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Human Rights Committee considers the report of Morocco

Morocco reviewed

25 October 2016

Human Rights Committee

25 October 2016

The Human Rights Committee today concluded its consideration of the sixth periodic report of Morocco on its implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Presenting the report of Morocco, Mahjoub El Haiba, Inter-ministerial Delegate for Human Rights, conveyed the message of the King of Morocco, stating that huge changes had been undertaken in the direction of improving the condition of human rights in Morocco.  Between 2008 and 2016, Morocco had started a dialogue with the Treaty Bodies, which demonstrated the country’s continuous dedication to the human rights principles.   Since 2011, it strengthened its openness to Special Procedures, welcoming thus far nine Special Procedures.  Morocco was party to nine international instruments, as well as the optional protocols relating to them, including the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.  Since 2006, it had recognized competence of some Treaty Bodies regarding individual complaints. Morocco had gone through profound changes since its last meeting with the Committee, including on building democracy, individual and collective freedoms and the rule of law.

In the ensuing discussion, Committee Experts commended the continuous efforts of the Kingdom of Morocco on the promotion and protection of human rights.  Experts were concerned about the Amazigh people and their cultural rights, as well as the rights of women and children. In particular, they posed questions on the practice of child marriages.  Experts were highly concerned about investigation into incidences of torture, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearances from the past, as well as allegations of secret detention places. The human rights situation in Western Sahara was of utmost concern to the Committee, and in particular the right to self-determination of the Sahraouian people.

In concluding remarks, Mr. El Haiba assured the Committee that the State party attached great importance to human rights and to all questions raised, although there was imbalance in the questions posed.

Fabian Omar Salvioli, Committee Chairperson, in closing remarks, thanked the delegation for their participation. Combatting terrorism as a scourge whilst upholding human rights was an ongoing concern of the Committee, as were answering the questions of enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment in the past, the death penalty, and the human rights situation in Western Sahara..

The delegation of Morocco included representatives of the Inter-ministerial Delegation of Human Rights, the Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Solidarity, the Woman, the Family, and Social Development, the Ministry of Justice and Liberties, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Communications, the Penitentiary and Reinsertion Administration, the Economic, Social and Environmental Council, the Social Development Agency; and the Permanent Mission of Morocco to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will next meet at 3 p.m. today, to continue its debate on the draft General Comment on Article 6 (Right to Life).

The sixth periodic report of Morocco can be read here: CCPR/C/MAR/6.
Presentation of the Report

MAHJOUB EL HAIBA, Inter-Ministerial Delegate for Human Rights, conveyed the message of the King of Morocco, stating that huge changes had been undertaken in the direction of human rights in Morocco.  New questions were emerging in the area of human rights, including on the elderly, business and human rights, legal empowerment of poor people and the justiciability of human rights.  Between 2008 and 2016, Morocco had started a dialogue with the Treaty Bodies. That displayed the country’s continuous dedication to the human rights principles.  Since 2011, it had strengthened its openness to Special Procedures, welcoming thus far nine procedures, including the Working Group on arbitrary detention and the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances the previous February.  Morocco was party to nine international instruments, as well as the optional protocols relating to them, including the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.  Since 2006, it had recognised competence of some Treaty Bodies regarding individual complaints. Morocco had gone through profound changes since its last meeting with the Committee, including on building democracy, individual and collective freedoms and the rule of law.  In parallel, key debates were ongoing in society as a part of the dissemination of the provisions of the Covenant, including debates on the death penalty as well as on abortion.

Fundamental reforms had been under way in Morocco for more than twenty years now. Three main phases had characterised that period. The first stage had started in 2004, and had to do with the transitional justice process.  The main features of that experience had allowed Morocco to establish truth, accountability, responsibility as well ass clearing up cases of enforced disappearances and a large programme for the reparation of victims, including identification of where violations had occurred.  No one had been deprived of their fundamental right to bring legal proceedings, nor had there been a question of adopting amnesty laws.  The Moroccan approach recognized victims and their right to having their dignity restored.  The human rights culture had been stepped up on a very solid basis, namely through the National Human Rights and Democracy Plan. The New Family Code covered marriage, child inheritance, and other issues that addressed the international commitments of the Kingdom. Many legal provisions had been adopted. Moroccan women married to foreigners were henceforth able to pass on their nationality to their children. The National Human Rights Institution played a key role in the protection of certain individuals. Nevertheless, issues still remained on the National Reform Agenda, and those were at the heart of a debate that reflected the diverse Moroccan society. Some of those issues would be dealt with progressively.

The regional context in 2010 had been marked by popular uprisings. Morocco had not waited for its people to go out on the streets in order to undergo reforms. The constitutional changes initiated by the King of Morocco included advanced regionalisation, the independence of the justice system, the strengthening the Prime Minister’s role as the executive and the strengthening of the Parliament as the legislative branch. That new Constitution had been adopted through broad consultations in 2011 and incarnated the true consolidation of all human rights.  Mr. El Haiba stressed that the question of the autonomy of the Southern Provinces was crucial to Morocco. The Amazigh language had been officially recognized alongside Arabic.
Questions by Experts

An Expert acknowledged the adoption of numerous laws, noting however, that the implementation of those had taken some time.  Could the delegation offer examples of laws and other measures that allowed for the Committee to look at the scope of success in the implementation of the provisions of the Covenant? Could the delegation provide concrete examples where the provisions of the Covenant were directly evoked?

Noting that the National Human Rights Commission had been strengthened, the Expert asked the delegation about the number of cases investigated by the Commission involving penitentiary authorities. How did the thirteen regional commissions operate throughout the country? What was the role of the National Commission on Human Rights as compared to the National Commission on Reconciliation? Did they have a jurisdictional role as per the Paris Principles?

On violence against women, the Expert highlighted the criticism regarding the new provisions, stating that they did not protect women. Were there plans to fight polygamy and forced child marriage? Allegedly 33 percent of requests in 2011 for marriage with minors involved girls between 14 and 16 years of age.  Was it possible for the State party to establish a more restrictive system in that respect?  Were there measures to decriminalise victims of sexual abuse, so as to allow them to report such abuse?  Were honour crimes punished?  How were aggravating circumstances in spouse murder addressed?  Could the delegation provide disaggregated data on the trials that had resulted from violence against women?  Were women involved in the process in police stations? And were there sufficient shelters for battered women?

Another Expert reiterated the Committee’s view that the right to self-determination for the people of Western Sahara had not been realised. Bearing in mind that Western Sahara had been on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories since 1963, the Committee noted the initiatives, including the Moroccan Initiative for Negotiating an Autonomy Statute for the Sahara Region, the municipal elections held in September 2015, and the new development model including large scale infrastructure projects.  That initiative empowered the people of Western Sahara to legislate in their own territory.  What steps had Morocco taken to organise a referendum that would allow the people to choose among three options, as stated in General Assembly Resolution 1541 of 1960, namely: 1) emerging as a sovereign independent State; 2) freely associating with an independent State; and 3) integrating within an independent State?  Concretely, how would the referendum be enacted, what steps would be undertaken and what was the timetable for the referendum?  How had the free, prior, and informed participation and consent by the Sahraouian people been ensured in the decisions regarding the natural resources of Western Sahara? What steps had been taken to inform those people of their rights?

The Expert also asked about steps Morocco had taken to demilitarise the wall. What were the efforts to compensate victims? What measures were undertaken for people to access territory on either side of the wall? Could data be provided on number and types of people who had been denied entry or exit through the wall? Was there plans to dismember the wall?
Had Article 59 of the Constitution been subject to reconsideration, asked an Expert. Were there guarantees that fundamental rights and freedoms of the Constitution would not be limited at times of emergency?

Regarding terrorism, allegedly, the laws provided for the criminalisation of glorifying terrorism. The Committee was concerned that a terrorism suspect could be held without access to a legal counsel for up to six days, and that, once provided, that access was limited to 30 minutes.  How many persons had been held in custody under pretext of terrorism in the last five years, and when were they given access to counsel? Had the courts developed any criteria for determining when an activity constituted terrorism? Question was also asked on measures undertaken to ensure that criminal undertakings for acts of terrorism were not applied broadly, including freedom of expression. What reforms were contemplated to ensure that all persons held on grounds of terrorism had an immediate access to counsel, and were promptly brought before a court, informed of charges against them, and could see their family?

Another Expert, referring to the Criminal Law, asked the delegation to clarify whether the antidiscrimination provision was exhaustive, and whether there were plans to adopt an overarching law against discrimination, which included same-sex discrimination.

What was the jurisdiction of the National Human Rights Commission? Did it have investigative jurisdiction throughout the territory? Had there been outcomes of such procedures and investigations, and had an antidiscrimination body been effectively created and what was its role?

On the right to life, it was true that a moratorium was in place since 2012, however the State party had not ratified the Optional Protocol to the Covenant to that effect.  Were there any plans to ratify the Optional Protocol? Could a clarification be provided on the draft amendment and whether it would allow for the death penalty for crimes against humanity and genocide?

Regarding prison conditions, the delegation was asked to provide information on alternative sentencing guidelines. Had an alternative system on bail been devised as proposed by the Committee against Torture?  There were concerns that the prison overcrowding continued. Had the National Human Rights Commission visited places of detention, and were civil society members able to carry out such visits?

Another Expert commended the new Family Code, which had been overhauled in 2004. He noted, however, that some provisions which violated the provisions of the Covenant remained. In particular, in spite of the fact that in 2004, the Committee had asked that the State party abolish polygamy, this practice still remained. According to sources, Article 16 of the Family Code was used in order to have a verbal marriage, which was used to get around the rules as a result of which the number of verbal marriages had increased.  What were the figures of verbal marriages in 2016?  According to the Family Code, men could ask for a divorce unilaterally, without the consent of the wife, but not the other way round.  Legal guardianship of children was also of concern.  Was the State party planning to amend those remaining violating provisions ?

There was a proposal to decriminalise abortion in the Family Code, if it was a result of incest, rape, mental disabilities, or malformation of the foetus.  However, that proposal still contained obstacles, such as requiring legal proceedings. Apparently 35 percent of women had had an abortion, and 30 percent of maternal mortality was due to illegal abortion.  What did the State party intend to do to ensure that there was effective access to abortion?

In a series of questions related to persons in custody or prison, the Expert acknowledged that the State party was envisaging an amendment to the Criminal Code regarding access to a lawyer.  However, two restrictions remained: the thirty-minute time frame and the moment when a lawyer was allowed to intervene, which was at the first moment of proceedings and not at the first moment of detention.  The right to be provided an independent doctor was also an issue. What were the concrete effects of the Guidelines to that effect?  Additionally, there were cases of reprisals when people denounced torture.

Another Expert asked a series of questions regarding discrimination against women and persons with disabilities. How were persons with disabilities mainstreamed in society? What was being done to prevent discrimination between the Arab and Amazigh societies? 

Allegedly, numerous Sahraouian children had been kidnapped and beaten. What measures were undertaken to prevent torture?

Another Expert asked for an update on the children born out of wedlock.

Were veiled women able to take on positions in public and private institutions, asked an Expert.  

Had provisions been established to provide persons with disabilities with their voting rights by physically equipping voting stations?

Was the State aware of the situation of the maltreatment of Sub-Saharan migrants, who were allegedly working in the informal economy?

Another Expert stated that allegedly acts of torture were used to extract information by suspects.  Suspects were held for weeks and kept in isolation, and there were irregularities in their records. That was particularly true for suspects of terrorism. What measures were in place to guarantee that consent was free, or, in other words, that the refusal to sign the confession in the minutes of the hearing by the accused was allowed? 

With the ratification of the Optional Protocol, Morocco was obliged to create a National Mechanism to prevent torture.  The delegation was asked to provide a timeframe for it.
Replies by the Delegation

For Morocco, the question of the Western Sahara had to do with the territorial integrity of Morocco.  Morocco had never ceased retrieving its Southern Provinces.  The regional dispute on that issue was subject to political mediation as proposed by the Security Council. In order to settle the dispute in Western Sahara, Morocco had enacted several initiatives. In his Report to the Security Council on the situation, the United Nations Secretary-General had stated that after nine years it had not been possible to implement the provisions of the plan, apart from the ceasefire. The Secretary-General had confirmed the inapplicability of the Settlement Plan as a whole, because of the complex nature when it came to identifying the people. A peaceful solution could be achieved only through a negotiated political solution which was fair and mutually acceptable and in line with the Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions.  Morocco had been the only party to respond positively to the Security Council appeal.

Article 59 of the Constitution stated that state of emergency would be subject to free consultation and free exercise of the right to self-determination.  The referendum would be in line with the international law and the United Nations Charter.  The international community had called it a serious initiative. Morocco hoped that all other parties to the conflict would commit and authorise the United Nations to carry out a census.

Morocco had invested heavily in the development of the Southern Provinces with the aim to eliminate social exclusion, and with a gender approach in mind.  A total budget of USD 210 million benefiting 53 percent of the population of Western Sahara had been spent by the Government. Additionally, over one thousand civil society projects had been implemented, and 6,000 associations operated, contributing to sensitising the population.  Three general areas were targeted through the Government investment programme, benefiting resources and jobs, non-discrimination and the sustainability of the resources.  The Government provided loans for agriculture, fishing, and mining activities, as well as other activities benefiting the employment of locals. Since the start of the initiative, 65 percent of the employees were locals, and 34 percent of the management posts were held by the local population.

The delegation explained that the defence wall had been built in the 1980s to prevent criminal infiltration from armed militias who could harm the civilian population. Contrary to the allegations, the wall had not been constructed to separate the Sahraouian people: it had been built in an uninhabited area.  The only obstacle to the enjoyment of rights were the restrictions to the freedom of movement by armed elements who controlled the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf.  The defence wall was thus justified vis-a-vis the Polisario Front which repeatedly attacked civilians. Returnees from Tindouf camps were well integrated into Moroccan society. 

United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was a peacekeeping operation which did not include human rights monitoring; therefore Morocco could not accept any increase of the widening of its mandate, stressed the delegation.   

The state of emergency had been a political reality, and it was strictly governed by Article 59 of the Constitution, in step with Article 4 of the Covenant.  The Parliament could not be dissolved during the state of emergency, and fundamental rights remained in force during the state of emergency, including the principle of legality, notification, temporary nature, exceptional threat, proportionality and non-discrimination.

On the issue of invoking the provisions of the Covenant, the delegation assured the Committee that since 2011, all draft bills had included the content of the Covenant.  Real progress had been noted in the area of the right to defence, judicial guarantees, sentencing, discrimination, and so forth.

The National Human Rights Council was a national body designed to protect human rights, and played a key role in doing so, in particular through carrying out investigations related to violations. It had carried out numerous visits and drawn up reports in order to facilitate implementation to recommendations.  It had also submitted advisory opinions on issues, such as remedy, and right to freedom of assembly and press.  Since 2014, the Council had received more than 10,000 complaints.

The National Human Rights Committee on Truth and Justice addressed remedy and redress in relation to gross violations of human rights, and worked together with the National Human Rights Council.  

Preventive mechanisms to torture were very much present, said the delegation, and regional branches were very active in carrying out investigations, gathering information for possible violations, and visiting places of detention, as well as child care institutions and institutions for persons with mental disabilities.

The method of public debate in Morocco, including on issues such as abortion, helped find solutions to many problems, ensuring participation of many stakeholders. The National Human Rights Council, 46 percent of which was constituted by women, respected plurality and diversity.

The Parliament had approved accession to the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure. Accession to the Second Optional Protocol would have to follow a national debate on capital punishment.

The delegation stated that the ninth parliamentary session had made unprecedented achievements in terms of the number of acts adopted with a view to promoting human rights. Sixteen texts had been adopted with a view to harmonising them with international human rights legislation, and a number of draft laws were currently under discussion in the Parliament.

In order to put an end to early marriages, a number of initiatives were in place, which had brought the level down to 10.5 percent in 2015.  An amendment to Article 21 of the Family Code limiting the age to 18 years had also been initiated.

Divorce could be filed by both the husband and the wife, and recent statistics showed that 57 percent of cases were filed by women.

An amendment to provisions on the transmission of nationality had been in place since 2007. Since then, 37,000 certificates had been issued allowing Moroccan women to transmit their nationality to their foreign husbands.

Judiciary reforms and training were in place, said the delegation.

Medical tests in cases of violence or torture were regulated under Article 73 and Article 134 of the Criminal Code.  In 2014, seventy medical tests had been carried out, and subsequently the number had increased to over 200.

The maximum time allowed for detaining persons in custody was 48 hours, as stipulated by law, and could be extended for another 24 hours if there was a request from the Public Prosecutor’s Office.  The exception to that rule were cases of terrorism, where custody could be extended twice.

Referring to the report by the Working Groups on Arbitrary Detention and Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, the delegation replied that the judicial police were working on it, in accordance with the law promulgated in 2011.

On detention conditions, and the issue of overcrowding, it was explained that a major programme to construct new prisons as well as to improve old prisons had been launched.  There were over a hundred prisons now.  In 2015, ten new prisons had opened their doors, in 2016 three, and by 2020, the aim was to have 25 new prisons. The Southern Provinces in Morocco had three prisons, and a new one was being built.

Prison visits were regularly undertaken by the authorities.  In 2016, 900 visits from civil society organisations to prisons had been conducted. Those had been able to provide spiritual or moral comfort to prisoners, as well as education activities.  Human rights organisations had been able to conduct visits.  Prison deaths stood at 1.8 percent of the population, which was 2.5 percent lower than the national average. The nature of those deaths was not prison conditions but rather illness, and 80 percent of all prison deaths actually happened in hospitals. Complaints to the National Human Rights Commission could also be filed directly by families.

The Monitoring Committee for Violence against Women was a tripartite body that included public organs, research organisations and non-governmental organisations. It aimed to conduct monitoring and report on violence against women.  In 2016, it had issued its first report.

Fighting discrimination was a constitutional commitment. The Constitution set up a national independent institution, participatory in its nature. Many organisations had been involved in the drafting of the description of that body.

Proper representation of women was promoted by the Government via several initiatives, said a delegate.

The Consultative Body for Family and Child was a constitutional body, involving public bodies as well as civil society and experts.  The bill had been adopted by the Parliament and it would soon be made operational.

The promotion and protection of persons with disabilities was a top priority of the Government. Currently numerous programmes were in place, including benefits and a social cohesion fund, host centres, quotas for public service, accessibility projects, and high level reforms in terms of health and education to improve services.

According to the law, persons with disabilities were provided conditions to exercise their right to vote. A circular had been distributed to the authorities to undertake all necessary measures to enable persons with disabilities to exercise their voting rights, including to enable physical accessibility to voting points.  Sign language was also available. A commission responsible for accrediting staff supervising the elections ensured that persons with disabilities were able to fully participate in elections.

A new law prohibited sexist stereotypes and advertising against women, and ensured the bettering of women’s image in society.

The delegation stated that there was no tension or ethnic conflict in Morocco. The new Constitution in its preamble restated the fact that the Moroccan people were united in their diversity, be they Jewish, Andalusian, Saharawi, Amazigh or Arab.  All had access to education and the job market in the same way.

The delegation lamented that the data provided to the Committee was not accurate and hoped that the second round of the dialogue would be more constructive.
Follow-up Questions by Experts

The prohibition of secret detention now appeared in the Constitution, which was commendable.  Noting, however, that there was disagreement on whether places of secret detainment existed, an Expert regretted the absence of any investigations carried out to detect such allegations.  What investigations had been carried out to look into the allegations by specific individuals on the existence of those secret detainment places? How would perpetrators be punished?

The Expert alluded to a case related to the arrest of eleven people on 20 February, in which nine of the arrested had refused to sign the police report, and another case related to the dismantlement of a camp, leading to deaths, the arrest of hundreds of people, 25 convictions, and allegations of torture. What measures were planned to ensure that such violations of Article 14 of the Covenant did not occur?

On the freedom of assembly, many organisations had complained about obstruction and being unable to be legally registered.  Some organisations coming from abroad had been expelled, including two researchers from Amnesty International, whose passports had been confiscated.  What did the delegation have to say with regards to that?

Could the delegation comment on allegations on the attempt to intimidate journalists?

Another Expert asked a series of questions related to the cultural rights of minorities. Referring to the Amazigh people and their language, he asked whether there were measures to punish perpetrators of enforced disappearances.  Was it true that persons belonging to minorities had to change their names to non-Arab names? Were there efforts to improve the livelihood of Amazigh persons, including their natural resources, and education in their language? What was being done regarding allegations of discrimination against the Saharawi people?

An Expert regretted that prison overcrowding was possibly due to the fact that almost half of those deprived of their liberty were those who were on pre-trial detention. Could the delegation inform about the contradictory information by on (banned) imprisonment for breaching of contractual obligations?

A couple of Experts were concerned about the independence of the judiciary, and asked the delegation to respond to concerns, in particular, related to the appointment of Magistrates in the Judicial Council and the General Prosecutor.

An Expert asked a series of questions in relation to the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.  Had the United Nations Refugee Afency been consulted in the drafting of the Bill to that effect? What steps were taken to ensure that all such persons were granted legal status and permits, in order to guarantee their rights, including labour rights? What steps were taken to ensure that the principle of non-refoulement was respected, and were there plans to establish refugee procedures at border and airports? What kind of legal assistance was afforded to migrants and asylum seekers?  Allegedly attacks involving 27,000 migrants had been detected as we leas raids of camps, mass detentions and murders.  What mechanisms were in place to ensure protection against excessive use of force, and ensure investigation and proper reporting of such cases?

With respect to unaccompanied migrant children, information was requested on measures to ensure that they were not repatriated.  Was it correct that repatriated children could face prosecution upon their return to Morocco? What measures were in place to ensure registration of migrants, refugee and asylum seekers? 

With respect to statelessness, the Committee welcomed the amendments in 2007 to transmit nationality, however the Expert asked the delegation to address the remaining gaps. What amendments were in place to ratify the Conventions on Stateless Persons?

In a series of questions on privacy and surveillance, the Expert expressed regret that the new law in place would curb the freedom of expression.  Could the delegation comment on that?  Could information be provided on the Commission working on that issue, and, in particular, its mandate, independence, and ability to conduct investigations in surveillance routines?  There were ongoing reports regarding Moroccan law enforcement bodies using surveillance technology to target perceived opponents of the Government and journalists.  What legal provisions empowered and regulated the surveillance activities of the police and intelligence agencies? What surveillance agencies oversaw their work?

The Expert asked several questions about the freedom of expression, including relating to persons expressing their right to self-determination in Western Sahara.

Another Expert asked the delegation to provide information on the protection of children, including street children, children who were victims of violence, and children in conflict with the law.  On child labour, given the considerable number of businesses that employed children, were there sufficient inspectors to ensure their rights?

How was the State party disseminating the Covenant and the views of the Committee?

Replies by the Delegation

Regarding freedom of expression and association, the delegation reminded that Morocco had a history of freedom of expression and association.  Currently, there were 130,000 associations, and associations were being set up every week.  Regarding the researchers from  Amnesty International, it was explained that they had been expelled due to the fact that they had not respected the law which stipulated that any foreign association had to make a declaration.

Regarding places of secret detention, what the Committee had alluded to was an information services centre, which had been visited by the Human Rights Council. That had been confirmed by the Special Rapporteur on Torture.  Following the allegations, inquiries had been carried out.

The Amazigh people were citizens with full rights. They had the same rights as Arabic and French speaking citizens. They were not a minority, and there was no discrimination regime against them as regarded education, employment and political posts. Nomadic peoples’ rights were also fully upheld, including their social and cultural rights. Amazigh was an official language alongside Arabic, since 2001.  A number of initiatives to promote the Amazigh language and culture had been launched, including a body created under the auspices of the King, which was responsible for providing advice and research on all issues related to the Amazigh, and worked in collaboration with the line Ministries.

All recommendations from United Nations bodies had been borne in mind when drafting amendments to the Criminal Code, including Article 14 of the Covenant.  That included guarantees for medical tests, a stipulation that victims had to be informed on how investigation would be conducted, and long distance communications if necessary.  Cases of custody for crimes of terrorism were minimal.

The definition of torture was in line with the Convention against Torture, stressed the delegation.

On freedom of expression, significant steps had been undertaken in 2015 to bring legislation in line with the international standards.  The crime of slander was no longer punishable by imprisonment. Compensation for damage and freedom for journalists to give evidence during trial was ensured.  Protection from harassment was also ensured. The Counsel was an independent, democratic mechanism responsible for providing journalists with press cards, arbitrating in press matters, and drafting an ethics code.

Regarding access to privacy and personal data, there were a range of legal arrangements to avoid interference in personal data.  Such guarantees were in place since the adoption of the new Constitution in 2011, and notably Article 34. All private communications were secret, and their interception was an exception. Those could only be carried out if a judge required that, and if one piece of evidence was available in a trial.

On the protection of the rights of the child, the delegation said that the Law on Social Protection Establishments provided for distance care and ensured that institutionalisation was the very last resort.  There were currently 1,116 children in conflict with the law. Child labour had been reduced. A focal point was in place, with a Labour Inspector overseeing that.  Raising awareness of the private sector was a comprehensive part of the child protection system.

The delegation regretted that there were misunderstandings as to the freedom of religion in Morocco. There was no discrimination against other faiths.  There were 51,000 mosques, 37 Catholic churches, and 94 synagogues.  The State sometimes gave tax breaks and advantages to those religious communities. Muslim Moroccans studied in Christian or Jewish schools. There were four Jewish schools in Morocco, while Catholic schools still continued to take in Moroccan children from a range of faiths. There was no law prohibiting Jews, Christians or persons belonging to another faith to practice their religion. Hebrew was taught at the University of Rabat.  There was no obligation on those to convert to Islam to change their name.

Over the past year, Morocco had worked hard to promote the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.  18,000 immigrants had been regularised, including over 5,000 refugees from Syria who had been granted the right of residence in Morocco.

The Human Rights Council in Morocco was pluralist in nature, and submitted its annual report, which was discussed publicly, to the King.  Its annual budget was 5 million euros, and its funds had recently been increased.  The King did not interfere in the work of that body.

In response to the question on enforced disappearances, and the issue of criminalisation thereof, the delegation said that the State party was intending to revise the crime so that it conceptualised an ongoing offence, thereby ensuring investigations even in situations of state of emergency.
Concluding Remarks

Mahjoub El haiba, Inter-ministerial Delegate for Human Rights, said that the Committee could rest assured that the State party attached great importance to all questions raised, although there was imbalance in the questions posed.  The Kingdom attached great importance to human rights. Many bodies, including the National Human Rights Council, were in place to ensure promotion and protection, and reforms were ongoing.  Having said that, challenges remained, particularly in the area of training, consistency and coherence, and brining aboard all stakeholders. Action plans had been adopted and others were in the pipeline. Real efforts were being deployed to take further initiatives regarding the Covenant.  The best proof of that was the new Constitution, possibilities for an appeal, and enabling the submission of complaints.  It was not easy to strike balance between human rights and fighting terrorism, which required good governance and continuous training. 

FABIAN OMAR SALVIOLI, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for their participation.  Regarding the imbalance alluded to by the delegation, he suggested that the State party not wait another ten years to engage in a dialogue with the Committee. Combatting terrorism as a scourge whilst upholding human rights was an ongoing concern of the Committee, as was providing answers to the questions of enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment in the past. The Committee had already made it clear that the number of crimes subject to the death penalty should not be increased, and was drafting a General Comment to explain its position.  The Western Sahara was very important for the Committee, as was general respect for human rights in the entire territory.  Mr. Salvioli reiterated his satisfaction that the State party intended to ratify the Optional Protocol, stating that that showed a real desire to ensure the promotion of human rights.

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