The Human Rights Council adopts Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Morocco, while the participating States evade the kingdom’s occupation of Western Sahara. However, in the May 2017 full review, Iceland, Ireland, Mexico, Mozambique, Namibia, Norway, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sweden, Uruguay and Zimbabwe raised the occupation, self-determination and other human rights of the Sahrawi people. As usual, the States otherwise avoided economic, social and cultural rights in their review, except for expressing congratulations for the kingdom’s progress in generating employment. Several NGOs present tried to compensate for the States’ omissions in the Council’s adoption of the UPR outcomes on Morocco—HLRN.
The Human Rights Council in a midday meeting adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Morocco, Indonesia and Finland.
Considering the Universal Periodic Review of Morocco:
Mustafa Ramid, State Minister in charge of Human Rights of Morocco, said Morocco appreciated the interest given to all institutional reforms during the review, which it had pursued by amending the constitution. Morocco fully supported 191 out of 244 recommendations, namely 78 per cent of the total number of recommendations, including 23 recommendations that had been fully implemented; 44 recommendations had been taken into consideration, and 9 recommendations had not been accepted as they did not fall within the mandate of the Human Rights Council. Morocco’s National Human Rights Council was in charge of the implementation and the promotion of human rights in the country.
National Human Rights Council of the Kingdom of Morocco welcomed the position of the Government with regard to the 191 adopted recommendations and declared itself willing to step up its cooperation with all stakeholders for the implementation of the recommendations. The Council would continue to monitor public policies. On human rights education, the Council, thanks to its Human Rights Training Institute, remained willing to bolster the capacity of State actors, as well as civil society and the private sector, to promote and protect human rights. As for recommendations that were not accepted by the Government, the Council reaffirmed its favorable position on the abolition of capital punishment and on gender equality. It called upon the Government of Morocco to step up its actions to protect vulnerable groups from violence and discrimination, including protecting members of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community. The Council ensured that the protection and promotion of human rights was being carried out throughout the country through its regional commissions. Finally, it encouraged Parliament to adopt the recommendations allowing for the reforms to be implemented.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers commended Morocco for its commitment to human rights, with several singling out the country’s success in reducing unemployment as a positive sign. Some, however, regretted the fact that the country had not accepted the recommendations to decriminalize sexual relations outside marriage. Morocco’s efforts to protect the rights of migrants were noted with appreciation. A number of speakers said that the Moroccan invasion of the territory of Western Sahara was illegal. The Sahrawi people were deprived of their rights and their situation should be given attention.
Speaking were Yemen, Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belgium, Botswana, China Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Iraq and Jordan.
Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations: Africa Culture International, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, American Association of Jurists (in a joint statement), International Humanist and Ethical Union, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, World Barua Organization (WBO), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Liberation, and Conseil International pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme.
Yemen warmly welcomed the delegation and commended Morocco’s achievements in the field of human rights. It also commended Morocco’s efforts in promoting and protecting human rights. The fact that Morocco had adopted a large number of recommendations highlighted its commitment to human rights, including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
Afghanistan welcomed the invitation extended by the Government to Special Procedure mandate holders to visit Morocco, and noted that important steps had been taken by the Government to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights for its citizens. It also commended the legislative and institutional reforms in the area of civil and political rights, and in particular the draft law combatting violence against women.
Albania was pleased that a considerable number of recommendations had been adopted by the Government of Morocco. It trusted the Government in its commitment towards the promotion and protection of human rights and looked forward to its implementation of the accepted recommendations.
Azerbaijan took note of Morocco’s achievements in the field of human rights, noting that it was remarkable that it had accepted most of the recommendations. It recommended that the Council adopt the outcome of Morocco’s Universal Periodic Review.
Bahrain welcomed the latest developments in Morocco in terms of the protection and promotion of human rights, as well as its serious commitment to human rights. Bahrain was convinced that Morocco would implement the recommendations that it had accepted.
Belgium commended Morocco’s commitment to the Universal Periodic Review and its efforts to implement the recommendations of the previous cycle. It welcomed its adoption of a draft law on violence against women. However, it regretted that Morocco had not accepted the recommendations on decriminalising sexual relations outside marriage, and concerning the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Botswana welcomed Morocco’s improvement of the law on public participation of women, and other gender-based programmes, as well as its continued cooperation with United Nations human rights mechanisms.
China appreciated Morocco’s constructive participation in the Universal Periodic Review, as well as sustainable development plans in terms of health, education and accommodation. It also welcomed its efforts to protect the rights of migrants.
Côte d’Ivoire commended Morocco’s efforts to improve human rights and encouraged it to pursue its cooperation with the international community to safeguard the gains in that sphere. It remained convinced that the implementation of the recommendations from the current cycle would lead to further improvements in the country.
Egypt congratulated Morocco on its cooperation with the Universal Periodic Review. Morocco was also congratulated for accepting so many recommendations, including those proposed by Egypt. Laws and important steps on reforming the judiciary were commended.
Ethiopia welcomed Morocco’s delegation and thanked the country for accepting a considerable number of recommendations, expressing appreciation for its principled advancement.
Gabon welcomed the delegation of Morocco and was pleased with the commitment of the Moroccan Government, welcoming actions against poverty. The legislative and institutional reforms leading to a framework law on persons with disabilities was also welcomed. Morocco should continue its efforts in implementing the recommendations.
Ghana encouraged Morocco to continue efforts to strengthen the rule of law in the country. Morocco was urged to continue its success.
India welcomed Morocco and noted with appreciation the frank and open manner in which it had participated in the Universal Periodic Review process. Morocco had created a large number of jobs, and the unemployment rate had decreased. Morocco’s implementation of a programme increasing employment in the agricultural sector was also welcomed.
Indonesia congratulated the Government of Morocco for its report, and was pleased to note that Morocco had accepted a large number of the recommendations suggested. Indonesia also thanked the Government of Morocco for accepting all of Indonesia’s recommendations.
Iraq welcomed the delegation of Morocco and hailed Morocco’s report and the fact that it had adopted the majority of the recommendations, including those proposed by Iraq.
Jordan welcomed the Moroccan delegation, and commended Morocco on the progress achieved in the promotion and protection of human rights. It was convinced that Morocco would continue its efforts in implementing the recommendations adopted.
Africa Culture International welcomed the delegation of Morocco and appreciated its efforts to implement the recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review. It also welcomed that Morocco respected freedom of the press, and encouraged it to cooperate actively with Member States in the European Union.
International Fellowship of Reconciliation reminded that the United Nations General Assembly had stressed the right of all peoples to self-determination. Western Sahara was independent and separate from the Kingdom of Morocco. The organization called upon the Human Rights Council to refuse all Moroccan calls to include Western Sahara in its administrative distribution.
American Association of Jurists, in a joint statement with several NGOs1, said the Moroccan invasion of the territory of Western Sahara was illegal. It took note of the numerous serious breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and called on the Kingdom of Morocco to abide by international humanitarian law.
International Humanist and Ethical Union was extremely disappointed to see that the recommendation on limitation of religious activities and freedom of conscience had not been adopted by Morocco. In the past years, non-Muslims had been arrested for eating in public during Ramadhan, and freedom of religious belief was being violated.
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said many human rights violations had been seen in Morocco, including assaults by police on human rights defenders during peaceful protests. Highlighting the exercise of disproportionate power during recent protests in northern Morocco and the unjust prosecution media professionals and journalists, it called on Morocco to respect the rights in its legislation.
World Barua Organization (WBO) said the Sahrawi people were deprived of their rights. Little attention was given to the issue of Western Sahara. The situation of the Sahrawi people should be given attention. The United Nations Committee against Torture had noted that Morocco had committed violations concerning torture.
Amnesty International said there had been a chilling wave of arrests of people of the Rif region. Morocco’s review of the penal code was welcomed, but its rejection of recommendations to end the prosecution of journalists was regretted. The country was urged to amend the code of criminal procedure to ensure access to a lawyer during interrogation.
Human Rights Watch said during Morocco’s review, the country’s efforts to accede to international treaties had been noted. The Government’s rejection of recommendations on other key issues was regretted. The Government was urged to comply with recommendations it had already accepted, noting that Morocco’s human rights record remained tainted.
Liberation said that in the report submitted by the State, and the report from the Working Group, there was no mention of the rights of the Saharawi people. Conditions in the camps were described as wretched. The Council was urged to send a technical mission to Western Sahara to prepare an impartial report on the situation.
L’Conseil International pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme said many countries had addressed the issue of Western Sahara, adding that Morocco did not want that issue to be addressed. At the thirty-fifth session, the High Commissioner had not spoken of the Tindouf camp. Human rights violations were continuing in Western Sahara, which did not enjoy self-determination.
Mustafa Ramid thanked the Human Rights Council for allowing Morocco to set out its achievements. The recommendations that were in line with the provisions of the Moroccan Constitution had been fully accepted and would be fully implemented into human rights law and would enter into force in 2018. Morocco was determined to establish a follow-up programme for the implementation of the recommendations deriving from the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council. Morocco had taken big steps and would continue its steps at all levels, especially at the judicial level, which guaranteed fundamental freedoms, in line with international standards, enshrining an independent judiciary which guaranteed human rights and was in line with all relevant European institutions. All authorities of the constitutional tribunal had been expanded to reject non-constitutionality of laws. In addition, two laws had been promulgated, of which one on criminal laws and another on the procedures. The military courts had also been revised so as to apply only to military crimes.
A recommendation on combatting torture and mistreatment had been adopted, as had appropriate steps to address these issues. Another law created a mechanism to combat torture, consistent with international law. In October the Sub-Committee against Torture would be received by Morocco. Finally, Morocco this year had adopted legislation on the relevant human rights institutions in step with the Moroccan Constitution, including on combatting discrimination, and improving education, health care, and employment, all of which fed into the issue of human rights and which applied to the entire country. There was no difference between the south and the north in this respect. Civil society was a vital partner in public policy, and this through the mechanisms enshrined in the law, especially the law on petitions to local and regional authorities. A participatory approach had been activated as a fundamental tool of the Government to this effect. The choice of democracy and human rights was an irreversible choice. The Government and the people were determined to pursue the establishment of democracy.
The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Morocco without reference to the State’s occupation of its neighboring country, Western Sahara.
For more information, see Human Rights Council HRC/17/141
Photo: On 5 May 2017, the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR ), established by the Human Rights Council (HRC ), adopted a draft report containing the recommendations made by United Nations Member States to Morocco during the State’s review on 2 May 2017. Source: AlKarama Foundation.