Security forces used excessive force against protesters. Critics of the monarchy and state institutions continued to face prosecution and imprisonment, as did Sahrawi advocates of self-determination for Western Sahara. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees persisted. Several prisoners of conscience and one victim of arbitrary detention were released under royal pardons, but charges were not withdrawn against a number of Sahrawi activists. There were no executions.
Thousands of people demonstrated in Rabat, Casablanca and other cities on 20 February, calling for reforms. The demonstrations were authorized and generally peaceful. Protesters, who quickly formed the 20 February Movement, called for greater democracy, a new constitution, an end to corruption, improved economic conditions, and better health and other services. As protests continued, on 3 March a new National Human Rights Council was created, replacing the Advisory Council on Human Rights. On 9 March, the King announced a constitutional reform process, which was boycotted by protest leaders. A proposed new Constitution was endorsed in a national referendum on 1 July. As a result, the King’s powers to appoint government officials and dissolve parliament were transferred to the Prime Minister, but the King remained Morocco’s commander of the armed forces, chairperson of the Council of Ministers and highest religious authority. Other constitutional changes enshrined freedom of expression and equality between women and men; and criminalized torture, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances. In parliamentary elections held on 25 November, the Islamist Justice and Development Party won the greatest number of seats and a new government, headed by Abdelilah Benkirane, took office on 29 November.
In April, Morocco withdrew its reservations to the CEDAW; the reservations related to children’s nationality and discrimination in marriage. Morocco also announced it would ratify the Optional Protocols to the Convention against Torture and CEDAW.
Negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario Front continued over the status of Western Sahara, without resolution. The Polisario Front continued to call for the independence of the territory, which Morocco annexed in 1975. On 27 April, the UN Security Council again renewed the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara without including a human rights monitoring component.Top of page
Even though the pro-reform protests were generally peaceful, on many occasions security forces were reported to have attacked them, causing at least one death and many injuries. Hundreds of protesters were detained. Most were released, but some were tried and received prison sentences. Security forces were reported to have harassed relatives of activists in the 20 February Movement, and summonsed for questioning scores of activists advocating a boycott of parliamentary elections.
Journalists and others continued to face prosecution and imprisonment for publicly criticizing state officials or institutions, or for reporting on politically sensitive issues.
Sahrawis advocating self-determination for the people of Western Sahara remained subject to restrictions on their freedoms of expression, association and assembly, and leading activists continued to face prosecution.
No impartial and independent investigation was undertaken into the events at Gdim Izik and in Laayoune in November 2010 when Moroccan security forces demolished a Sahrawi protest camp, sparking violence in which 13 people, including 11 members of the security forces, were killed.Top of page
Reports of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, notably by the Directorate for Surveillance of the Territory, persisted, with suspected Islamists and members of the 20 February Movement particularly targeted. Detainees continued to be held incommunicado, in some cases allegedly beyond the 12 days permitted by law.
On 28 April, 17 people, mostly foreign tourists, were killed and others injured when a bomb exploded at a café in Marrakesh; no one claimed responsibility but the authorities attributed it to Al Qa’ida in the Maghreb (AQIM), which the group denied.
The authorities failed to implement key recommendations made by the Equity and Reconciliation Commission in its November 2005 report. Victims continued to be denied effective access to justice for gross violations of human rights committed between Morocco’s independence in 1956 and the death of King Hassan II in 1999.Top of page
Moroccan courts continued to hand down the death penalty. The last execution took place in 1993. Five death row prisoners had their sentences commuted to prison terms under an amnesty issued by the King in April.Top of page
The Polisario Front took no measures to end impunity for those accused of committing human rights abuses in the 1970s and 1980s at the Tindouf camps controlled by the Polisario Front in Algeria’s Mhiriz region.
In October, three aid workers – an Italian woman, a Spanish woman and a Spanish man – were abducted by an armed group from a Polisario-run refugee camp. They had not been released by the end of 2011.Top of page