Morocco’s most influential rights group AMDH deplored what it said was a surge in political and arbitrary detentions of human rights campaigners, journalists and social activists.
In a report covering last year and the first half of 2018, the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) said there were serious violations in remote parts of Rif – a predominantly Berber area shaken by protests – as well as Jerada, Zagora and other regions.
“The numbers of political detainees surpassed those reported in the 1990s,” AMDH president Ahmed ElHaij told a news conference, noting 1,020 are either detained or being tried for involvement in or support for peaceful protests across the kingdom.
Government did not immediately respond to the report, although human rights minister Mustapha Ramid said Morocco is neither paradise nor hell for rights.
In the wake of 2011 Arab Spring protests, Morocco adopted a new constitution enshrining freedom of speech and promoting other rights including strengthening of an independent judiciary and enshrining Amazigh – spoken by the Berber community – as a national language.
Seven years on, AMDH said Morocco is letting slide the freedoms and human rights commitments promised.
The state has dragged its feet on implementing international commitments to fight torture, the 296-page report said. As for civil liberties, AMDH drew a bleak picture citing a violent crackdown by the state on peaceful protests notably in the Rif.
Rif protests over economic and social demands erupted after the death of fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri in October 2016. He was crushed in a rubbish truck trying to recover fish confiscated by police.
Last June, a Casablanca court handed jail terms to 52 people over the Rif demonstrations. Protest leader Nasser Zefzafi was sentenced in a first instance verdict to 20 years in prison.
The Rif demonstrations, along with those in mining town Jerada early in 2018, have been the most intense since the unrest in 2011 that prompted King Mohammed VI to devolve some powers to an elected parliament.
The report documented cases of violation of press freedom which cost Morocco two places in the Reporters without Borders 2017 index where it ranks 133rd out of 180 countries.
AMDH denounced the trial of local journalists including Hamid El Mahdaoui who covered the Rif protests. It also called on authorities to adopt a law protecting migrants and asylum seekers and halt deportation of migrants.