Moroccans stage rare human rights protest


About 900 Moroccan rights activists took to the streets in Rabat in a rare protest against what they called widespread rights abuses by the authorities, including illegal detention and torture.

Protesters chanted: “Shut down illegal detention centres now!” and “Where is the respect for rights and truth?”

Officials were not immediately available to comment on the protest but the government has repeatedly said that its commitment to improve and protect human rights is irreversible, Reuters reports.

Morocco won international praise for an improvement in its human rights record since reformist monarch Mohamed VI took over in 1999 from his father Hassan II, during whose rule hundreds of people were tortured and killed at the hands of the government.

But local human rights groups at home and abroad argue that the country’s rights record has deteriorated since 2003 when it mounted a crackdown against militants linked to al Qaeda.
“The reality of human rights conditions totally belies the government’s claim of improvement. Illegal detention, torture and crackdowns on press freedom are pervasive now,” said Abdeslam Abdelilah, Vice-President of the independent Moroccan Human Rights Association (AMDH).

Independent journalists and security officials at the scene estimated the number of demonstrators at around 900. Security forces have in the past broken up similar protests but they did not interfere in Sunday’s demonstration.