Index: MDE 29/007/2014 26 November 2014. “Undue restrictions on freedom of expression and association of groups critical of Morocco’s human rights record, including Amnesty International, are casting a shadow on the World Human Rights Forum due to open tomorrow in Marrakech. The Forum risks ringing hollow unless the authorities lift restrictions on human rights groups and allow international organizations such as Amnesty International unfettered access to the country.[…]
Amnesty International has been facing restrictions since the launch of its global campaign against torture earlier this year. The credibility of the upcoming human rights conference has been dented by a decision by eight groups, including leading human rights associations, to shun the event in protest at a spate of bans on public activities they were organizing. They announced their decision in a joint press conference in Rabat on 24 November.[…]
Two members of the AMDH remain behind bars for reporting that they were assaulted after taking part in peaceful protests. In June and July, Oussama Housne and Wafae Charaf, were convicted on charges of “falsely reporting” that unidentified individuals had previously abducted and tortured them. They were sentenced to prison terms of three and two years respectively. The courts also ordered them to pay compensation for “slander” of the police although neither of them had accused the police. Their prosecution and imprisonment raised fears that victims of police torture or other abuses might be deterred from coming forward. Amnesty International has called for their immediate release.[…] Eight Sahrawi groups, including the Sahrawi Association of Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations Committed by the Moroccan State (ASVDH) and the Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA), have also announced that they will not participate in the World Human Rights Forum, citing continuing restrictions on freedom of association in Western Sahara among other reasons. Sahrawi groups are among a number of associations facing long-standing obstacles to obtaining official registration from the Moroccan authorities. For instance, the Moroccan authorities continue to consider the ASVDH an unregistered association, despite a favourable ruling by an administrative court in 2006 confirming that the association had been established in compliance with registration requirements.[…]
Other human rights groups in Morocco affected by obstacles to registration include several branches of the AMDH, as well as Freedom Now. A newcomer to Morocco’s human rights scene, Freedom Now is a press freedom organization founded by human rights defenders, prominent figures and independent journalists, including Ali Anouzla, whose news website Lakome was closed after his prosecution under anti-terrorism legislation.[…] Finally, on 12 October 2014, Moroccan authorities denied entry to an Amnesty International delegation planning to document the situation of migrants and refugees in the north of the country and at the borders with the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. A second fact-finding visit scheduled to begin on 9 November, which authorities were informed of more than two weeks in advance, was cancelled by the organization after the Moroccan authorities made its entry conditional on prior meetings in Rabat to agree on the parameters of the visit, conditions amounting to restrictions.