There is nothing new under the sun. Similar trends have been identified across the Muslim world and highlighted after the Arab uprisings: in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, figures who had been imprisoned, tortured and sometimes sentenced to death by despotic regimes are now rebuilding their country. However, this phenomenon should not be regarded as a purely internal matter since western countries have been fully involved and have largely benefitted from it.
CagePrisoners has already highlighted the fact that Morocco was an important torture centre in the early days of the War on Terror, holding detainees such as Binyam Mohammed, Ibn Sheikh Al Libi or Abu Zubaydah (here). Likewise, Moazzam Begg has eloquently explained the key role played by Morocco in the wider network of black sites and torture headed by the US (here).
Nevertheless, torture and arbitrary detention in Morocco were not the result of the immediate post-9/11 fever which afflicted many. Rather, it is a carefully thought-out process which carries on to this very day. Just last month, Juan Mendez (UN rapporteur on torture) severely criticised Moroccan authorities for their systematic use of torture. Mr Mendez is sadly familiar with this sort of abuses since he was himself imprisoned and tortured in Argentina. Yet, he said he was in a state of shock after he accessed the first accounts of Moroccan prison life, especially for the so-called “Islamist detainees”.
At the very same time, CagePrisoners was in Morocco to observe the trial of Ali Aarrass, a Belgian national initially held in Spain where he was cleared from any wrongdoing before being illegally extradited to Morocco where he was severely tortured. There, we witnessed firsthand the mockery of the Moroccan judicial system. A team of seasoned lawyers supported by a group of tireless campaigners displayed to the judges a plethora of indisputable evidence of his torture and innocence. Struggling against sleep, most of the time without success, judges ended up rejecting his request for an inquiry into his torture and convicting him to 12 years of prison without explanation.
Ironically, just five days before, the European Court of Human Rights had decided in the El Haski case that Belgium had violated the right to fair trial of a man arrested and sentenced to seven years of prison on terrorism charges. It was due to the fact that Belgium had used evidence transmitted by their Moroccan counterparts following the investigations into the Casablanca bombings and which were likely to have been obtained under torture. According to CagePrisoners’ research, this torture evidence was also sent to and used by other western countries such as France and Canada.
It goes to show that grave abuses in third countries do not only discredit local security services and judicial systems but also surreptitiously impact Western citizens and legal systems.
Hence, CagePrisoners has decided to echo the call of MRE International (the World Organisation for Moroccans living abroad) which organised a day against arbitrary detention, injustice and torture in Morocco on 28 October 2012.
Their demands are as follows:
1- The release of political prisoners as well as the release of prisoners of conscience/opinion in Morocco
2- The prosecution of individuals who carried out torture in application of the non-impunity principle
3- Compensation for the victims as well as their social reintegration
4- A redesign of the anti-terrorist legislation in conformity with human rights and all judicial guarantees in its application
5- Morocco should respect all its international obligations in terms of human rights