline while respecting the rule of proportionality referred to in international human rights law” , as well as ” the cessation of all ongoing measures affecting human rights, in particular freedom of opinion and expression, the media, thought and conscience, the right to form associations and the right to demonstrate and to assemble peacefully“.
In addition, the AMDH recommends ” guarantee the right to obtain accurate and transparent information, including that related to Covid-19, and to involve public opinion in decision-making“.